At Rotary, we are committed to treating everyone with dignity and respect, allowing everyone’s voice to be heard, and providing equitable opportunities for fellowship, service and leadership.

We strive to create a society where every person is valued and respected for their individuality, regardless of age or background. In this month’s issue, as part of our “Why DEI Matters?” series, we explore the importance of promoting equality and equity, including fairness for underprivileged groups. Affirmative action aims for diversity, but critics raise concerns about fairness.


What is equity? And how do we achieve it?

Equity refers to fair treatment for all people, so that the norms, practices, and policies in place ensure identity is not predictive of opportunities or workplace outcomes, by taking into consideration a person’s unique circumstances and background. Often confused with equality, and discussed with fairness and justice, the conversation leads to even more questions: What exactly are fairness and justice?

Equity: Fairness & Justice?

Basic Needs For Living? Education & Equal Opportunity?

Merit-based Rewards? Freedom & Capacity To Choose For One’s Life?

Fairness does not mean that everybody gets what they want, but rather it means that each has an equal opportunity to benefit. Justice means giving each person what he or she deserves.

Where Equity Stands Between Opportunities & Outcomes?

While society measures both opportunities and outcomes a person has, the conversation on equity comes in and seeks the consistently debatable fine line between where the work to level everyone’s opportunities is enough and where one’s own choice and effort to work for their own outcome begin.

Everyday Examples of Equity Issues

Social Stratification & Resources Redistribution

Our society is structurally stratified based on multiple factors, such as individual’s socioeconomic status, age, disability status, sex, gender identity, etc. Here are some examples:

Case Study: Diversity-based College Admissions

Measure ONLY by scores in public exams?

OR reserve quota for ethnic minorities? For blind communities? etc.

Should universities admit students based on a linear measure of their performance in public exams? How can we be more inclusive of marginalized students?

With marginalized kids allocated less resources for education throughout their childhood, if we only measure and rate everyone on a one-dimensional scale, less well-off pupils who do not go to private tutorials, international schools, or overseas exchange programs may tend to have fewer career opportunities. Should more selective schools spare places for such underprivileged groups, include ethnic minorities and those with physical challenges? Set to promote equal opportunities for underrepresented groups, colleges and universities in some countries consider an applicant’s race or ethnicity, which the US call affirmative action, as one factor among many in the admissions process, with the goal of achieving diversity on campus, correcting systemic social injustices and promoting a more equitable society.


Critics, however, argue that it can lead to reverse discrimination and favoring individuals based on their protected characteristics over merit. Is it fair if a better-off teenager works hard and scores high but cannot enter his dream school just because a marginal place is reserved for a student of color without an outstanding academic performance?

Case Study: Green Energy In Developing Countries

Today’s most developed countries historically had the opportunity to industrialize, at the expense of the environment by reckless carbon emissions.

Global warming is the result of ACCUMULATIVE emissions of greenhouse gases since the industrial revolution happened in today’s most developed countries. That means, they are accountable for most carbon emission in history, which in turn affects the whole world, while their economies benefit the most from emitting CO2, compared to places where economies struggle to grow.

Environmentalists may argue combating global warming is everyone’s and every country’s responsibility. Some critics from developing regions, such as Africa, may however point out that green energy is simply not an option in their regions. Limited resources can only be invested into economic development for countries to industrialize or there will be no development at all if they are confined to green energy and barred from burning fossil fuels. Most locals, for example, can only barely afford a diesel car and an EV is not financially feasible for them.

Should developing regions still be given an equitable chance to industrialize without concerns over emissions?

Despite the urgency to reduce emissions, the question here is: should every country deserve the equity to develop? If they are to comply with today’s international green standards from scratch, are the past and biggest polluters in history responsible for providing them with the help, both financially and technically, to catch up but still be able to be environmentally on par with the standard global leaders have set themselves for?

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