A message from Karen Hough, Founder and CEO of ImprovEdge
Equity is a process, rather than an outcome.
It’s a way of behaving and working that consistently moves a company or team toward ensuring that people with marginalized identities are able – and have the same opportunities as the majority – to contribute, be heard and develop.
Team Equity™ has been one of the Four Principles of ImprovEdge™ since 1998.
On the improv stage, Team Equity™ is the power of our collective abilities with a healthy awareness of our inequalities. A great improv show comes from having an ensemble with very diverse talents pool their strengths and then create a show.
We need to understand our strengths, and step into the spotlight. By that same token, we must also understand when we need to make space for others to shine.
Improv is about understanding the pulse of an audience on any given night.
As a woman in comedy in the 1990’s, I remember feeling marginalized by my gender and different approach to performance – I felt crowded out by comics who excelled at one-liners, razor-sharp humor and current events. None of which are my forte. But if the audience is laughing, it’s tough to complain.
The real change happened for me when I joined an ensemble that recognized my talents can be a different way to build comedy. I could sing, dance, do accents and characters, and my team started creating opportunities for scenes that included me. I remember a night I was in almost every scene for an audience that was loving it.
The very next night, I only played a silent waiter and a table. Yes, an actual piece of furniture! On that night, the audience was responding differently, and it was my chance to create set-ups for other members of the ensemble to use their diverse talents. We all won.
Equity onstage is ownership of the outcome and access to opportunity for all when the time is right.
I couldn’t do that by myself. I needed an ensemble that recognized I hadn’t received the same opportunities to perform and worked hard to create equity for us all.
Equity in the workplace is a process that recognizes advantages and barriers exist; the starting line is not the same for everyone.
We are not equal, even if we are placed on the same stage.
As I say, “Yes, and!” to this new decade, it’s an honor to reflect on the hundreds of companies and over a half million participants we’ve touched. We’ve seen teams change their behavior over the last 22 years to become more equitable.
The concept was uncomfortable, groundbreaking and creative in 1998.
It still is.
Yet, through the incredible courage of people and organizations over the last two decades to speak out, use data for proof and insist on more, the idea that adaptable, flexible, diverse, improvisational teams are more successful, is widely acknowledged.
What is your company doing to create Team Equity™?
It’s our responsibility to ensure that we make opportunities for our colleagues to step into the spotlight.
Throughout 2020, we’ll be exploring Equity. You’ll hear from ImprovEdge Ensemble members with different perspectives and tips to make your workplace more equitable.
Thank you and keep improvising!