“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

Audre Lorde

Women and men are not equal. It’s a common misconception that because women and men can compete for the same jobs, negotiate for similar pay and attain the same levels of education that we must be equal. It’s not true, we aren’t EQUAL because EQUALITY isn’t always EQUITABLE.

Yes, (some) women and men have access to equal resources and opportunities, but equality pushes those who are the furthest behind even further.

How can that be?

Well, it’s because only some individuals in our society were given access to certain resources and opportunities while a whole other group of individuals were not given that access (think low-income families, persons of colour and persons with disabilities). Which means that when equality steps in to make the playing field level, it’s only level for some of us because – equal is equitable.

Equality focuses on creating the same starting line for everyone. Equity has the goal of providing everyone with the full range of opportunities and benefits – the same finish line.

The goal of treating everyone the same way is noble and something we applaud, but it ignores the fact that people tend to differ in their abilities, resources and experiences. Those differences tend to actually become barriers; when we ignore the barriers, we end up promoting privilege. What we don’t do is solve the societal issues that have created such inequality – we feed into it.

Focusing on equity means that we recognize the system in place is leaving many behind and we actively dedicated resources to ensure everyone can catch up and succeed at the same level, barrier free.

For women and men, this means addressing the fact that 20,000 women globally are victims of ‘honor’ killings each year, one woman is killed every six days in Canada, on any given night in Canada, 3,491 women and their 2,724 children sleep in shelters because it isn’t safe at home or that women in Canada still face a significant wage gap.

We can’t bring one-sized-fits-all boxes to lift everyone up. That’s equality and equality does not always mean fair or equitable.

So look around you. What differences do you see? And how can you include these differences into everyday decisions you make?