Before we get into equality vs equity, we want to briefly talk about how IWD came to be the movement it is today and why it’s so important.
International Women’s Day is celebrated across the world on the 8th March. The day was established in 1911 when it was first honoured and recognised by Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland on 19th March.
Women’s rights have been fought hard for centuries and IWD put that mission on the calendar for everyone to see, hear and get involved with. It’s created a platform where we can learn about the issues women face AND the achievements we win.
Year after year it’s sparked conversation, debate, discussion, and collaboration and more importantly holds that spirit and those actions we need to make positive change.
So, let’s explore this year’s theme…
Fair, impartial, equal, open-minded, unbiased… all great words which we most commonly relate with equality AND equity.
But… what is the difference between equality versus equity?
Let’s think about it from the lens of gender equality and equity.
Equality is probably the term from the umbrella of Diversity and Inclusion that most people know. It means an individual’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not be determined based on their gender.
While equity is understanding and recognising that everyone has different circumstances and barriers and giving those people the access, tools and support to reach an equal outcome.
So, the theme of this year really opens up the much-needed discussion that without equity, we can’t have true equality.
The image above shows us visually the difference between the two. However, one isn’t better than the other – we still need both. Equity helps women, for example, be on the same level as men whether that’s in getting the same career opportunities or pay. Equality gives us those things without discrimination because of gender, race, or identity.
We all need to be stood on a platform which suits our individual needs. For example, if a first-time mother needs to ease back into her job with flexible or hybrid working, they should be able to do that without additional consequences or discrimination.
It means that those mums shouldn’t have to juggle focusing on childcare AND trying to fight to get the career opportunities they once did with their role when they weren’t on maternity.
Another important example is between white women and women of colour. White women have more opportunities and less discrimination than women of colour; this is because of privilege (you can read more about that on our blog here).
We need equity to reveal these issues that every woman has whether that’s because of racial bias like in this example, disability discrimination or other barriers. ALL women should be on the same level and have fair opportunities.
So if embracing equity and backing it with equality can help break down those walls, why isn’t more being done? Well, this is down to having more awareness and including equity in the conversation more. There are also common misconceptions which are holding back the conversation on equity and D&I.
Equity or equality has never been about ‘taking’ opportunities from other people or making women ‘better than men’. These are common misconceptions when we talk about D&I.
Everyone should feel safe, comfortable and have fair and equal opportunities. For example, if a man and woman are in the same role in their career, they should be able to have access to the same tools, projects and opportunities despite gender.
Asif Sadiq, the Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for Warner Bros, says explains it perfectly in his analogy using cake.
Let’s think about opportunities as a cake. The cake is cut into slices, so everyone gets a piece of the same cake.
When we are working towards a better future with D&I, equality, AND equity, it doesn’t mean that one person’s slice of cake is taken from them to benefit someone else, and vice versa. These positive actions aren’t about taking from one group to give to another group.
We know that analogies can never reflect the real issues we face completely, but we believe they can be useful to help us understand these nuanced situations a bit better.
If there is one thing that we’d love for you to take away and share with your family, and friends as well as within your workplace, is that equity needs to be added to the conversation!
We need to keep having these conversations all year long – not just when celebrations such as IWD and other moments like Women’s History Month come along. We need businesses and organisations to look within their teams and departments and reveal the gaps and fill them in, whether that’s with meaningful D+I training, awareness or policy changes.
This won’t happen overnight, but if you can help shift one person’s perspective on gender equity and equality, you have created a ripple effect of positive change!
You can share our Role Model blogs with your family, friends and network or contact us to share your story with our community!