March 7th, 2023
Why embracing equity is important this International Women’s Day
With this year’s IWD theme being ‘Embracing Equity’, it caused me to pause and wonder what is the difference between equity and equality, and what does it mean?
So after some research, I have concluded that while Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities, Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances, different talents and maybe a different perspective, and so rather than allocating the same resources and opportunities to everyone, we need to allocated what is needed to reach an equal outcome. This may still seem confusing, so let’s dig deeper.
As I have got older, it has become increasingly clear to me that we’ve been living in a ‘man’s world’. Starting my career more than 35 years ago, things were very different and so was society. We did not question things and it is only now with a focus on Women and what they bring that I see how we have been shaped by masculine values.
That said, I am not a hardened feminist and I think it is important to recognise there is room for everyone’s contributions, both male and female, which is where ‘equity’ comes in. By acknowledging both men and women, our strengths and our differences, we highlight how both feminine and masculine energy are both valuable in their own ways.
Women have a huge role to play in redefining society with more feminine values, which are as powerful as masculine ones, but have not always been perceived as such. I believe feminine energy encapsulates being in your power, being intuitive, accepting, supportive, nurturing, receptive and compassionate. If there’s one thing the world needs at the moment, it’s more compassion! Masculine energy, on the other hand is perceived to be more powerful, dominant and suggests a “go getting approach” which is also highly valuable. To achieve a peaceful harmonious world, we need the collaboration of both feminine and masculine energy.
While women are conditioned to hold place for acceptance, many men are discouraged from expressing their emotions in our society. Perhaps more acceptance towards men expressing their emotions and more emphasis on providing dedicated mental health support to men could help us to address these differences?
Our beliefs are formed at such a young age, and its integral that children are given the opportunity to express themselves without being limited by gender stereotypes. Imposing gender stereotypes on young children can create limiting beliefs which prevent them from breaking outside of society’s expectations and gender roles.
Luckily for me, my father and my grandfathers, never imposed limitations on me because of my gender – they never expected any less of me because I was a girl. As the eldest of two girls, they taught me stereotypically “masculine” activities like fishing, woodwork, shooting and even driving farm machinery. I don’t think it was any coincidence that this gave me the confidence and self-belief to ‘have a go’ and get stuck in. For my A levels I chose three sciences, and I was the only girl in my year of 120 pupils at my school, a typical comprehensive in Staffordshire, to do that!
Going on to choose more typically male-dominated industries such as agriculture and construction, I didn’t always feel I was treated equally. As my career progressed, I found I was one of the few senior women and that misogynistic attitudes were commonplace. It was also harder to progress in the workplace with no female role models in senior positions to look up to or have as mentors, and so I went against the grain and created my own path as a female entrepreneur 20 years ago. Even that is not without its prejudice’s as it comes with its own ‘label’ – ‘that’s an amazing achievement for a woman’!
Becoming more aware of misogyny, I’m now less tolerant both in the workplace and amongst my peers! Seeing how the younger generations have less tolerance to misogyny is inspiring. However, we still have a long way to go in developing gender equity in the workplace and more widely in society.
While it’s fantastic that the proportion of women in STEM industries has increased dramatically in the past 20 years, a key step in achieving gender equity in the workplace is not only employing more women in male-dominated industries but putting in place tailored support for them. Tailored support in the workplace could look different for each woman but will help to create comfortable environments where women all feel heard and valued.
Women also need to be given the opportunity to define success on their own terms rather than on a man’s terms. “Success” will mean something different to everyone, and it is common phrases like “you’re successful for a woman” which make it harder for women to celebrate success on their own terms. Everyone should be able to shine!
Equity in the workplace is also about recognising and supporting everyone’s individual differences. Managing two people in very different ways could be the solution to making the most of their unique strengths. For example, some people prefer to receive feedback face-to-face while others may prefer receiving a detailed email!
As the mother of a son, I also think it’s important to remember that by lifting up women, we never need to bring men down. We need to teach them about equity and remember as a society, we are at our strongest when our differences are acknowledged, and when we can learn from each other. Embracing Equity will help us to create a society where there is room for everyone, and where our differences can empower us, rather than limit us.
To me the message is clear: equal opportunities aren’t enough.