The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is EmbraceEquity, and it’s an important conversation. In order to create workplaces that are fair and equitable, we need to understand what equity means, and how to practice it at work.
Equity vs. Equality
The IWD EmbraceEquity theme is meant to highlight the important difference between equity and equality, and how these terms influence our lives. According to IWD:
- Equality means that each group of people is given the same resources or opportunities
- Equity recognizes that people are in different circumstances, so different people are given the resources and opportunities they need to achieve an equal opportunity
Equality-based solutions seek impartiality, trying to create a “level playing field” for everyone equally. However, groups that have been traditionally marginalized may require more than a level playing field. They may need additional resources that compensate for their disadvantages, in order to have truly equal opportunities.
For example, if two people are tasked with taking a box off of a high shelf, one of them may need a step ladder in order to reach the box. Providing a step ladder acknowledges that not everyone is the same height, and allows everyone a chance to complete the task. Equity doesn’t give everyone the same resources: it gives everyone the resources they need to be successful.
In other words, IWD says that “Equality is the goal, and equity is how we get there.”
Why Equal Opportunities Aren’t Enough
Equal opportunities are an excellent starting point, creating a fair basis for evaluating perceptions and decisions in the workplace and in our personal lives. However, even when we create equal opportunities, not everyone has equal access to those opportunities. Even on a level playing field, some players have inherent disadvantages.
In the workplace, creating equity, instead of equality, may mean paying special attention to traditionally disadvantaged groups and specifically compensating for their needs. This often involves special attention in the areas of:
- Maternity and childcare policies
- Physical access and ability in the workplace
- Religious observance allowances
When companies and employers create equitable workplaces, they create workplaces where each team member can truly live up to their potential and make a full contribution to the company. Equity benefits everyone.
Equity in Technology
One important aspect of gender equity is access to technology and digital education. On International Women’s Day this year, the United Nations will observe the day by examining the digital divide. The DigitALL event will recognize and celebrate women and girls who are advancing transformative technologies, while also exploring the impact of the digital gender gap on widening inequality.
According to the UN’s Gender Snapshot Report, excluding women from the digital world has cost low-income countries over $1 trillion in GDP over the last decade. Including women and marginalized groups in technology promotes innovations that better meet the needs of those groups, as well as sparking more creative solutions and innovations in a wide range of areas. Digital education also increases civil rights awareness and social engagement among women and girls, allowing them to better address humanitarian challenges. On International Women’s Day, the UN’s DigitALL event will include technologists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and activists to discuss improving women’s access to digital tools.
This International Women’s Day, join grapefrute as we EmbraceEquity and seek to create a more fair and inclusive world for all. Visit the IWD website for more ways to get involved.