While last year’s theme was Break The Bias, the 2023 theme for International Women’s Day (IWD) is Embrace Equity and it is forging global conversation about this important issue and its impact.
The call is to embrace equity now and beyond. As we celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8th, we are reminded that the campaign isn’t for just one day. We must continually pledge to move from talk to action within our own spheres of influence all year long. Collectively, we can make change happen.
Let’s Define Equality and Equity
The words equity and equality are often used interchangeably and although the words are similar, they are inherently different concepts. A good starting point is to understand the difference between the two.
Why? Because “equal opportunities are no longer enough” – and can in fact be exclusionary, rather than inclusive.
IWD provides these definitions.
Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities.
Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.
IWD uses this brilliant image to visualize the key difference between equality and equity. Equity means giving everyone what they need to be successful, rather than giving them the exact same thing. People don’t always start out in the same place.
Why We Must Embrace Equity
Equality is simply not enough. The IWD website poignantly explains that in political terms, equality is one of the foundations of democracy. They purport, “Equality is based on the belief that people should have the same opportunities for a happy life, while, equity is linked to the ideal that success is based on personal efforts and not social status.”
In fact, a common defense mechanism is the concept of ‘fairness’. That can get tricky because it’s often assumed that ‘being fair’ means that everybody gets the same thing. But, ‘fairness’ really only works when we are all the same to start with.
So, equality isn’t really enough.
The Need to Embrace Equity
Conversely, the goal of equity is to change systemic and structural barriers that get in the way of people’s ability to thrive. This is important because inequity affects women on a global scale but we have to go deeper. It also impacts the most commonly marginalized communities such as people of color, disabled people, the economically disadvantaged, and those from the LGBTQ+ community.
Equity also comes into play when we consider that women as a group are very diverse. Policies that benefit white women, for example, may not benefit women of color due to past and present inequalities. Shifting from gender equality to gender equity is required to truly have meaningful progress.
So, equity should actually strive to change systemic and structural barriers that get in the way of people’s ability to thrive. In other words, equity should be seen as a long-term and sustainable solution to address imbalanced social systems.
Call to Action – What Can You Do?
The aim of the IWD 2023 #EmbraceEquity campaign theme is to get the world talking about why equal opportunities aren’t enough. People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action.
IWD challenges you to imagine a gender equal world. A world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that’s diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated. Together we can forge women’s equality. Collectively we can all embrace equity.
One of the best things that has come out of the annual IWD campaigns is that everyone can get involved in the way that is most meaningful to them. Start with impactful and open conversations with others about what it means to truly embrace equity.
Collectively, we can all help forge positive change for women. And not just today, but everyday.
How will you choose to mark March 8th?