Inclusive Language: Equity vs. Equality

As part of our Inclusive Language Series, we are introducing some terms and resources for you to learn more about this semester in an effort to create more inclusive communities. This week, we are discussing Equity vs. Equality.

While these terms might sound similar, they are different and drastically result in different outcomes when responding to inequitable situations. The below image helps to visualize these differences:

An image consisting of four boxes with ‘inequity’, ‘equality’, ‘equity’, and ‘justice’ labeled at the bottom and a picture to depict each term involving a fruit tree, and two individuals. As we can see in the above image by Tony Ruth, the tree helps to represent our systems and institutions, in which the tree is bent to one side and thus giving that side more access to fruit. Note, while the tree might have a naturally occurring bend, it’s important to remember that the social systems and institutions that are in our society are not naturally inequitable, but instead, the result of discriminatory practices and beliefs that has made them intentionally designed to reward certain demographics.

The thought behind equality is that each person or group of people is given the same tools and resources, or opportunities. We can see that if we were just to apply equality in our answer to the inequity to this situation, that is everyone gets a ladder of the same height, it doesn’t help solve the problem for the person on the right. They are still at a disadvantage.

Equity, on the other hand, recognizes that people have different circumstances, and then allocates the tools and resources, or opportunities based on what the individual needs to reach an equal outcome. We see this illustrated by the right side having a larger ladder in order to have the same opportunity to pick fruit from the tree as the left side. Equity ensures that everyone is able to have the same opportunity.

It’s important to note that while equity can help create equal opportunities, it doesn’t fix or solve the inequity built into the system. Addressing the root cause of inequity, such as standing the tree straighter so that both sides can access the fruit, is an important step towards reaching justice.

How does this image help change how you view the institutions in your life?

Upcoming Holidays and Observances

February 13: Shrove Tuesday (Western Christian) — A day of penitence as well as the last chance to feast before lent begins. Also known as Mardi Gras, Fat Tuesday, and Carnival Day as this day is observed in many ways worldwide

February 14: Valentine’s Day — Celebrates the idea of romantic love

February 14: Ash Wednesday (Western Christian) — The first day of Lent for Western Christian churches, a 40-day period of spiritual preparation for Easter, not counting Sundays.

February 15: Nirvana Day (Buddhist) Celebrates the day when the historical Buddha achieved Parinirvana, or complete Nirvana, upon the death of his physical body. Sometimes celebrated on February 8.

February 15: Susan B. Anthony Day — A commemorative holiday to celebrate the birth of Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906) and women’s suffrage in the United States