What Is Equality?
At first glance, when it comes to solving issues of systemic inequities, it seems equality is the answer. But for those in the equity movement, like United Way of the National Capital Area, we know equity—not equality—is the best way to improve communities so that all may thrive. Learn more about equality below.
What Does Equality Mean?
Equality is the state of being equal, especially in status, rights and opportunities. Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources and opportunities, regardless of their circumstances. In social and racial justice movements, equality can actually increase inequities in communities as not every group of people needs the same resources or opportunities allocated to them in order to thrive.
Examples of Equality
Let’s look at some situations in society that put equality at the focus and discuss the results of each, below.
Leaders in the National Capital Area host an information meeting for all community members on the COVID-19 pandemic, testing, vaccinations and more. They only host the meeting once, and it is only held in the English language. There are no translators or separate meetings for residents who do not speak English or speak English as a second language, isolating a large population of the National Capital Area from receiving important and potentially life-saving health information. An equitable meeting would have included different languages, including English, Spanish and Korean to serve all major populations. This way, everyone hears the same information in their native or primary language.
The Digital Divide
Low-income students in a Prince George’s County neighborhood do not have access to the internet and do not own computers, making it difficult for them to complete lessons and homework assignments through their school’s virtual, at-home school year during the pandemic. On the other hand, other students throughout the county have affordable access to Wi-Fi, laptops and other needed digital tools to succeed in school. A local nonprofit allocates funds to give each student in the county a laptop, but because they do not have enough funds to supply both laptops and hotspots to every student, they are unable to provide any student with a Wi-Fi hotspot. The students that did not previously have internet access in their homes, now have a laptop but still cannot access their school’s virtual classrooms and therefore miss lessons and homework assignments throughout the school year. In the equitable version of this example, funds would be allocated to only give students in need a laptop and a hotspot, instead of every student as not every student needed the technology they already had access to.
Equality vs. Equity
Equity recognizes each person has varying circumstances and needs, and therefore different groups of people need resources and opportunities allocated to them accordingly in order to thrive.
Equality is giving everyone the exact same resources across the board, regardless of their actual needs or opportunities/resources already provided to them.
In United Way NCA’s work centered around equity, data is analyzed to determine where funds, resources and opportunities need to be allocated most to provide all community members the same opportunity to thrive. To dive deeper into equity vs. equality and the important differences between the two, click here.
How to Promote Equity in Your Community
There are many ways you can practice and promote equity in your community, household, workplace, place of worship, etc. The first step is to reflect on your own belief system. What implicit biases do you hold? How can you dismantle those? How can you educate yourself through books, media, diversity and inclusion seminars, etc. to understand equity further?
In October 2021, United Way NCA launched the Practice Equity campaign, in which we post ways community members can practice equity daily on social media. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to stay tuned. You can also sign up for our 21 Day Race Equity Journey, a 21-day newsletter series, to learn more about how equity plays a role in determining outcomes of people through different stages of life depending on their intersections of race, gender, sexuality and/or socioeconomic standing. And, test your knowledge of diversity, equity and inclusion terms by taking our DEI Vocabulary Quiz.
To promote equity in your community, you need to get involved! Reaching an equitable future for all community members necessitates action. By supporting nonprofits and programs like United Way NCA, you can make a difference. This can be done through monetary donations,, volunteering and advocating.
To learn more about equity and how United Way NCA is achieving a more equitable future, visit unitedwaynca.org/equity and join the movement! When none are ignored, all will thrive.