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Equity vs Equality: What’s More Fair?



Equity vs Equality: What’s More Fair?

Most of us believe in equality, but does it really help create a level playing field?

I was travelling by metro the other day and spotted a woman with a big handbag and a tiffin bag in the general coach, asking a young boy to vacate the seat for her. It looked like he was returning from work too. The boy didn’t look too happy about it, but offered the seat to her anyway, murmuring, lady hai toh kya hua, we’re also tired! I couldn’t help but ponder over this—when we speak of women and equality, does it mean offering the same behaviour to women as men? Or does it mean giving the same opportunities to women so they can become equal to men?

In the above case, some might argue that vacating a seat for a woman is akin to promoting ‘reservation’ (as she was not old or pregnant). How fair was it for her to ask for the seat? But here’s how I look at it—it is scientifically proven that a woman’s stamina and body is weaker than a man’s, so when she took the seat and the boy stood up, they were at the same level of ‘tiredness’ and achieved equality through equity.

An economist with CII, Deepali Chopra, 27, has clear thoughts on this, “In my opinion, feminism is a very outdated concept and I myself don’t relate to it. This age is not about equality of the sexes. We have now moved to equity of the sexes”.

When a woman does a difficult job at work and home, she yearns to be recognised and praised. That’s because women are not equal to men—not physically. And that is why they deserve an equitable status and the right opportunities to become equal to men. Women asking for opportunities is not equality, it’s equity—it’s what keeps the world fair and balanced. Read on to better understand the two concepts.

Equity vs Equality

The direct meaning of equity is ‘fair treatment for all’, whereas equality means ‘the same treatment for all’. While equality aims to give the exact same privileges and opportunities to everyone, equity on the other hand ‘customises’ the opportunities, depending on the person and situation, and thus is more fair. If life is a race, it’s important to remember that not everyone starts at the same point. Equity keeps this in mind and evens out the playing field for everyone.

How suitably do we apply it in our daily lives? And how well do we understand the difference? As Ritu Sabharwal, 32, manager with a multinational bank puts it, “When you try to achieve equality, the only route is through equity. Without the latter, the former is going to be vague and sometimes unfair too. Giving equal opportunities is real equality.”

My neighbour’s three kids are the apples of their mother’s eyes and she always says ‘I equally love them all.’ One day, I asked her to buy a same size t-shirt for all three. She laughed at me saying, “How can the same size fit kids of different ages? Its not fair!” My point exactly. So you see, equality may not always serve purpose, but equity does. Going by this example, buying the three children different sized t-shirts that fit them well, is the kind of equity we should aim to achieve in our society too.

Reservation & Special Privileges

Does equity mean reservation? Nope! Reservation is for all, irrespective of whether they need it or not. But equity is ‘customised equality’—it does not give an equal platform to everyone, rather, it looks at the person and creates a customised platform so that ultimately, everyone comes up to the same level.

Students get furious when they lose a seat in a top college because it got taken away in the name of reservation. So does reservation serve the right purpose? The reservation system started on the tunes of equity, that is, giving an opportunity to bring them all on equal stands. But the social scenario has changed now. People who are entitled to reservation/quota are sometimes financially and socially stable. In that case, how fair is it to give them the extra edge?

Summing Up

Whether it’s related to men and women or in general, equity is the means to achieve an outcome called equality. We should stress on giving equal opportunities and not equal status. What’s your take on equity versus equality? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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A wife, a mother and a blogger and has gradually managed to handle all three together (though not without coffee). Shilpa is keen on pursuing her lost dream of becoming a writer. She likes to eat and wants to reduce at the same time.

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