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  • Katica Roy

Gender Equity Or Gender Equality: Why Does The Difference Matter?

Welcome to my weekly Q&A feature. (Scroll down to find the Q&A.)

If this is your first time here, welcome. I spend a fair amount of time speaking at events and conferences. At the end of my presentations, I leave space for audience members to ask questions—tough questions, brave questions, you name it. The level of candor and curiosity always inspires me, and I want to share that sentiment with you. Each week I pick one question that I believe others would find most instructive and publish my response to it here.

The purpose of this weekly tradition is transparency and inclusion.

  • Transparency: a behind-the-scenes look at my day-to-day.

  • Inclusion: bringing others along on the journey.

Be Brave™

Learn How To Use Gender Equity & Gender Equality Correctly


For practical purposes, can we assume gender equity and gender equality mean the same thing? This issue is already complicated, it doesn’t make sense to get nitpicky about terms!

Curious about something? ​Ask your question here for a chance to have it answered in an upcoming edition of Brave Souls®.


Some people and organizations will use the terms gender equity and gender equality interchangeably. I’m going to challenge you to appreciate the nuance between these two terms. Because no, for practical purposes, this is not a case of semantic interoperability. Gender equity and gender equality are different.

The Difference Between Gender Equity And Gender Equality

When you think “gender equality,” think sameness. Not sameness in the biological sense, though. Sameness in the sense that your opportunities, rights, and responsibilities are the same whether or not you’re a woman, a man, or a non-binary individual.

When you think “gender equity,” think fairness. Fairness according to respective needs, that is. Gender equity recognizes that our world is not equal. (In fact, we are far from it. At current rates of progress we won’t achieve gender equality for another 151 years.) Because opportunities, rights, and responsibilities are not distributed equally among genders, we need a mechanism to account for these discrepancies.

Gender equality = the end goal

Gender equity = the path to reach our end goal

An Example Of Gender Equity Versus Gender Equality

When we tell little girls that if they work hard and do well in school they can be anything they want to be, we are misleading them. Let’s play the Ovarian Lottery to understand why. Here are the rules:

  1. Imagine you will be born 24 hours from now.

  2. You are given an extraordinary power to determine the economic rules of the world you are about to enter. These rules will prevail past your lifetime and into your children’s, grandchildren’s, and great grandchildren’s lifetimes.

  3. You are given 24 hours to make the rules, but here’s the kicker...

  4. You don’t know what your assigned sex at birth will be. You don’t know what the color of your skin will be. You don’t know what the ability of your body will be. You don’t know what your family structure will be. You don’t even know what country you will be born into.

  5. What type of economic system are you going to construct?

If you decide to apply the rules of our current economic system to the world you are about to enter, you better hope you’re not born female. Doing so would impede your development and the opportunities afforded to you. That’s because we haven’t yet achieved gender equality.

If, on the other hand, you decide to create an economic system where equality is the norm, then your sex and gender wouldn’t impact your life outcomes. Your opportunities would operate independent of your chromosomes and gender expression.

Because we live in a gender unequal world, we need gender equity to level the playing field. We need to account for the experience gaps between genders (i.e. gender pay gap, health gap, education gap, political gap, leadership gap, etc) and use those gaps to guide policies.

What Comes After Gender Equality?

If gender equality is the end, then gender equity is the means. In this sense, you can imagine gender equity as the enabler of gender equality. Now let’s keep going with this linear progression.

Gender equity → gender equality → 17 SDGs, achieved

Gender equity leads to gender equality, and gender equality leads not only to a massive $12+ trillion economic windfall, it also leads to the achievement of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yes, all 17 of those goals. As the UN put it:

“All the SDGs depend on [gender equality].”

That’s a pithy way of saying that peace and prosperity cannot co-exist with gender inequality. If you want to alleviate poverty, build sustainable cities, accelerate technological innovation, enjoy good health, and preserve the oceans, land, and air—then gender equality matters. And if gender equality matters, then we need gender equity to get us there.

Curious about something? ​Ask your question here for a chance to have it answered in an upcoming edition of this newsletter.

© 2022 Katica Roy™, Inc.


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