Equality v Equity: which is more important?

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is Embrace Equity and I think it’s a great theme. It really highlights equity and importantly the difference between equity and equality, something that is easily and often confused.

I’m going to look at what they each mean and explain why equity is what we need to be working on in the workplace.

So, first, equality.

Equality is giving each person or group of people the same resources, support or opportunities as each other. Which on the face of it may seem fair and a great thing to do.

However, it misses context and the importance of individuality. Which is where equity comes in.

So, what’s equity?

Equity acknowledges that each person has a different background and circumstance. When we look at people as individuals and their individual needs, only then can we really understand what support, opportunities or resources they need.

By just providing everyone with the same (equality), we’re not putting everyone on a level playing field which doesn’t feel fair.

I think this image by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation illustrates the point brilliantly.

We have four individuals depicted. In the first image they are shown being treated with equality. They have all been given the same bike. But in this image, their individuality hasn’t been considered. Their needs are ignored. It’s not a level playing field and the outcome with not be equal. It’s not fair.

In the second image the four individuals are being treated with equity. They have each been given the bike they require to meet their individual circumstances and needs. It’s now a level playing field and will result in an equal and fair outcome.

Without equity, we aren’t going to be able to achieve equality.

I hope that this is a helpful description of equity and equality and demonstrates why equity is so important.

Why do we need to improve equity in the workplace?

Equity in the workplace means the company is providing the opportunity for every employee to grow and do their best. This surely can only be a good thing for individuals and the company as a whole.

Committing and taking action towards equity can also be a big driver for diversity in a company as it empowers a wider group of people to succeed in their work. It fosters a feeling of belonging which can also help with engagement and retention.  

How can we improve equity in the workplace?

There are loads of different ways of working on building up equity within your company. Here are 5 ideas that you could start with:

1. Awareness

Research and understand why equity is so important in the workplace. Evaluate how equitable your workplace is and have conversations with leaders and your employees about where you could take steps to improve it.

2. Pay

Look at pay data and analyse it to see if there are pay gaps, where women (or any other employees) are paid any less for doing the same work. If there are pay gaps, address them.

3. Parental Leave

Make it accessible for both parents, regardless of gender. This means that childcare isn’t by default left to women.

4. Look at your recruitment practices

Are your recruitment methods providing you with a wide range of candidates? Is your hiring process leading you to hiring candidates from the same education or background?

5. Inclusive benefits

Are the company benefits you’re providing benefits to all? It’s important to offer a range of benefits that will be valued and useful to all employees, not just a certain group.


We’ve taken a look at the difference between equality and equity and why equity, where you enable everyone to work from the a level playing field is so important. There are many ways of creating an equitable workplace environment but becoming aware of it and ensuring that you’re taking the first steps is crucial.

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