What is gender equality?

Gender equality? Or gender equity?

The terms are often used interchangeably and they are, indeed, related. But there’s an important difference between “gender equity” and “gender equality”.

Gender equity is the process of being fair and inclusive to all people, regardless of their gender. It recognises the barriers that prevent people from participating fully and equally in life and employs strategies to overcome these. “Process” is the keyword here.

Meanwhile, gender equality is the outcome of gender equity. It refers to the enjoyment of equal opportunities, worth, resources and wellbeing by all people, regardless of their gender.

In short, gender equity is the process by which we can arrive at that outcome we’re all working so hard towards – gender equality.

The “process” of gender equity involves looking at the world through a gendered lens. That is, applying a gendered lens to our actions, our work, our spaces and environments, our norms, attitudes, behaviours, ways of doing things, decision-making and policies.

By viewing things with a gendered lens we learn a lot about how actions, decisions and policies impact women, men and gender diverse people in different ways. And that means we can change the way we make decisions so that they involve and work for everyone – regardless of gender.

This, then, is a “giant leap” towards our goal of gender equality – the enjoyment of equal opportunities, worth, resources and wellbeing by all people, regardless of their gender.

This means gender equity is an “everyone issue”, not just a “women’s issue”.

Gender equity work involves us all – women, men and gender diverse people – breaking persistent gender stereotypes and transforming the norms, expectations and presumptions that underpin our relationships with each other and the systems in which gendered power dynamics play out.

It’s about re-imagining toxic masculinity and creating safe spaces for men and boys to discover and “try on” new forms of masculinity, towards healthy, equal, respectful relationships and a world in which we all can enjoy equal wellbeing and worth.

Equity work is complex because it means changing deeply entrenched systems, cultural practices, power hierarchies and norms that we all live out daily.

But the good news is that gender equality will benefit all of us – women, men, gender-diverse people, families, communities, organisations and the economy.

Gender equality will ensure all people – regardless of gender – have equal rights, opportunities, resources and respect.

In a gender equal society:

  • caring and domestic work enjoy the same cultural value as paid work in a boardroom;
  • women, men and gender diverse people enjoy equal representation in politics and have their voices heard and respected in decisions impacting their lives, bodies, communities and environment;
  • all people feel safe and are respected at home, on the streets, in their workplaces and community groups;
  • women, men and gender diverse people are all freed from oppressive gender stereotyping and gender roles, can be their authentic selves and live to their full potential – and are happier and mentally healthier for it;
  • men don’t have to conform to hegemonic forms of masculinity any more than women have to conform to expectations around what it is to be “feminine”;
  • workplaces enjoy the benefit of the full range of human potential because they no longer undervalue or sideline 50 per cent of their potential workforce;
  • all people enjoy flexible working arrangements to allow them to care for loved ones; and
  • parental leave is accessible for all, regardless of gender, so that there is equal opportunity for all to balance and enjoy home life and work life.

Gender equality is the ultimate goal of all of Women’s Health Goulburn North East’s work, whether we’re working in our focus areas of sexual and reproductive health; disaster preparedness, recovery and emergency management; economic security; climate change; prevention of violence against women or mental health.

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