March 6, 2023

International Women’s Day: #EmbraceEquity in 2023

International Women’s Day: #EmbraceEquity in 2023
Before we can embrace equity, we need to know what it means – so, let’s find out!

This International Women’s Day (which is this Wednesday, March 8!), people around the world are being asked to #EmbraceEquity, particularly when it comes to women in the workplace. A big part of this year’s theme is learning the differences between equity and equality, but it can be a really confusing discussion!

That’s why we’re going to do our best to break these concepts down as simply as possible so we can all #EmbraceEquity this week.

For most of us, when we think about debates around gender equality, that’s the word we most hear and use – equality. Equity doesn’t often appear in mainstream discussions, and when it does, it’s often conflated with equality. The distinctions between the two, however, are really important!

So, let’s go back to basics.

If we think about giving people resources and opportunities for success, equality means that everyone receives the same things in the same amounts. No person gets more than another person, and that’s what people generally think of as fair.

On the face of it, that makes sense – but what happens when some people start off with less in the first place? Giving everyone the same thing means some people are still ahead of others, which doesn’t solve the problem.

That’s where equity comes in. Instead of each person receiving exactly the same resources, equity means looking at people’s individual circumstances and giving them what they need to reach the benchmark of success.

It’s still confusing, right? Let’s look at it in terms of the most common visual representation of equity: this cartoon of some baseball fans!

In the cartoon, there are three people of different heights standing behind a fence, trying to watch a baseball game. But because of the fence in the way, only the tallest can see. For equality, we give each of them the same resource: a box to stand on.

Now the middle person can see over the fence, but the third person still can’t see – and the tallest person didn’t need the boost in the first place!

So, if we approach the scenario with equity in mind, we don’t give each person a box to stand on; instead, we give the shortest person two boxes, the middle person one box, and the tallest person no box – because they don’t need one. Now, everyone can see over the fence!

That’s the basic difference between equality and equity: it’s the difference between a blanket solution, which can still leave some people behind, and a tailored solution that addresses individual needs.

So, how does this relate to International Women’s Day?

The #EmbraceEquity theme is designed to highlight that ‘equality is the goal, and equity is the means to get there’. Starting with equality assumes that everyone started at the same place (or, in our example above, at the same height).

But we know that isn’t true! There are a lot of different reasons some people might be ahead of others in terms of opportunities and resources, and gender is one of those reasons.

That’s why this year’s IWD theme focuses on equity. In Australia, the gender pay gap remains at 22.8% and women are still underrepresented in leadership positions. Every industry has a pay gap that favours men – so, to achieve gender equality, we need to provide support equitably, which, for many places, means providing dedicated support to women being left behind.

Ultimately, equity boils down to giving support to those who need it and in the way they need it, however that looks to each individual. And, like IWD says, that is the path to equality – so, make sure you #EmbraceEquity this International Women’s Day!

You can do this by learning more about equity, teaching others about it, attending events, or even just reflecting on how you can make the world more equitable around you.

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International Women’s Day: #EmbraceEquity in 2023