What is the difference between gender equality, gender equity and women’s empowerment?

Headerfoto door: Kouy Socheat, NTFP-EP Cambodia / IUCN NL

Gender equality

Gender equality means that women and men have equal rights, freedoms, conditions and opportunities to access and control socially valued goods and resources. It means that they enjoy the same status within a society. It does not mean that the goal is for women and men to become the same, but rather, that they have equal life chances. This applies not only to equality of opportunity but also to equality of impact and benefits arising from economic, social, cultural and political development.

Gender equity

Gender equity is closely related to but distinct from gender equality. Gender equity refers to fairness of treatment for women and men according to their respective needs. A gender equity goal often requires measures to rectify the imbalances between the sexes to compensate for the historical and social disadvantages based on gender. In many societies, power imbalances extending from historic, persistent cycles of gender-based discriminations and socially constructed inequalities have put women at a disadvantage compared to men in accessing resources and opportunities. Interventions aimed to achieve equity are often an important means toward an equality end-goal, implementing gender-specific considerations to ensure everyone has equal access and opportunity; including for example, promoting women’s empowerment. Equity can be understood as the means, where equality is the end. Equity leads to equality. 

Women’s empowerment

Women’s empowerment is the process of increasing the capacity of women to make choices and transform those choices into desired actions and outcomes. This process builds the agency of women to fully participate in, lead and drive innovation equally with men for positive change, ensuring that access to resources and opportunities is no longer determined or constrained by gender. Empowerment of women, Indigenous Peoples, youth and other traditionally marginalized groups is key to achieving equality.