Have you ever felt that even though we may have equal opportunities and chances some find it difficult to attain and have to work a little too hard for the same achievement, and some can go along with the flow and reach out to chances faster? It’s because of the difference in their environment, resources, and circumstances held upon them. Different people have different circumstances and struggles. The issues faced by them should be taken into consideration for equal improvement and modifications of all.
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.
“The route to achieving equity will not be accomplished through treating everyone equally. It will be achieved by treating everyone justly according to their circumstances.”
—Paula Dressel, Race Matters Institute
Equality is defined as “the state or quality of being equal; correspondence in quantity, degree, value, rank, or ability.” Equality in the sense that nobody can be legally denied their rights based on any personal quality.
Equity is defined as “the quality of being fair or impartial; fairness; impartiality” or “something fair and just.” Equity is more complicated than equality. The complication with equity is that people often disagree on what is “just” or “fair.” These are subjective concepts and, as a result, laws and policies that attempt to achieve equity are often challenged in court or are controversial. The use of the word equity has increased due to concerns about social justice and a desire for fairness for historically oppressed groups.
In the law, minority groups may have equal rights but are still treated unfairly. Historically oppressed groups such as LGBTQ+ people, Black people, and Indigenous peoples have not only fought for equality but continue to fight for equity in society.
The difference between equality and equity must be emphasized. Although both promote fairness, equality achieves this through treating everyone the same regardless of need, while equity achieves this through treating people differently depending on their needs. However, this different treatment may be the key to reaching equality. Fairness through equity means giving individuals varying, perhaps unequal, but proportionate levels of support. This would then mean that those who need and receive the extra support would go on to have the same, equal opportunities as those who did not.
Before the controversial nature of this question takes hold, I’d just like to clarify that by ‘unequal’, I do not mean providing someone with less but simply providing more to those who need it. Equality means giving everyone the same opportunities, but how can everyone have the same opportunities if some are receiving less support than they need in the name of equality? It is for this reason that I suggest equity plays a key role in ensuring equality.
Equity does not undermine equality, but rather provides the means to achieve this. Equality is undermined when equity is used incorrectly; it is undermined when a person or group’s needs are not taken into account, i.e. giving less to those who need it and more to those who do not. For example, giving women in the engineering workforce less support based on low numbers rather than high needs. Unfortunately, there is a fine line between equity and inequality, which we must be careful not to cross.
Equality and equity may be inherently different but are also bound together. To create true equality of opportunity, equity is needed to ensure that everyone has the same chance of getting there. However, we must be cautious when dealing with equity; providing too little to those who need it and too much to those who do not can further exacerbate the inequalities we see today.