Although sometimes used interchangeably, the terms “equality” and “diversity” are not synonymous.
Equality is about equity and the creation of a fairer society. It is a legal framework to protect against discrimination, promote equality of opportunity and foster good relations between all humans and those with “protected characteristics”.
It is about recognising that social identity based on personal characteristics and shared group identities will impact on life experiences and may limit health and life chances. In the UK, for example, although women represent 46.7% of the workforce their presence is concentrated in the lower paid sectors.
Diversity is the recognition and valuing of difference. It is concerned with policies and practices that create a service and employment culture that values, respects and harnesses difference for the benefit of society. When used alongside “equality” it is about ensuring that individual and group differences are recognised (rather than ignored) to ensure that individual and group needs are respected and responded to in employment contexts as well as for service delivery and design.
Promoting equality and valuing diversity are central requirements to our diverse society and successful implementation is needed to ensure that service users, learners and employees are valued, motivated and treated fairly to avoid discrimination and breach of equality, human rights and employment law.
The majority of the Equality Act came into force in October 2010 and the general equality duty in April 2011.