What Is Equality And Diversity?

Promoting equality and diversity is a duty the entire UK government takes very seriously. It is a responsibility shared by all government departments. We n…

  • Useful equality and diversity resources

Although sometimes used interchangeably, the terms ‘equality’ and ‘diversity’ are not the same.

Equality is about ‘creating a fairer society, where everyone can participate and has the opportunity to fulfil their potential’ (DH, 2004). It is about identifying patterns of experience based on group identity, and the challenging processes that limit individual’s ‘potential’ health and life chances.

For example, occupational segregation. Women make up almost 75% of the NHS workforce but are concentrated in the lower-paid occupational areas: nursing, allied health professionals (AHPs), administrative workers and ancillary workers (DH, 2005). People from black and minority ethnic groups comprise 39.1% of hospital medical staff yet they comprise only 22.1% of all hospital medical consultants (DH, 2005).

An equalities approach understands that our social identity – in terms of gender, race, disability, age, social class, sexuality and religion – will impact on our life experiences.

Diversity literally means difference. When it is used as a contrast or addition to equality, it is about recognising individual as well as group differences, treating people as individuals, and placing positive value on diversity in the community and in the workforce.

Historically, employers and services have ignored certain differences. However, individual and group diversity needs to be considered in order to ensure that everybody‘s needs and requirements are understood and responded to within employment practice and service design and delivery.

One way in which organisations have responded to the issue of diversity in recent years has been the development of flexibility in working practices and services. For example, an employer may allow an employee to work a flexible working pattern to accommodate child care arrangements, or a GP surgery may offer surgeries at the weekends in accommodate those who work full time during the week.

These approaches recognise that in order to be inclusive and equal to all, organisations may need to respond differently to individuals/groups.

Therefore, a commitment to equality in addition to recognition of diversity means that different can be equal.

Why is equality and diversity important?

Equality and diversity is becoming more important in all aspects of our lives and work for a number of reasons.

  • We live in an increasingly diverse society and need to be able to respond appropriately and sensitively to this diversity. Learners in the healthcare setting will reflect this diversity around gender, race and ethnicity, disability, religion, sexuality, class and age.
  • Your organisation believes that successful implementation of equality and diversity in all aspects of work ensures that colleagues, staff and students are valued, motivated and treated fairly.
  • We have an equality and human rights legal framework covering employment practices and service delivery and we need to ensure we work within this and avoid discrimination.