AnnaMarie Houlis
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Journalist & travel blogger

Everyone deserves to be treated equally, point blank and period. Gender equity refers to fairness for both men and women, as well nonbinary people. Gender equity in the workplace is incredibly important. When individuals feel supported, respected, and treated fairly, they do their best work.

What is gender equity?

Gender equity refers to “fairness of treatment for women and men, according to their respective needs," according to the International Labor Office (ILO). "This may include equal treatment or treatment that is different but which is considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations, and opportunities.”

In other words, in the context of the workplace, gender equity may mean treating both men and women the exact same. Or it may mean treating men and women differently at work but in a respectful way that is intended to be equivalent to ultimately be equal treatment. The intention is for everyone to have equal access to resources and support.

What is the difference between gender equity and equality?

While often used interchangeably, there is a key difference between gender equity and equality.

"Gender equity is the process of being fair to women and men," according to the United Nations Population Fund. "To ensure fairness, strategies, and measures must often be available to compensate for women’s historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from otherwise operating on a level playing field. Equity leads to equality. Gender equality requires equal enjoyment by women and men of socially-valued goods, opportunities, resources and rewards."

So, in order to achieve gender equality, you first need gender equity.

"Where gender inequality exists, it is generally women who are excluded or disadvantaged in relation to decision-making and access to economic and social resources," according to the United Nations Population Fund. "Therefore a critical aspect of promoting gender equality is the empowerment of women, with a focus on identifying and redressing power imbalances and giving women more autonomy to manage their own lives."

Of course,  equality does not mean that all people of diverse backgrounds are one in the same, nor does gender equality mean that genders are the same. It only refers to the equal access to opportunities so that everyone has the same rights without being dependent on or restricted by their gender.

"Achieving gender equality requires women’s empowerment to ensure that decision-making at private and public levels, and access to resources are no longer weighted in men’s favor, so that both women and men can fully participate as equal partners in productive and reproductive life," continues  the United Nations Population Fund.

What’s better — gender equality or gender equity?

Both gender equality and gender equity are important. After all, you cannot actually achieve gender equality without gender equity. You need to address the gendered imbalances with equity in order to reach equality. So, the question should not be which is better but, rather, which should be prioritized. And gender equity always proceeds gender equality.

5 examples of gender equity

Need a better idea of what gender equity entails? Here are five different examples across contexts. 

1. Making a conscious effort to give credit where credit is due is one example. Too many women are given proper credit for their work. Or others claim credit for their work. It is important to make a more conscious effort to call out and recognize the hard work of women in the workplace. 

2. Creating a women's career development program is another example of gender equity. Women do not always have access to the same types of sponsors, advocates, and mentors in the workplace as men. So making a program that specifically helps to support women can help them to achieve gender equality in the workplace.

3. Offering paid parental leave for both parents is one way to ensure gender equity in the workplace. This treats both mothers and fathers fairly, offering them both access to the same benefits and time off when they become new parents. Giving men the same time off also lifts the childcare load for women to help level the playing field.

4. Creating women's resource groups is an example of gender equity in the workplace, too. Women may feel more inspired and supported with the help of their peers. After all, empowered women empower women. 

5. Giving women benefits that can help them with gender-specific needs is a way of achieving gender equity in the workplace, too. For example, women often have to pay more for the pink tax, they may have to navigate fertility costs like IVF, and they still bare a lot of the brunt of childcare duties. Offering them health benefits that cover these costs or access to childcare support can help them out big time.

What is the importance of gender equity?

Gender equity is important because you need it in order to achieve gender equality.

"To ensure fairness, measures must often be put in place to compensate for the historical and social disadvantages that prevent women and men from operating on a level playing field," explains the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  "Equity is a mean. Equality is the result."

5 ways to promote gender equity

Here are five ways to promote gender equity in the workplace.

1. Offer benefits that actually benefit women.

There are certain benefits that specific help women. While not every woman will want the same benefits as each other, benefits that are strategically designed to promote gender equity in the workplace are key. These benefits include telecommuting options for better work-life balance to professional development opportunities. Learn more about benefits women actually want.

2. Promote women.

Studies show that women ask for promotions just as much as men, but they are not given the same opportunities. Promoting more women is one way to practice gender equity in the workplace.

3. Hire female leaders.

Currently, women make up just 30 (or six percent) of the 500 CEO positions within the S&P 500, according to Catalysts Women CEOs of the S&P 500. In 2017, women made up just 6.4 percent, which means that the number is actually declining. By hiring more women into leadership roles, this helps level the playing field for men and women. Women are also more likely to hire and promote other women.

4. Hold people accountable for discriminating against women in the workplace. 

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "Discrimination against an individual because of gender identity, including transgender status, or because of sexual orientation is discrimination because of sex in violation of Title VII... The law forbids discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, firing, pay, job assignments, promotions, layoff, training, fringe benefits, and any other term or condition of employment."

It is also unlawful to harass a person, including sexually harass them, because of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy.

5. Pay women equal wages.

The gender pay gap is still real and alive. Women still earn just 84 percent of what men earn, and that has not changed much in the last 15 or so years, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings of  full-time and part-time workers. Nevertheless, the Equal Pay Act requires fair wages.

"The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work," according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. "The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. Job content (not job titles) determines whether jobs are substantially equal. All forms of pay are covered by this law, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits. If there is an inequality in wages between men and women, employers may not reduce the wages of either sex to equalize their pay."

About the Career Expert:

AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist for a gamut of both online and print publications, as well as an adventure aficionado and travel blogger at HerReport.org. She covers all things women's empowerment — from navigating the workplace to navigating the world. She writes about everything from gender issues in the workforce to gender issues all across the globe.

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