The Equity Continuum

n 1996, the Equity Continuum was introduced in the book Diversity at Work: The Business Case for Equity by Trevor Wilson. The scale provided an efficient assessment framework to assist organizations in rating their diversity and equity initiatives. Wilson described the Continuum as a measurement model and a pathway for organizations to achieve their diversity aspirations. The 0 to 5 scale moves through five phases represented in the diagram below.

The Equity Continuum has become a recognized industry measurement methodology for initiatives related to diversity, inclusion and human equity. It is the measurement template used to assess applicants to the annual Canada’s Best Diversity Employer’s competition. Each applicant is provided with a score which represents their positioning on the continuum based on the definitions below. For more information on how to obtain a continuum score for your organization contact


Definitions by Level

Level 1: “Compliance”
These organizations are motivated by compliance. Their aim is to meet their legal or other obligations (e.g. collective agreements, labour laws, contracts, litigation), to avoid the negative consequences of non-compliance. These organizations focus on equality (treating everyone in the same way), rather than diversity (respecting people’s differences). Initiatives generally stop if the external requirements driving the initiatives change or fall away. Organizations at this level have primarily a reactive approach to implementing equity initiatives.

Level 2: “Moving Beyond Compliance”
These organizations recognize the value in going beyond simple compliance. They aim to support groups that have been historically disadvantaged, recognizing the benefits to their internal and public image. Equity in these organizations means being seen to “do the right thing for disadvantaged groups”. Initiatives that go beyond compliance generally STOP if the leadership or public interest driving those initiatives changes or falls away. These organizations are likely to have one or more diversity initiatives in place, but these are isolated efforts that typically support high visibility programs or the promotion of designated group members into visible positions. No plan is in place to integrate diversity into all aspects of human resource management nor the larger organizational culture.

Level 3: “The Business Case”
These organizations understand that certain diversity initiatives can improve organizational efficiency, recruitment, employee retention, team effectiveness or market related opportunities. They evaluate diversity initiatives qualitatively and quantitatively to identify programs that will positively affect the future viability of the organization. Representation numbers at this stage are a means to an end rather than the focus of the diversity strategy. Initiatives can survive the loss of employee or public interest if the business case driving the initiatives remains valid. These organizations use an inclusive definition of diversity with the vision of creating an environment that is equitable for all.

Level 4: “Integrated Equity”
These organizations have evolved beyond diversity to inclusion. They have moved beyond a group focus to the individual. They focus on creating a work environment where each person (vs. each group) is recognized and developed, and their talents are routinely tapped in to. They actively practice talent differentiation strategies. They value people because of not in spite of their differences and have moved towards an environment that is equitable for all. They have internalized diversity and inclusion as core values and view human equity as an essential element of sustainable competitive advantage or organizational effectiveness. They have integrated inclusion into all aspects of the organization. All employees consider themselves responsible for creating a fair, equitable and inclusive environment. The commitment to inclusion is not affected by economic trends. They modify the focus on inclusion only to ensure alignment with the organization’s core values. They are widely perceived as Employers and Suppliers of Choice

Level 5: “Inclusive and Equitable”
These organizations have achieved the vision of treating people based solely on the content of their character. They practice human equity by maximizing on all of the intangible assets that people bring to the world of work. They capitalize on individual differences to unleash maximum human potential and self actualization. They focus on rigorous talent differentiation to create a job/talent fit that allows each employee to utilize their unique strengths, passion, attitude, personality, life experiences and virtue. They have achieved a work environment that is equitable and inclusive for all. They seek to introduce human equity beyond their own boundaries. Their motivation stems from the principle that human equity is an organizational, community, national and global imperative. These organizations recognize that human equity contributes to a strong economy, which benefits all participants including the organization. They encourage other organizations to move along The Equity Continuum™. They are indisputably perceived as the Employer and Supplier of Choice for all.

Last week I attended a leadership conference where the title of


A good friend often pokes fun at how long it took me