Per the Oxford dictionary, equality is defined as having the same rights or status; free from discrimination of disadvantage; while equity, implies fairness, impartiality.
It, therefore, follows that gender equality implies that, “both men and women should receive equal treatment and not be discriminated against based on their gender.” Reports state that this is the objective of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: to create equality in law and in social situations, such as in democratic activities and securing equal pay for equal work.
We can also go on to define gender equity as, “the process of allocating resources, programs, and decision making fairly to both males and females without any discrimination on the basis of gender …and addressing any imbalances in the benefits available to males and females.” (CAAWS)
Not clear enough? Perhaps we can paint a more vivid picture. Mr. A and Ms B are senior analysts at an indigenous management consulting firm. They both have similar responsibilities, put in the same number of hours, and are expected to meet the same targets. Consequently, they both get paid the exact same remuneration. This is gender equality.
At the end of the quarter, Mr. A and Ms B are scheduled to be appraised with the possibility of a promotion. The team lead, therefore, applies the same performance metrics to both candidates, benchmarks them against the same set of indices, considers their strengths and weaknesses, and then goes on to decide who is most deserving of the promotion. This is gender equity.
We also see a vivid example of this in the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS), where there is sometimes confusion about the difference between the concepts of equality and equity, and usage often depends on the sector and country in question.
In contrast to equality, the Canadian sport and physical activity systems typically defines gender equity as the process of allocating resources, programme and decision making so that males and females have the same. In other words, females and males would each receive 50% of the resources, facilities, and each have access to the same programmes, e.g., for every male programme, there is an existing female programme.
One may then begin to wonder, why the need for such a stark differentiation. The fact is, while the goal of treating everyone the same may seem noble, the principle of equal treatment tends to ignore the fact that people differ in their capacities, interests, resources and experiences. It is not enough to insist on equality, but to pursue fairness and justice for all people. As succinctly put the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women and Sport and Physical Activity (CAAWS) equality focuses on creating the same starting line for everyone. Equity has the goal of providing everyone with the full range of opportunities and benefits – the same finish line.
Considering the above, organisations have much to gain by committing themselves to achieving gender equity. The sheer amount of resources that immediately become available when the skills and talents of every member of the organisation are utilised is enough to transform business as you know it. More so, skilled women provide the organisation with an important talent pool of covering all roles and activities. In case you have not noticed, the days of ‘men-only’ jobs are long gone, with thousands of women building capacity in male-dominated fields and vice-versa.
In terms of brand equity as well, creating equitable opportunities for men and women affords the organisation the prestige of leading the pack by promoting girls and women. It also positions the organisation as one that is progressive, by fostering team work between men and women. Also, in terms of legal responsibility, organisations can avoid negative commentary, even up to lawsuits by supporting both men and women in the workplace.
But if you doubt any of the above, it might shock you to know that if the world closed the gender gap in workforce participation, global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would increase by 28 trillion dollars by 2025, according to Gender Equality Benefits Everyone published in 2016 by Editorials on Voice of America. To put that in more jaw-dropping terms, that’s about a quarter of the world’s current GDP, and almost half of the world’s current debt,” said U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Catherine Russell in speech in 2016. She also noted that, “studies have found that countries with less gender inequality are more secure, and peace agreements last longer when women are at the negotiating table.”
Surely, the above views on gender equity – and even equity – are enough to convince you on its pertinence to national growth and development. What steps can we – from the smallest to the biggest organisations – take to engender the right policies and decisions that will close the gender gap and empower women to be bold and invaluable to organisations?