Equality and Equity

The terms ‘inequality’ and ‘inequity’ are often used synonymously. The European Institute for Gender Equality gives the following definitions:

Gender Equity

Provision of fairness and justice in the distribution of benefits and responsibilities between

women and men

Gender Equality

Equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men and girls and boys

We can therefore think of gender equality as being the end goal, and gender equity as

the means of achieving that.

In certain spheres, such as health, a distinction is made between whether a disparity is

avoidable or not. As Professor Sir Michael Marmot succinctly explains: “where inequalities

in health are avoidable, yet are not avoided, they are inequitable”. This takes into

account that some inequalities in health are unavoidable e.g. the fact the women have a

longer average life expectancy than man is driven by biological factors and hence not


Because equity is about fairness, it is often necessary to take measures that directly promote opportunities for those who need them most: it is not about treating everyone in the same way. One of the best, and most widely known ways to illustrate this is with the image below:


Interaction Institute for Social Change | Artist: Angus Maguire

In order to achieve gender equality, we need equitable approaches that acknowledge and address entrenched gender-based discrimination.