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February 6, 2023


Today’s blog is the 4th installation of our current DEI blog series. Over the past few months, we have been discussing issues surrounding asking for help, specifically in the workplace. In the last 3 blogs, we have talked about why people should ask for help at work more frequently. We have also discussed why people are hesitant to ask for help. 

In our last blog, we discussed how specific groups face these hesitations and more. Specifically, women and minorities seem to have additional pressures that render them even quieter than the rest of the workforce. We also connected the dots between the importance of diversity and asking for help. You can read here in case you missed it!

This week, we are diving into the specifics of equity and inclusion. When businesses are considering implementing DEI practices, they are often so focused on diversifying their workforce that they neglect putting energy and intention into developing equity and inclusion. Read this blog to learn more about the E & the I in DEI, plus come with us on a deep dive as we discuss some of the barriers to equity and inclusion.


There seems to be a lot of confusion when it comes to the difference between “equity” and “inclusion”, so we’re going to start with a quick imaginary situation: 

Imagine that you are a woman working at a large tech organization. The workforce is diverse, meaning that there are a variety of people with different backgrounds all working together. For this example, pretend you are a woman in a work group with other men and women, who all come from different religious and cultural backgrounds. While this is a classic example of diversity, it says nothing about equity and inclusion.


If this imaginary work group was inclusive, everyone in your group would be included in the mainstream conversation. For example, this would mean that when you all come together for a meeting, every person in the group feels able to express their thoughts and feels that they are respected and valued by everyone in the group. (Keep in mind - this says nothing about equity.) 

In an article from Ann Ryan and Ellen Kossek (source), they explain that “an inclusive workplace would be one where individuals feel accepted and valued (Pelled et al., 1999; Roberson, 2006)”. They also relay some fantastic examples of inclusion, describing scenarios in which a company would be practicing inclusion with “work-life” policies. 

Here is a snippet from their article giving a handful of examples of what inclusion should look like: “regardless of whether they are single or partnered, have children or not, are heterosexual or not, work full time or a reduced load, or are present daily or telecommute. An inclusive workplace promotes acceptance and high levels of engagement of individuals who telework so that they may provide home care for an aging parent, as well as those that choose nursing homes as the best option for their parents’ care. It is one that equally values those who believe leaving work early to attend a child’s soccer game is critical as well as those who do not mind missing games, and for those who use all their available paid time off to train for a triathlon as well as those who feel personal time is reserved for family emergencies. It is one that equally engages those who rearrange work hours to attend religious services or to perform National Guard duties.” (source)


Think back to the imaginary scenario again: if this group was equitable, it would mean that everyone is treated fairly and has the same opportunities as everyone else in the group. Essentially, equity gets at the idea of an “equal playing field”. In this example, it would mean that the policies in the workplace give everyone the equal opportunity to succeed. The simplest example would be access to childcare. 

Again, thinking about the imaginary example: consider that you are a woman with 2 young children under the age of 7, and your company requires that you work from the office - they no longer allow you to work virtually. For this imaginary workplace to be equitable, it would require that they have some sort of support for your childcare. As is commonplace in our society, childcare often falls inequitably onto women’s plates. Without childcare, you would not have equitable access to succeed at work. (more on this later in this blog…)

Clearly, there is a lot to discuss when it comes to creating a truly equitable and inclusive workplace. So, let’s recap the definitions before we dig into some of the barriers more specifically. Gallup defines equity as, “fair treatment, access and advancement for each person in an organization” and defines inclusion as “an environment that makes people feel welcome, respected and valued.” 


As you saw in our imaginary workplace above, there are numerous barriers to creating an equitable and inclusive workplace. We believe that these obstacles can be organized into three categories; (1) structural barriers, (2) deficiencies and challenges of privileged groups and (3) deficiencies and challenges of underrepresented groups. In this article, we will focus on the structural barriers. In our next article, we will address the deficiencies and challenges of privileged and underrepresented groups.


Let’s start with some structural barriers. Be aware that while this list names some of the heavy hitters, it is by no means an all-inclusive list. First and foremost, there is the issue of diversity. In short, without diversity there is almost no reason to focus on equity and inclusion anyways, since there wouldn’t be any diverse background or opinions to consider. 


No matter how you slice it, diversity has to be the first step towards a truly inclusive and equitable workplace. On the positive side, we are all aware of the increase in focus on diversity over the last 3 years. Following George Floyd’s death and the renewed fervor for social justice, companies have begun to pour immense resources into fostering diverse workforces. According to HR University, their research shows that diversity has improved, reporting that, “over the past few decades, diversity in the U.S. workplace has drastically improved, with the percentage of Black, Hispanic, and female employees growing by 26 percent, 98.1 percent, and 18.5 percent, respectively, between 1999 and 2019.”  

That being said, there are growing concerns that companies are still not doing as much as they could in the diversity department. Additionally, the recent economic downturn has begun to affect DEI jobs, leaving many people concerned that DEI initiatives will hit the back burner. Deanna Cuadra with EBN reports that in the face of the recession, “employers have already looked for ways to reduce costs in the past year, with 18% of companies reporting that they decreased their investment in DEI, according to recruiting software company Lever.”

In addition to workplace diversity, there are also structural barriers that exist within our society that pose a major challenge for workplace equity and inclusion. While there are numerous examples here, we are going to focus on three important structural issues; (1) Affordable childcare, (2) affordable housing, and (3) affordable transportation and commuting.


As we mentioned in our imaginary workplace scenario above, affordable (or just access at all) to childcare is a huge barrier to workplace inclusion and equity. If you are living in the United States, you are familiar with the outdated gender norms that exist surrounding child rearing responsibilities. In the past, it was expected that women would put their careers and jobs on hold to raise children while men would continue to work outside of the home. As the modern world changes, today’s women often plan to continue working even after having children. 

In another report from EBN, Amanda Schiavo quotes Leilani Carver, an associate professor at Maryville University and expert on women in leadership. Lelani says, “What has happened in our culture is that women pay the penalty [for having a child]... It's perceived that if you're going to be a mom, you are going to focus more on your child and that means you're going to have less organizational commitment.”

So, the obvious option is for women to look for childcare while they are working. Here’s where there’s an equity problem, firstly in that women disproportionately have to be concerned with finding childcare at all. Secondly, that childcare is outrageously expensive, with a survey from reporting that 60% of parents surveyed planned to spend more than $10,000 per year on childcare. 

Going back to the issue of equity, without childcare it is easy to see how women would be at a disadvantage compared to other employees. If they are unable to afford childcare or have limited access to reasonable childcare in the first place, their careers will have to take a back seat. 


Another structural barrier to workplace equity and inclusion comes from the access to housing and transportation. In their own right, these issues both have their own massive bodies of research and this blog is by no means an exhaustive review. That being said, access to affordable (and reasonable) housing could arguably be considered the largest barrier to workplace equity and inclusion. 

As the Urban Institute reports in their “Housing as a Safety Net” research, the central issue is this: “to be productive and healthy, families and children need safe, stable housing in neighborhoods that offer access to opportunities for employment and to high-quality schools and services. For millions of low-income households, this is not an option. Instead, they face unsustainably high rent burdens, frequent moves or displacement, or homelessness—which exacerbates family, economic, or educational instability and leaves little hope of reaching a path to long-term financial stability.” 

In other words, without access to affordable housing, people are simply unable to hold onto meaningful employment, which excludes them from having an equitable chance in the workforce since they are hardly able to be part of it in the first place! Additionally, it’s easy to see how people without access to affordable and reliable transportation would face equity issues as well. 

There are many different reasons why transportation may not be accessible for people. Considering low-income groups, a lack of transportation options often comes from poor infrastructure and a lack of safety. Sarah Penny reports that these populations often live along high-speed freeways, making walking extremely dangerous. Additionally, freeways were designed with single-driver cars in priority, reducing access to public transportation options (source). 

Additionally, people with disabilities are at a major disadvantage. According to research from The Leadership Conference Education Fund, “transportation and mobility play key roles in the struggle for civil rights and equal opportunity in the disability community. Affordable and reliable transportation allows people with disabilities access to important opportunities in education, employment, health care, housing, and community life. Because our nation’s investments in transportation infrastructure have disproportionately favored cars and highways, those who cannot afford cars or do not drive cars often lack viable transportation options.” 


So, how do companies go about dealing with these inequities? In a modern society with unlimited barriers to an “equal playing field”, where are companies supposed to start with implementing initiatives to tackle their inequities?

If you’ve been following along, you already know where we are going with this... Here at Give and Take Inc., we believe that teaching and encouraging employees to ask for help and providing them with a safe place to make those requests is the true superpower for true DEI. As we have discussed in the previous installment of this blog series, it’s clear that underrepresented groups ask less questions than their majority counterparts. Whether it’s because they don’t feel psychologically safe to ask or they don’t have access to the right people  to ask their questions, remaining silent at work further excludes them from the mainstream conversations at work, access to the knowledge and experience of others, and access to opportunities and career development . 

Our solutions solve that problem! The Reciprocity Ring teaches people why and how to ask for help, and helps them overcome the fear of asking.  Our purpose-built application Givitas creates a safe place for them to ask for help, allows the knowledge collaboration to scale across the organization, and makes it easy and efficient for people to provide the help.   Whether your employees are looking for help doing their job or need help with something outside of work, Givitas is a safe space where all employees have an equal playing field and can feel psychologically safe to submit their requests for help. Givitas gives employees access to the entire workforce and removes silos and power struggles. Just as an example, we have seen entry level employees engaging with c-suite members which leads to more openness, more generosity, and an overall sense of belonging. The Reciprocity Ring and Givitas are the next steps in any DEI initiative to ensure that you harness the power of diversity by creating an inclusive and equitable environment.  Without inclusion and equity, DEI efforts will not provide the opportunities to a diverse workforce that they deserve and will not provide the value to the organization that a diverse workforce brings.

Stay tuned for our next article which will continue our conversation on the barriers to equity and inclusion. Specifically, we will discuss the deficiencies and challenges of privileged groups and the deficiencies and challenges of underrepresented groups.

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