A lot of people in our society are putting continuous efforts towards equality but being equal and fair is not always that simple and straightforward. Sometimes, some people need different treatment so that they can make their opportunities the same as others. This is called equity. But does this mean we always need to treat people differently to gain equality? For a better understanding of this concept, one needs to have a clear understanding of two very different yet sometimes considered the same words, Equality and Equity.
What is Equality?
According to the Oxford Dictionary, equality is the situation in which everyone has the same rights and advantages.
Equality ensures that every individual must get an equal opportunity to make the most of their lives and talents. Both equity and equality aim at promoting fairness and justice, but the concept of equality will only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same things.
Let’s take an example of runners sprinting around an oval track during a competition. If we follow equality in this situation, then all
the runners will be starting in the same way, ensuring that everyone will start exactly from the same point on the track. Will that be fair?
The runners in the inside lanes will have a distinct advantage over runners in the outer lanes because the distance they will have to cover is shorter. Hence equality i.e. starting at the same place-doesn’t result in fairness.
What is Equity?
According to the Oxford dictionary, equity means the quality of being fair and impartial.
Though according to the dictionary both equality and equity sound similar but they are not. Equity means giving more to those who need it, in order to ensure that everyone gets the same opportunities.
If we consider the above example, the concept of equity, in contrast with equality, would change the starting positions of the runners in order to offset the disadvantages faced by those in the outer lanes. In this case, different or tailored treatment ensures fairness and justice.
Equality vs. Equity
Equality means creating the same starting point for everyone. While equity aims at providing the full range of opportunities and benefits according to the needs of the people so that everyone can reach the same finish line.
The vision of treating everyone the same way is noble and applaudable, but it ignores the fact that people tend to differ in their abilities, resources and experiences. Those differences actually become barriers; and when we ignore the barriers, we end up promoting privilege. What we need to do is solve the societal issues that create inequality and then fight it.
Focusing on equity means that we recognize that the current system is leaving many behind and we actively need dedicated resources to ensure that everyone can catch up and succeed at the same level, without any barriers.
Equity for equality
If equality is the end goal, equity is the means to get there. Being unequal is necessary for some situations. But being ‘unequal’ doesn’t mean providing someone with less. It simply means providing more to those who need it.
The concept of equality is all about giving everyone the same opportunities. But how can everyone have the same opportunities if some are getting less support than they need in the name of equality? This is why equity plays a key role in ensuring equality.
Equality and equity are fundamentally different but are also bound together. In order to get equality of opportunity, equity is needed for ensuring that everyone has the same chance of getting there. However, one must be cautious when dealing with equity because providing too little to those who need it and too much to those who don’t, will further increase the inequalities.