In honor of International Women’s Day this week, this post focuses on equality. Rather than hearing from me, I asked a number of people if they would share their thoughts on equality. I asked those closest to me – my wife, kids, sister, and those I work with, teach or know in other ways. I captured their thoughts below and organized them by generation.
The result is powerful.
What does equality mean to you?
“Equality means you put aside social class, gender, race and sexual orientation. Equality is to give everyone an equal opportunity to express themselves. Equality is to support the idea that everyone, no matter who, has an opportunity to make the most of their talents and what makes them unique.”
“Equality means that someone would have the ability to sort through a crowd of people, disregard their race, ethnicity, gender and social standings, and everyone would be able to list the same amount of rights. Every person would be able to live individually without fear of being denied something because of a characteristic they were born with. Equality spans from freedoms and constitutional rights to the ability to accomplish everyday task without biases or judgements.”
In their 20s:
“Equality means equal opportunity – no matter the background. An equal chance to pursue your dreams no matter your age, gender, race, sex, religion, socio-economic background, language or location in the world. It is an equal chance to be heard and where all are respected. Equality means we all have the same human rights as citizens of the world we share.”
“We can shoot to get close, but there are just so many systemic things that will take time to uproot and replace. If we are to shoot for equality, I think you have to try to make sure equality of opportunity is available at early stages of life. It is harder to guarantee equality later, but I think the inequality that exists between adults right now is a result of the inequality of opportunity they grew up with. This opportunity I speak of is not only in terms of education, jobs, careers or money. It is also equality of how people are treated. Again, it’s not perfect because of long-standing biases, but it is something we can work toward that is relatively priceless.”
In their 30s:
“Equality would mean a level of fairness that in large part doesn’t exist today. It would mean that men and women are paid the same, that the color of a person’s skin does not impact the opportunities afforded to him or her. It would mean that men, women and children would be measured by the strength of their character, their respect for others and their contributions to society – and not by their gender, sexual orientation, color of their hair, skin, eyes or any other physical attribute.”
In their 40s:
“Equality means people and opportunities are blind to everything that makes you anything but human. Blind to color, race, weight, sex, religion, socio-economic status, appearance, sexual preference, IQ, etc. Equality is the recognition that we are all human and deserving of equal human rights, treatment and opportunities. Equality means that no special privilege is attached to a specific human attribute. Equality does NOT mean that you qualify for something skill-specific. Equality means that you are given an equal opportunity.”
“Equality means unwavering and effortless respect for people regardless of their place in the world. Whether man, woman or child, equality is when any and all physical, mental, social, religious, political, educational, professional differences are embraced. Regardless of the job you have, the title you hold, the car you drive, the house you live in, or the impact you personally deliver to society and world around you, equality is when you just listen to everyone as if their voice is as important as yours.”
“Equality is accepting, viewing and treating people for who they are, not what they are.”
“I think of equality as the root solution to gaining or getting balance. Balance is needed. Therefore, equality is the solution. It's almost scientific for me.”
In their 50s:
I would be remiss if I didn’t share my own thoughts and give us an entry for people in their 50s. What does equality mean to me? To me, equality is respect. It is a mindset supported by behaviors that start early in life.
In their 60s:
“To me equality means fairness to all. Fairness and equal treatment in personal relationships, in status, in rights, whether government, legal or contractual.”
In their 70s:
“A few things come to mind when I think of the word equality. Fairness at work or play, win-win, access to opportunities and good judgment.”
“Equality means being accepted by all and being allowed to be the person I am and the person I want to be. And with equality, this would be true for all people."
What about little children?
I mentioned my view that equality starts early in life. As children we are still pure. One of my colleagues asked her 8-year-old daughter what equality means, and she had no idea. As the word was explained to her, she still didn’t get it. In her world, all things are equal -- why wouldn’t they be? It’s our job as grownups to keep that mindset going. We need to teach our kids that all the kids in the neighborhood get to play. Say “hi” to everyone, and hold the door for anyone. Say “thank you,” “goodbye,” and “have a great day.” If you can’t do these simple things as a kid, it will be harder to do them later as an adult.
As we age, inclusion is still part of equality, but as adults, we form biases and judgment. We need to learn to listen and care. We need to give people a chance -- all people. We need to support them and help them reach their potential, not our potential or our idea of success or achievement. Their lives are about their individual ideas and dreams. It is not about questioning whether they fit; it’s about seeing how we all fit together.
The equality challenge
My family’s and friends’ words in this post are inspiring and beautiful, but they’re meaningless if we cannot act on them. What does equality mean to you? Share with us in the comments below. And join me in putting our energy and efforts behind creating equality for all. A lot of current and future generations are counting on us.