4.3.2 Difference between Gender Equality and Gender Equity

In the gender literature, we often come across two concepts: ‘gender equality' and ‘gender equity'. They are sometimes used interchangeably, but they do not quite refer to the same thing. We shall briefly explain the difference between them.

"Gender equality requires equal enjoyment by women and men of socially-valued goods, opportunities, resources and rewards." (http://web.unfpa.org/gender/resources3.htm#2 )

In other words, gender equality refers to equal access to social goods, services and resources and equal opportunities in all spheres of life for both men and women. When there is gender inequality, it is women that are more likely to be disadvantaged and marginalised; but we should not ignore the negative impact that gender inequality can have on men as well. For example, societal norms regarding the appropriate behaviour for men tend to put them under pressure as regards the need to provide materially for their family, and also deny them opportunities of being more nurturing towards their children and wife. Therefore gender equality is the concern of all and changes must be brought about for both men and women. However, this is not to say that men and women are equally affected by gender inequality. It remains true that women have the greater share of disadvantages.

However, gender equality, as defined above, does not often result in equal outcomes for men and women. Being given the same chances in life is not sufficient to bring about true equality. Women and men have different needs and experiences and accommodation should be made for these differences. For example, giving boys and girls equal access to all the courses offered in a school may not result in girls taking advantage of this opportunity if some courses are predominantly filled with male students and have only male teachers. There is still the unfortunate tendency to consider male norms as a measure for women's position. Providing women and men with the same opportunities is the first step; but for true gender equality to be achieved there is a need for gender equity.

"Gender equity is the process of being fair to women and men." (UNFPA)

Women and men should not only be given equal access to resources and equal opportunities, but they should also be given the means of benefiting from this equality. This is where the concept of ‘gender equity' comes into play. Gender equity implies fairness in the way women and men are treated. The different life experiences and needs of men and women are taken into consideration and compensation is made for women's historical and social disadvantages. The lower status of women in society often constitutes a handicap and provisions should be made to redress this inequality before they can take advantage of the opportunities provided. Gender equity thus serves to level the playing field and empower women. Therefore, we can say that equity is essential to achieve true equality.


IDevice Icon Activity 4.2
You have been exposed to the difference between gender equality and gender equity. Let us assume that we want to make both men and women interested to become small entrepreneurs.

Discuss the measures you will take if you are using (1) a gender equity approach and (2) a gender equality approach.