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Gender Equity in the Workplace: Organic or Forced?

Camilla Sutton

Unicast Entertainment Writer Nazir Awad consults BMO Managing Director, Camilla Sutton, on the right ways to encourage women to enter historically male-dominated careers 

If I had a penny for every time, I saw posters and collages on campus of the same three cartoon figures trying to watch a baseball game by standing on wooden boxes to depict the difference between equality and equity, I would probably have enough money to cover the absurd fees that international students are charged. Conversations regarding people’s awareness of the difference between equality and equity have been both frequent and fruitful when it comes to matters such as racial, gender, and class-related systematic injustices. In the case of equality, the same number of resources is pledged to each group with no differences, regardless of status, identity, or allegiance. In the case of equity, enough resources are pledged to each party to achieve the same outcome, even if one party receives way fewer contributions than the other ones. If the same outcome is achieved equity is preserved.

My intention in writing this piece is not to further discuss the difference between equality and equity or to even discuss how racial injustices require ratification through systematic initiatives that promote equity rather than equality. The lines are not blurry in the slightest regarding the dire need for achieving racial equity in workplaces, the government, and educational institutions. My focus here is regarding the concept of equity when it comes to rectifying the centuries worth of gender inequalities and systematic sexism that our species is guilty of.

The issue with gender equity in the workplace lies within the fact that it is often understood and conveyed as achieving an equal representation of both genders, which I believe is a flawed concept that we need to stop gravitating towards. The topic of gender equity and equality tends to prompt the vision of having an equal number of men and women in different industries throughout the economy, and this is because the idea of one industry having more women than men or vice versa instantly (and understandably so, considering the way matters have been conducted up to now) triggers a feeling that this is a result of a sexist system.

I do not have a problem with industries having equal gender representations at all, not in the slightest. If the same number of men and women would like to, without any external societal pressure, do the same job then fantastic; we should have equal representation for that specific job. My problem, however, is that we are assuming that the same number of men and women would like to do jobs such as welding or nursing. The truth is, we do not know yet what a naturally driven ratio would look like without a sexist mindset being a propeller. Without having such data or understanding of the aptitude that drives certain individuals to choose different occupations, how can leaders and decision-makers in different companies and industries decide that there should be an equal representation in their institutions?

Employers can’t go around assuming the moral duty of having demographic equity in their companies, without carefully assessing the repercussions of their hiring strategy. Let us assume that finance firms decide that they would like their employees to be equally distributed among genders A and B, but the pool of employees that they’re considering has a 70/30 A to B ratio. The less-available gender B employees will be snatched up quickly, leading employers to settle for less skilled and efficient employees of that gender to meet their “equity” quota. On the other hand, the gender A employees are still in abundance since their overall numbers were higher to begin with. This scenario would evolve into an employment model that hinders meritocracy, which in turn encourages salary discrepancies between the two genders since competent employees of one gender are in higher supply than the other.

To add to that, this misconception of the way things should be does create a false image of what is to be expected of each gender. Creating a culture that pressures employers to have equal representation would in turn pressure young adults from either gender to meet that demand of one gender over the other; leading to an unhappy population of young adults perusing careers that do not match their aptitudes, which would also affect efficiency and effectiveness in the economy.

Equity means doing whatever it takes to reach an equal result between parties, yet that result should not be demographical. That is my argument. The result should be equity regarding the perks given to each gender based on their needs. Equity in salary awarded based on their skill level and professional value to the specific corporation. Equity in the facilitation of opportunities to make up for the years of the stigma of having women in certain industries. But using the term “equity” to justify some narrative that the only indicator of a fair society is by having a society where the same number of men and women are performing any said job is a harmful concept that is getting in the way of any form of real autonomy for women in society.

Camilla Sutton, managing director of the Bank of Montreal (BMO) and former president of Women in Capital Markets, stresses in her interview with Unicast Entertainment the importance of leaders “making a true commitment in building equity” in their organization and making sure that all members within the institution are equity literate. Dedicate every dollar towards women empowerment awareness, facilitation of opportunities for women to enter male-dominated fields, and the education of leaders and decision-makers to be more literate with matters regarding racial and gender equity. In a future where everyone, regardless of race or gender, has equal opportunities to educate themselves and enter industries that appeal to them, we can obtain a truly equitable distribution.

To hear more of Camilla Sutton’s thoughts on equity in industries and more, watch her full interview with Unicast’s Samridhi Saghal here.

Nazir Awad

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