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three keys to improve equity in the lab

Three Keys to Improve Equity in the Lab

While diversity efforts have been going on in many organizations for years, equity and inclusion are newer efforts and can be challenging for many lab managers

Scott D. Hanton, PhD

Scott Hanton is the editorial director of Lab Manager. He spent 30 years as a research chemist, lab manager, and business leader at Air Products and Intertek. He earned...

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Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) are very important activities in all businesses to take advantage of the various strengths and experiences that each staff member brings to the lab. While diversity efforts have been going on in many organizations for years, equity and inclusion are newer efforts and can be challenging for many lab managers. While both are focused on fair treatment of people, equity is different than equality. Equality treats everyone the same regardless of need, while equity treats people differently dependent on need. Here are three tips that will help you improve the equity in your lab, hopefully resulting in more fairness and opportunity for all staff.

#1 – Be transparent

Be transparent about opportunities, decisions, resources, and challenges. Don’t assume that everyone on staff sees the decisions and opportunities in the same way. Communicate clearly and openly about what is happening in the lab, and what might happen in the lab in the future, with everyone. By becoming more aware of how the lab functions, every staff member can generate a clearer understanding about how their skills and experience can contribute. By communicating openly about opportunities, everyone has an equal chance to realize their potential.

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#2 – Listen for needs

Since the key to equity is treating people differently based on their need, it is vital for lab managers to listen carefully for the needs of staff. It is important to realize that staff members might have very different starting points in their scientific careers, and may need different things, training, or coaching to have an equal chance to successfully act on the next opportunity. These different needs may require lab managers to listen differently, and to become more aware of the specific needs of individuals, rather than responding to typical or average needs of the group.

#3 – Improve fairness

It may be time to investigate some basic fairness aspects of the lab—things like equal pay for similar work, effective access to opportunity, appropriate access to training, and generating the right developmental experiences for staff. While many labs claim to have fairness in place, there are still many stories shared by lab personnel about unequal pay, access to opportunity, and access to resources. Many labs get trapped into the habits of their past and stop seeing these issues as fairness, and just accept them as local fact.

Lab managers can play a very important role in improving equity in the lab. It takes looking at the people and processes of the lab with new eyes, looking for the important differences and ensuring that everyone on staff has equal opportunity to rise to their potential.

Thanks for reading. I hope you can use this information. I am very interested in hearing from you. If you have feedback or comments on this set of tips, or suggestions for future Manager Minutes, I’d love to hear from you. Please reach out to me at I’m looking forward to our conversations. Thanks.