Is My Head Big Enough?
I googled “equity.” It wasn’t the first time. I have been googling “equity” for years. Maybe I am hoping to find a new definition. Maybe I am looking for some deeper understanding of the word. But the more I google it, the more I discover that equity is less of a word than a feeling. According to Webster, equity is defined as: justice according to natural law or right, specifically freedom from bias or favoritism.
In the fancy-person-world, I keep hearing the word equity being described as: access to audiovisual meeting systems. Equity might describe some sort of vehicle to create equal outcomes for folks with different or fewer resources. That’s what fancy people like. They like everyone to be happy. I guess that makes me fancy…except when talking about business.
So let’s talk about business. When someone buys an iPhone, Samsung does not get any money. How can that be fair? Or when someone buys a Ford, GM doesn’t get money. When you buy a microphone from Shure, it’s one less sale for Audio Technica. The Shure guy gets money and I do not.
I know! This is INSANE! Shure has WAY more resources than I do. Where is the equity in that? I want my equity. I saw a ton of Sennheiser mics in the ceilings at Salesforce. You think I’d get something for that wouldn’t you? I’m in the mic business too! Please send me some equity. Zelle or Venmo will do.
It’s a nice word to say and it makes people feel smart and all warm and fuzzy inside when they say it, but in the real world of competition, equity is a tool we use to win. My team has equity. And to us that means shares of the company. Are their faces the same size on the screen as mine? Nope.
There has been a lot of talk about “meeting equity” and “screen equity”. From what I’ve seen, this mostly seems to center around face-to-face meetings that include remote participants. In such a meeting, everyone’s face is a different size. This seems to matter a lot to some folks. How big everyone’s face is on everyone’s screen. Does a bigger face mean you are more important? Or maybe more attractive? Nobody knows… They just know that all faces must all be the same size.
I wish they could make our bellies all the same size. I’ve had too many IPA beers. I need some stomach equity going on – but I digress.
So, do all people want everyone to have the same size faces? I am no scholar, but I have a strong hypothesis.
In nature, we cannot look three people in the eye all at once.
So why does this matter? Because unnatural things are bad for us. And looking into the eyes of so many people at once is fatiguing as heck. It’s exhausting. It’s not natural. We go through all sorts of nonsense to create “natural” feeling meetings, then we deposit nine faces on the screen all staring you in the eye at once. I am sweating while typing this.
It’s not fair that people physically in the meeting room get to see each other’s bellies, while remote participants don’t get any belly views at all…except their own. That is not equitable. And it isn’t equitable that the people in the meeting room have actual “pants” on. Not fair at all… no “pants equity.”
Equity IRL (I was told that’s the cool way to say In-Real-Life)
Equity has its place in the real world. In education for certain. I grew up with a roof over my head. I never showed up to school without shoes. I have seen children locally that show up to school without shoes and unfed. Not everyone has the same opportunity.
This is where we need to step up our equity game.
Meeting Equity is more like the “Lowest Common Meeting Denominator.” I told a client that in order to achieve true meeting equity with in-person and distant participants, everyone has to wear blindfolds – everyone. (I could not solve the aroma-equity part yet – still working on that one.)
I suspect that the term “meeting equity “ is a construct propagated by the videoconferencing platform providers themselves. Every dollar that is spent on complicated audio-visual equipment is a dollar not spent on software. The big software providers don’t like custom AV much. They have to take a back seat to the super coolness that we as AV people provide. They don’t like it. They hate that SPEND. THEY want to be the spend. THEY want the equity all to themselves.
Business is not about equity. It is about outcomes. Happy people that feel good, do good work. This is why I gave away most of my company. It is why folks should be concerned about the meeting experience…. but not the fairness of it all.