Beyond Equity: Removing Barriers

I was at a meeting a number of months ago where we talked about equity. The speaker showed the picture of three children looking at a ball game over a fence. It is a great illustration to show the difference between equality and equity. Equality is giving everyone the same thing. Each child is given a box to stand on. Equity is giving each what is needed. So the tallest child who can see over the fence does not get a box. The middle child who needs only one box to see over the fence gets one box. And the shortest child who needs two boxes get over the fence gets two boxes.

I like the picture. It illustrates the difference well. And I suppose, since I am short, that it resonates with me personally.

But at this meeting, others questioned the picture. Why is there a fence in the first place? Why do we assume everyone wants to look at the ball game?

So I just saw an updated illustration with a third picture – this time with the wooden fence is replaced by a chain link fence. The systemic barrier is removed. This is much better.

My lesson learned: We cannot stop after one solution, even if it is an equitable one. We have to keep working until we understand – and remove – the systemic barriers.

Equality vs equity

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