Equality vs Equity – What does it mean in the workplace?

March 3, 2023

This year’s International Women’s Day theme is “Embracing Equity.” According to the IWD organisation, the goal of the 2023 theme is “to get the world talking about why equal opportunities aren’t enough. People start from different places, so true inclusion and belonging require equitable action.”

The difference between equality and equity is a really important, but complex, topic that requires a lot of nuance, and there is often misunderstanding about what each of the two words mean and how they apply both in life and in the workplace. 

In this blog, we’ll explore the meaning of both concepts as it pertains to the workplace as well as why they’re important and what they look like in action. 

What is equality in the workplace?

Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. In the workplace, this may mean ensuring that employees of all genders, sexual orientations, races, ages, religions, and creeds have equal access to promotions, raises, continuing education courses, etc. It can also mean that employees—regardless of these characteristics—all receive the exact same privileges, rules, and employee experience.

While at its core, equality is incredibly important, it can also mean giving a one-sized-fits-all experience for employees—when in reality, we’re all different and deserve to be treated as such. Enter equity.  

What is equity in the workplace?

Equity recognises that everyone has different circumstances, needs, hurdles, and characteristics, and it allocates the necessary resources and opportunities to reach an equal outcome. 

An example of this would be providing gender-specific benefits, like Menopause support, to help women who are struggling due to Menopause symptoms stay in the workplace longer and feel confident enough to take a promotion. People experiencing Menopause may need this support in order to reach an equal outcome as their peers who are not dealing with Menopause symptoms.

Here’s a great illustration of the difference between equality and equity. 

Image source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Why is equity important in the workplace?

Striving for an equitable workplace is imperative, especially if your company wants to foster an inclusive and diverse environment for all employees. 

Building on our previous example, to have an equitable workplace, employers must take into consideration the fact that people assigned male at birth (AMAB) and people assigned female at birth (AFAB) have different biological needs. They, therefore, need different support to carry out their job roles to the best of their ability. 

Here’s what current research shares about women’s health experiences in relation to work. 

Research from Bloody Good Period shows that: 

  • 25% of people with periods say they never talk about their periods at work.
  • 63% of people with periods said that they’d like their employers to normalise the conversation about menstruation at work.
  • 33% of people with periods commented that they feel it is unprofessional to talk about menstrual health with their employer. 

Research on menopause and the workplace shows: 

  • 1 in 4 women may consider leaving their job due to their menopausal symptoms.
  • 31% of women will think about lowering their hours due to their symptoms.
  • 90% said they feel that their menopausal symptoms have a negative impact on their work. 

As you can see from the stats, more needs to happen to accommodate women’s health in the workplace. 

Equity in action 

Women are looking to their employers both to recognise their health needs and to offer practical and emotional support. The good news is that, as an employer, there are things you can do to offer this support. For example: 

  • Break the taboo. Research shows that 70% of women will feel uncomfortable talking about their menopause at work. To help facilitate conversations, consider appointing a menopause champion. 
  • Complete an anonymous survey. Asking your workforce to fill out a survey detailing their needs offers you insight into the types of support needed. 
  • Offer practical solutions. Practical support can help your staff. For example, you could provide those who are experiencing hot flashes with fans, a seat next to a window, or breathable fabric uniforms. 
  • Educate managers. Offer training to your HR team members and managers to ensure they understand the needs of employees. Training could include topics such as painful periods, fertility, pregnancy, miscarriage, and menopause. 

How equity will benefit your business

Women are increasingly looking for organisations that will offer them holistic support.  If your company is willing to offer an equitable environment, you’re more likely to attract employees. 

Here are some of the key outcomes of equity in the workplace:

  • Increased ability to attract and retain female and gender-diverse talent 
  • Reduced discrimination
  • Increased employee motivation and satisfaction
  • Boosted engagement and creativity
  • Enhanced teamwork and collaboration
  • Loyalty to an organisation that provides health support 

As we’ve explored, equity is important in order to meet the health needs of your female staff. However, we understand that knowing where to start can feel overwhelming. To find out more about how Peppy can help you create a culture of gender equity in your workplace, download our latest toolkit:  International Women’s Day 2023: A Toolkit for Women’s Health and Equity


This article uses the terms “women” and “men” but Peppy recognises that gender exists on a spectrum and trans men, trans women, and non-binary people also experience discrimination, periods, menopause, etc. in the workplace.