What is Gender Equity?

CAAWS is a national organization dedicated to achieving gender equity in the Canadian sport and physical activity system, and more broadly throughout Canadian society.

Gender Equity - 2

Image: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

Gender Equity is the process of allocating resources, programs, and decision making fairly to both males and females without any discrimination on the basis of sex…and addressing any imbalances in the benefits available to males and females.

Gender Equity is the process of allocating resources, programs and decision-making fairly to both males and females. This requires ensuring that everyone has access to a full range of opportunities to achieve the social, psychological and physical benefits that come from participating and leading in sport and physical activity. It does not necessarily mean making the same programs and facilities available to both males and females. Gender equity requires that girls and women be provided with a full range of activity and program choices that meet their needs, interests and experiences. Therefore, some activities may be the same as those offered to boys and men, some may be altered, and some may be altogether different. Human rights legislation, including the 1982 Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, has affirmed the principles of equity while making provisions for affirmative action programs to eliminate disadvantages.

Gender Equity also requires an examination of organizational practices and policies that may hinder the participation of girls and women. For example, this requires service providers to assess:

  • Hiring and recruitment practices – to ensure women have leadership roles, and involved in decision-making, and are available as role models for other girls and women;
  •  Resource allocation – to determine how budgets are allocated across programs;
  • Facility bookings – to ensure that both females and males have access to prime time slots and prime facilities;
  • Participation rates – to evaluate current programs and services to identify potential barriers, and to determine whether co-ed programs are truly co-ed;
  • Activity programming – to assess the types of activities offered for males and females; and
  • Promotional materials – to ensure girls and women are not being excluded or stereotyped in pictures or language.

Positive initiatives that target specific groups are important because they take into account years of socialization and historical traditions that have created imbalances, subsequently marginalizing sectors of the population because these conditions are accepted as the norm.

Equality vs. Equity

There is sometimes confusion about the difference between the concepts of equality and equity. Usage often depends on the sector and country in question. In Canada, in the sport and physical activity system, the use of gender equity is most common.

In contrast to equity, gender equality is the process of allocating resources, programs and decision making so that males and females have the same (therefore females and males would each receive 50% of the resources, facilities, and each have access to the same programs, e.g. if there was a male program, there would also be a female program). While the goal of treating everyone the same may seem noble, the principle of equal treatment tends to ignore the fact that people differ in their capacities, interests, resources and experiences.

Equality focuses on creating the same starting line for everyone. Equity has the goal of providing everyone with the full range of opportunities and benefits – the same finish line.

The Benefits Of Gender Equity
Organizations have much to gain by committing themselves to achieving gender equity:

  •  Attracting more girls and women to sport and physical activity enhances the revenue base and increases the market segment to which the sport appeals.
  • Fully representing the population base and tapping the resources of every member results in a larger, stronger and more effective organization.
  •  Skilled women provide the organization with an important talent pool of administrators, coaches and officials.
  • Changing the image of women in sport attracts public interest and private investment. In turn, more members are attracted to the organization.
  • Taking the lead in promoting girls and women brings prestige and support to the organization.
  • Working together, women and men can learn to build equal partnerships.
  • Providing opportunities for mothers and daughters to get involved can enhance both the chosen sport or activity, and family relationships.
  • Sport and physical activity can provide opportunities for girls to understand and respect their bodies which in turn helps them to deal with health issues such as eating disorders and smoking.
  • By fulfilling their legal responsibility to treat fairly everyone involved in the organization and making a commitment to gender equity, organizations avoid a negative public image as well as the time and expense of dealing with unnecessary lawsuits.

Support Available from CAAWS

CAAWS has many initaitives and publications relating to gender equity.

Consultation and support directly from CAAWS is also available to support organizations taking action to achieve gender equity in the Canadian Sport and Physical Activity.