Equality – A Level Playing Field for All
It’s a rather sad state of affairs that equality and fair treatment of people regardless of their characteristics is entrenched in law in most modern countries. Surely, it would seem obvious that everyone is equal.
Many of us are guilty either, consciously or unintentionally, of small instances where we treat people differently based on their race, gender, sexual orientation, age or religious beliefs. We need to be asking how can this be happening in a free and modern society where social diversity plays such an important role?
Most inequalities are based on entrenched impressions that we have of people or groups of people. These can be culturally inherited, but they can also stem from stereotypical portrayals of people in the media.
Like it or not, we all have these impressions even though we might not be aware of them. Take for example a conversation with a friend who mentions that they went to see a specialist doctor last week. You ask them what his name is. Why do you assume that the doctor is male?
The problem with this example lies rather in the fact that while the level of equality of opportunity is equal, the number of males enrolled in med school is still higher than females. These kinds of stereotypes are generally harmless, but there is more and more sensitivity to stereotyping, and they do make a big difference in other areas.
The real issue is that the perception of inequality of opportunity still exists among differently-abled people and women who feel that they need not apply.
Inequality in the Workplace
The same scenario applies to the workplace. Women are reluctant to apply for roles in male-dominated areas, despite the fact that these male-oriented positions pay more.
This means that when you advertise a vacancy in your company, you should consider that a large proportion of qualified candidates may not apply based on their perception. The same scenario applies when internal positions are advertised within an enterprise. People with time on the ground may be reluctant to apply for advancement because they don’t feel their application will be treated fairly.
Sadly, a historical perception of gender bias in the workplace still exists with women believing that they should only submit an application for a job if they meet 100% of the required qualifications while men will apply with only 60% of the qualifications. Nationally, and globally, this hesitancy adds up and can have massive implications for both progress and economy across the board.
If the best people for the job are sitting on the sidelines, we have a problem, Houston.
It’s one thing for equality to be entrenched in law, but it’s in our daily interactions with each other that it really matters. We must consciously work to eradicate these perceived inequalities in all of our actions and even our thoughts. Get out of the habit of seeing people differently according to fixed criteria.
Equality in Action
A society that is truly fair and equal benefits in several ways.
When people feel socially connected to their community, they are more likely to participate, i.e. help each other out.
This is particularly relevant in social upliftment issues. If you truly believe that all people are entitled to an equal education, good healthcare and other basic necessities, you will be able to see where the shortcomings in these systems are. Unless you can tell if something is wrong, you can’t and won’t do anything about it.
When people are treated fairly, they are more likely to take part in growing a community’s infrastructure and economy. After all, if you don’t feel like you are an equal part of something, why should you work to better it?
The bottom line is that confidence increases when people feel ‘a part of a greater whole’. They are more inclined to contribute. Feeling included gives rise to hope, which is the cornerstone of survival, determination and ultimately, excellence.
Spreading the Word
While business and government are two key proponents of equality in society, the truth is that equality should be addressed over a much further ranging spectrum.
All schools and educational institutions must instill equality and fairness in future generations as a matter of course.
Healthcare service providers need to treat everyone the same according to their illness and not their social standing or health insurance provider. Welfare systems too should view people according to their needs and not their race, gender or other perceived value system.
The courts should live up to their duties as the defenders of equality and fairness across the board.
Even nature has its hierarchies in the animal kingdom, and people have an inborn tendency to place each other in groups.
Clearly, these archaic divisions are not working in modern society, and they must be addressed at the most basic level possible. It starts with you, right now.
Brand Robert Nienaber is passionate about and committed to getting people thinking about how they can make a difference in the world. Keep reading for more inspiration on how you can get the ball rolling.