By Rinku Sen of Colorlines.com

Maybe I have no sense of humor, but when Gov. Mitt Romney said the words “binders full of women” during this week’s debate, it didn’t occur to me to make an Internet joke, complete with visuals of feminine legs sticking out of binders. He seemed to have left out a word—maybe resumés?—but I sure didn’t predict multiple Tumblrs being built around it.

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This is DIVERSITY – but is it EQUITY? Do we want affirmative action for diversity only, or for equal pay for equal work and equal say at the table as well?

I was more struck by the fact that he answered a question about pay equity with a story about diversity hiring. If we had the language as a society to describe this difference, the jokes might have been more pointed. Diversity is about variety, getting bodies with different genders and colors into the room. Equity is about how those bodies get in the door and what they are able to do in their posts. A diversity approach has gotten us to the point where Romney could get a binder full of women’s resumés. (Though, notably, the real credit goes to the group MassGAP, which pushed the governor’s office to hire more women in high-level posts.) An equity approach is what would have forced him to address the pay gap, which I bet all the women in those binders have experienced.

Why does this distinction matter? After nearly 50 years of applying anti-discrimination laws, American workplaces are still dominated by white men. Men of color and all women have more access to some jobs than they used to, but the ranks of decisionmakers come nowhere close to reflecting our numbers in the nation as a whole. This is the root of the “tokenism” complaint that I hear constantly as I travel the country. Tokenism means that you can come to the meeting, but no one will pay any attention to what you say. It means that the workplace will open the door to you, as long as you look (to the extent possible) and act just like the white men who are already there. It means that you’ll get invited to the party, but you won’t be allowed to make any requests of the DJ or help set the playlist.

Read more here.