Women’s Day 2023: The difference between equity and equality
The theme for International Women’s Day this year is Embrace Equity. But what is the difference between equity and equality? Is one bette than the other?
International Women’s Day is both a celebration of women’s accomplishments and a reminder of the work that still needs to be done. The theme for Women’s Day 2023 is Embrace Equity. It is an interesting and deliberate choice to use the word equity rather than equality.
Equality vs Equity
Equality and equity, though often used interchangeably, are not exactly the same thing. Both have to do with fairness, but the difference between the two is actually quite significant.
Equality means each group of people is given the same opportunities and resources. Equity means that each group is given different resources and opportunities based on their circumstances and what they need. Equity, in other words, recognizes that each individual or group of people begin with different circumstances and aims to give everyone what they need in order to succeed, while acknowledging that what they need will be different.
This cartoon is a rather simplistic illustration of the difference between equality and equity. Of course, it is not so simple to provide, as defining someone’s needs based on their circumstance can be quite complicated.
On the IWD website, they write: “Inequity affects many people, but most commonly historically it has marginalized communities such as women, people of color, disabled people, the economically disadvantaged, and those from the LGBTQ+ community. The goal of equity is to change systemic and structural barriers that get in the way of people’s ability to thrive.”
There is no one solution that will fix all the issues and challenges that marginalized groups of people face. Racism, sexism, and poverty, amongst other societal issues, cause people to start at a disadvantage compared to others. Equity seeks to understand the reasons these inequalities exist and provide solutions adapted for each person/community.
Equity is not something that is easily achievable by any means, but simply being of the mindset is a step in the right direction. As the IWD website says, “we can all challenge gender stereotypes, call out discrimination, draw attention to bias, and seek out inclusion” as part of embracing equity. Engaging in critical discussions to challenge actions which hinder the advancement of women is an important step in helping women become less marginalized.
Systemic economic, social, and political barriers exist across the world and changing that starts with being of an equity-based mindset - recognizing that not everyone has had the same opportunities or privileges. It is not simply a matter of giving another person an extra box, but rather paying close attention to the specific needs of marginalized groups. That includes women of different races and backgrounds, as what may benefit a white woman may not benefit a woman of color in the same way, for example.
Both equality and equity are noble goals and necessary to continue in the direction of a better life for all people. But it starts with developing a greater understanding of the differences between communities and their individual needs. Equity provides us with the goal of giving everyone equal access to those equal opportunities we are striving for.