What is Gender Equity?

Canadian Women & Sport is a national organization dedicated to achieving gender equity in the Canadian sport and physical activity system, and more broadly throughout Canadian society, with a focus on women and girls. 

Gender Equity is the process of allocating resources, programs, and decision making fairly to all genders without any discrimination on the basis of gender, and addressing any imbalances in the benefits available to people of different genders.

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 everyone. 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 other individuals, 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 girls and women 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 women and girls; 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.

To learn more about gender equity and how it relates to sport, register for our Gender Equity LENS E-module!

Equity vs. Equality

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 all genders have the same access to resources, facilities, and access to the same programs (e.g. if there was a boys program, there would also be a girls 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.

Addressing inequity in sport goes far beyond gender – every individual has multiple and unique identity factors that affect the way they experience sport and physical activity. These could include socio-economic status, citizenship status, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and ability, among others. Women and girls who experience multiple intersecting identity factors are even more vulnerable to discrimination.