Gender Equality vs Gender Equity vs Women’s Empowerment [Explained]

Knowledge is power when ending discrimination. Learn the differences between gender equality, gender equity, and women's empowerment in this article.

Despite all the progress made on reducing the gender wage gap, women of all races earned on average 82 cents for every dollar earned by men of all races. This is only an average, though. Women of color earned even less (62 cents for black women and 57 cents for Hispanic or Latino women). 

This brings up all sorts of questions about gender equality and the women’s empowerment movement. There are a lot of intricate phrases to know when it comes to these gender gaps, so let’s look at them in detail below. 

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Gender Equality

To begin with, let’s emphasize that gender equality doesn’t mean that women and men are the same or that they become the same. BUT that women’s rights, responsibilities, and opportunities do not depend on whether a person is born male or female. Both men and women (and boys and girls) should have access to the same levels of opportunities despite their gender.

The diverse groups of men and women are different. And the different interests, needs, or priorities of both men and women should get accounted for by governments and other organizations.

One thing that women’s groups are constantly emphasizing is that gender equality ISN’T a women’s issue alone. It’s an issue that affects the entire human race, including men. Both parts of the whole, men and women, need to be engaged when it comes to working upon gender equality issues.  

It’s a human rights issue, and not just a women’s rights issue. And if men do not come together with women to work upon these inequalities, no transformational and lasting change will ever take place. 

Definition of Gender

One thing that confuses people repeatedly is the definition of gender. Gender is part of the broader socio-cultural context and is constantly transmuting and fluctuating as culture redefines itself. For example, non-binary individuals weren’t part of the gender structure a few years ago, but as culture has evolved, they have started receiving notice and rights the same as males and females.

Remember that gender is a social construction, and not based on certain biological attributes of the individual. That’s why gender is something that can get learned or unlearned through the socialization process. Case in point – boys who dress up in dresses aren’t subscribing to the ‘traditional’ masculine role, but they are still boys. 

This article isn’t going to debate over the religion or political consequences of such social constructions. That’s a bigger debate that cannot get inculcated into the parameters of this post. 

Related Read: How to Promote Gender Equality in the Workplace (10+ Tips & Causes)

Gender Equity

Gender Equity is ‘the fairness of treatment of both women and men depending on their specific needs.’ This could mean equal treatment or treatment that is different but is considered equivalent based on rights, obligations, opportunities, and benefits. 

The thing to remember again is that men and women are different. There’s no doubt about that. BUT that doesn’t mean that men and women deserve different opportunities. 

The way to look at the difference between gender equality vs gender equity is that equality is the END goal, whereas equity is the way to get there. 

It’s so important to clarify the difference between the two phrases because the more clarity we can bring to this, the easier it will be for everyone to understand how to treat men and women in the workplace, in schools, and in the wider spectrum of life.

As with the gender equality definition, the most important thing with gender equity is also bringing men into the equation and conversation. No change will be long-lasting if men are kept out of these conversations about gender equity vs gender equality. 

Women’s Empowerment

Both gender equality and gender equity are necessary foundations for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. If women’s rights are left behind, and not taken care of, then the world as a whole cannot progress. Girls and women both must get pulled up and be equal to men for any sustainable progress to happen.

Women’s empowerment is defined as promoting women’s sense of self-worth and enhancing their ability to make their own choices, be it for school, work, or play. This also results in a major influence upon social change not only for women but for everyone involved. 

A lot of people consider the beginning of the women’s rights movement to have occurred in the 19th century. Ever since, people have been fighting in many different formats for the rights, freedom, and opportunities of women everywhere. 

As President John F. Kennedy said, “Freedom is indivisible and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.” 

This applies to the women’s suffrage or empowerment movement. If one woman, child, or person in the world is suffering from oppression and not free, then we are all suffering from that same bondage. We need to work together as a group, men, women, and children together, to fight against this inequality. 

Let’s look at some other related terms in brief below.

Related Read: A Student’s Guide to Promoting Gender Equality in Education (HS & Uni)

Gender Mainstreaming

If we as a race or nation wants to inculcate and realize gender equality, then gender mainstreaming is a primary tool to help us do so. What is it?

Gender mainstreaming involves integrating the gender perspective into the preparation, design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of policies, spending programs, and all regulatory measures everywhere. This means that thinking about gender and gender equality becomes part of all decision-making processes. Not something that comes up as an aside or afterthought.

Gender Gap

This has been highlighted in the introductory paragraph. But the gender gap is when there is a difference between the two genders, with regards to wages, rights, responsibilities, or allowances. In essence, there should be very few differences between men and women, unless it’s taking into account their diversity

Gender Lens

Gender lens says that gender should be made visible in social phenomena, rather than used as an afterthought. When you have your ‘gender lens’ on, you carefully and deliberately examine all implications of your decisions and work in terms of gender.

Even though women encompass 50% of the population of this planet, they are still excluded in so many decisions and regulatory processes. It’s as if they don’t exist and as if the decision won’t affect them at all. With the gender lens on, you will not fall prey to such false assumptions or conclusions.

One way gender lens can get applied is when investing. For example, you could invest in opportunities that would help women grow. Or those that would result in girls getting equal opportunities to attend higher education in developing countries. 

Gender Discrimination

No matter if a person is a man or a woman, they need to get treated equally. Gender discrimination happens when the opposite is true.

For example, a woman isn’t given a certain opportunity because she’s a woman. Not because she’s unqualified in some other fashion. No matter what lens you are using, discrimination of any kind is unacceptable and should get eschewed at every cost.

Related Read: 5 Best Universities Tackling Gender Equality Around the World

Gender Bias

Gender bias is similar to, but not the same as gender discrimination. This is when you have a preference for one gender over another.

This happens quite often in a medical setting. Some people prefer male doctors over female ones because they consider them more qualified. 

Gender bias can be something people are aware of and conscious about. Or it could be something they are unconscious about and acting upon without realizing they are. These are also called prejudices and stereotypes and should get watched for relentlessly (within oneself and others).

Gender-Based Violence (GBV)

Gender-based violence is when harm is perpetrated against a person or group of persons based on their gender, sex, sexual orientation and/or gender identity. It can include sexual, physical, mental, and economic harm. It gets committed both in public or in private settings.

These can take various forms such as sexual violence, child marriage, female genital mutilation, and so-called ‘honor crimes’. 

Gender equality and GBV are closely related, being rooted in each other. It works with the assumption that women are lesser than men. And thus, men or other groups get allowed to infiltrate violence against women without any repercussions or consequences. 

Related Read: 25+ Ruth Bader Ginsburg Quotes on Equality, Change & the Rule of Law

Everyone Needs to Learn What Gender Equality Means

Knowledge is power. By learning the true definitions of all these important phrases, like gender equality and gender equity, the human race can move towards women’s empowerment as a whole. 

As the human race evolves and the social construct of gender changes as well, these definitions will transmute and transform. The more educated both men and women can be on these definitions, the easier it will be to fight for change when necessary. 

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Goodwall Team
Written By Goodwall Team
This article was written by the Goodwall team or by a contributor for publication on Goodwall. Goodwall is dedicated to helping students, entrepreneurs, and young professionals reach their full potential. We'll share thought-provoking and supportive articles on career advice, self-improvement, navigating the college landscape, climate action, social impact, and more. On the business side, we'll talk about SMB subjects related to community, diversity, talent acquisition, case studies, and enterprise.

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