International Women’s Day conjures up mixed emotions for me.It is both a day to celebrate, acknowledge and amplify the stories of the women we share time with, women who have materially shaped the business we are and the culture we enjoy. Equally, though it is a nagging reminder that gender bias still exists.

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day is Equity. As part of formulating my thoughts for this piece, I started by visiting the International Women’s Day website. I found this article that seeks to explain the fundamental difference between Equality and Equity, caught my attention as I reflect on and honour women’s achievements.

I have to say; consider me educated; and I’d wager a bet I’m not the first – who with the best of intentions in mind, believes that creating an environment that is conducive to equality is enough. The article is great as through various examples it seeks to highlight just how fundamentally different the two words are and how creating an environment that promotes equality whilst good, is in fact, not enough.

Enlightened employers will instead focus on Equity.

Charterhouse Medical International Women's Day

In the same article, it references a quote from Susan K Gardner who is Dean of the College Of education at Oregon State University. She says “Equality is giving everyone a shoe, equity is giving everyone a shoe that fits”.What a beautifully simple way to explain the difference so accurately. I’m aware that it shouldn’t be, but it was a lightbulb moment for me, and immediately it got me to thinking about how Charterhouse can truly #embraceequity in its workplace.

There are some practices in our business that truly do promote Equity as opposed to Equality. Not necessarily because we set out to consider it as Equitable but rather common sense led us to our eventual solution. One significant practice is our protocol around how we work with our female employees who after maternity leave are looking to re-engage back into our workplace. Our “policy” is that we will work with our employees to create a bespoke return-to-work plan that is tailored to fit their situation. For each employee, this may look different as each employee’s situation is different, but the result for each is the same; an ability to return to work whilst balancing their commitments at home as both a partner and parent. 

With this definition fresh in my mind, my commitment as CEO is to work with our people to discuss Equity and how we can improve, implement and promote our practices. This will give us the opportunity to see if we’ve incorrectly pushed for equality when we should be focusing on equity. This in return will continue to create a positive working environment. 

As our CEO I #embraceequity in the workplace!


Jason Darbyshire