I don't think those two things are mutually exclusive. When a group of people have been under-represented significantly in an institution, then I think saying we should treat everyone equally doesn't make any sense because that group has been historically under-represented. By that I don't mean that we should be putting people who are not qualified or trained into those jobs. That's where they get into so much trouble with affirmative action in the U.S., for example, because people hear those words and assume that you're going to be putting people who are unqualified and untrained in these positions. Of course we have to make sure that people who are joining these institutions are fully trained and equal, but I think it's that difference between equality and equity.
Sometimes I use the image where you have one person who is six feet tall, one person who is five foot eight, and one person who is four foot 11. They're trying to see something in the distance and looking over a wall. Obviously, the person who is six feet tall has a really nice view, but if we talk about equality, treating people equally, they should all be standing on the same level. If you want to talk about equity, you have to give a slightly higher platform to the person who is only four foot 11 to be able to see it.
When organizations so clearly have one group of people who have been under-represented, I think the equality argument is quite deceptive, in the sense that of course people are equal. Politically, we're equal. But in that particular case, because one group has been historically marginalized, when we start thinking about how we increase diversity in that organization, it's not enough to treat everyone equally, because if you treat everyone equally you're just going to prolong the status quo. You have to make a special effort to give people who have been under-represented.... That's not charity. You're not doing it because these people are weaker or need help. You're doing it to compensate for historical and contemporary marginalization.