Gender Equity: It’s Not Just a Women’s Issue

Bringing men into the gender equity conversation and breaking out of the “Man Box” is critical to closing the gender equity gap in our lifetime.The conversation surrounding gender equity has gained attention in recent months largely due to the social movements #MeToo, #TimesUp, and #WhatAboutUs. This global discussion is critical if we wish to end the gender equity gap inside business and shrink the estimated time to parity™ from 217 years globally, down to a number more comprehensible to the human brain.While the attention this issue has received is positive there is an important voice largely absent: the voice of men.

‘Gender equality’ means equal outcomes for women, men and gender-diverse people.

‘Gender equity’ is the process to achieve gender equality. Gender equity recognises that women and gender-diverse people are not in the same ‘starting position’ as men. This is because of historical and social disadvantages.

The burden of advocating for gender equity has for years fallen largely on the shoulders of women. We don’t intend to insinuate that no men have taken a stand to fight alongside women in this battle of great social and financial significance—there are strong, vocal men who have stood shoulder to shoulder with women in this fight—the fact remains however, in the movement toward evaporating the gender equity gap, the voices of men have been muffled.If we wish to succeed in this lifetime, more men need to be involved in the conversation.

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Women’s voices ring clear but where are the men?To understand the issues surrounding gender equity we first have to understand the dynamics of power within political and financial circles that favor men. While the share of women in Congress in 2017 reached an all-time high, women still hold only 104 seats—just 19% of the total population of congress, while men hold 81%. Furthermore, 94% of the CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are male and perhaps more striking, there are fewer women of any name running large companies than there are men named ‘John’ running companies.

Men are visible in the world of politics and business but the majority are absent in the fight to tear down long-held social norms that perpetuate the continuing cycle of gender inequity. Most of the deeply embedded social norms, traditions, and attitudes, upheld by men, are done so unwittingly. Many men don’t see or understand the issues surrounding gender equity and why would they? Men are born and grow to adulthood inside of a global culture that places a higher value on aggression, power, and strength, than it does on showing vulnerability and cultivating awareness.

Experts like Michael Kimmel and others have discussed what’s been described as the “Man Box”–a term researchers use to paint a picture of the dominant forms of American masculinity. Rigid sets of expectations, behaviors and perceptions of what it means to be ‘manly’ exist within this metaphorical box, and serve to marginalize men who don’t fit the stereotype of what we perceive as being “real men.”

One of the reasons Pipeline focuses on gender equity as opposed to women’s equality is because we realize narrow definitions of gender harm both men and women – psychologically and economically. The alarming rates of suicide among men and boys are connected to these narrow definitions of masculinity. Suicide among males today is nearly four times higher than among females, and male suicides represent 79% of all instances of suicide inside the United States.

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Bringing men into this conversation is critical to closing the gender equity gap and enables men to break free from the “man box”. By opening up space and encouraging this discourse among men and women we can save our boys from the notion that the only way to “be a man” is to assert control over others – often with tragic consequences.Men willing to acknowledge the issues surrounding gender equity and inequality are too often kept silent out of intimidation and uncertainty around when and where to enter the conversation.

If we want to unlock the massive financial opportunity that will come with eliminating the gender equity gap, we need to begin a global conversation that includes men. Mistakes will be made and it will be awkward, but we will never reach gender parity in business within this lifetime—or at all—without the equal voices of both men and women.

Gender Equity Vs. Gender Equality: What’s the Distinction?

The conversation surrounding ‘gender equality’ is ongoing and important—but there’s something missing.In Hollywood, in the news, in classrooms and in boardrooms, important and historic conversations are taking place. The narrative surrounding gender equality, a conversation seemingly as old as time itself, has taken center stage in the global consciousness bringing new eyes and a new generation of leaders and advocates to the fore.

There is however an important distinction that needs to be understood—gender equality and gender equity are related terms but have different meanings. While the words sound similar, the definitions and practical usage are different.At Pipeline, the word ‘equity’ is dual-purpose. Related to gender and the workplace, equity sets the stage for equality, as it refers to the “fairness of treatment for both women and men, according to the their respective needs.” If equality is the end goal, equity is the means to get there.

“We need to bring in men and women and allow them to be imperfect in the conversation. We need courageous conversations where everyone can speak honestly and openly, even if something’s said which may not be appropriate, or may minimize, or if someone interrupts—that’s part of the conversation. We need to create space for those conversations to happen.”

Katica Roy, CEO Pipeline™

Men want to be included in this conversation.Despite the reluctance of men to insert themselves into this imperfect conversation, most want to be included. Men, like women, desire a different role in the world. In fact 48% of them would like to be stay-at-home dads. For men who want to take ownership over caring for children at home while their partner takes the lead inside the workplace, we owe it to them to remove the stigma associated with being a stay-at-home dad. The idea that caring for children is a women’s role is outdated and irrelevant. We need to free them from the “man-box”.

As we continue to engage in difficult but important conversations, we need to become clear about a critical point: it is only with the active participation of both men and women that we will reach the goal of eliminating the gender equity gap in business in our lifetime, and unlock this massive economic opportunity.

“Gender equality, equality between men and women…does not mean that women and men have to become the same, but that their rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not depend on whether they were born male or female. Gender equity means fairness of treatment for men and women according to their respective needs. This may include equal treatment or treatment that is different but which is considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations, and opportunities.”

–United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESDOC)

The word ‘equity’ also has deep financial implications. In the world of business, a broad definition of equity is the financial value of an asset after subtracting the value of liabilities. At Pipeline™, we tie an increase in financial performance for companies to closing the gender equity gap. In an era where increasing numbers of women are exiting the workforce, and where there is a $2 Trillion GDP gap in the United States, there is money to be made on both sides of the fence—for female employees and for the enterprise.

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The dual meaning of the word equity presents both a challenge and an opportunity for business. A challenge because the distinction between gender equity and gender equality is unclear to most people, and bringing clarity and purpose to this conversation is an important step along the path to eliminating the gender equity gap. An opportunity because we now have the insights to open the eyes of individuals and business leaders as to this distinction, thereby making it possible to move forward along the journey to gender equality in the workplace.

Once there is broad awareness of the opportunity, we can work together to take positive steps toward its realization.The goal at Pipeline™ has always been to address and solve the issues surrounding gender equity and to monetize its impact on business. Clarifying the subtle but important distinction between the terms gender equity and gender equality is a small, first step toward realizing this economic opportunity.

An Audacious Goal: Achieving Gender Equity in Our Lifetime

By Definition: What Is Gender Equity and Why Does it Matter?

How Do We Define Gender Equity?We define gender equity as the fair treatment of women and men according to their respective needs. This may include equal treatment, or it may include treatment that is different but considered equivalent in terms of rights, benefits, obligations, and opportunities.Gender equity ensures opportunities are not limited on the basis of gender. It corrects for gender biases so that economic outcomes improve for everyone.

How Does Gender Equity Differ from Gender Equality?Gender equity and gender equality are related, however, they are not the same. Gender equality refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of women and men, boys and girls. Gender equality does not mean that women and men will be treated the same; it means that women and men’s rights, responsibilities and opportunities will not be based upon their gender.In short, if gender equality is the end, gender equity is the means.

Why Does It Matter?Gender equity impacts the economic pie for all. A future of gender parity is one filled with abundant opportunity:

  • Increased economic opportunities for businesses globally
  • Solutions to a worsening labor shortage
  • Diverse representation among political leadership
  • Further innovation in the tech and startup industries

Pipeline™ believes we can reach these achievements in our lifetime. Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum projects if the world continues along its current trajectory, it will take 217 years to reach gender equality globally and 165 years to reach gender equality in North America. That’s five more generations

Related: The Optimistic Future

We — our leaders, our businesses, our country and our children — cannot afford to wait for five more generations. Currently…

  • Women are paid, on average, 80 cents on the dollar of their male colleagues (the number is worse for women of color)
  • Of the top 2 percent of wage earners in the United States, women are paid 39 cents on the dollar of their male colleagues
  • 90 percent of women leave the workforce due to workplace issues unrelated to having a child
  • Half of the women in STEM fields will leave their roles due to hostile work environments
  • In a time when finding qualified labor is an issue, women hold the majority of higher education degrees, but are leaving the workforce at a consistent rate


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