However, similar to all the other concepts, gender equality can be used in different ways and can convey different meanings. Gender equality might mean that women and men should be treated equally, or differently. For example, it may imply that women and men should be paid the same for doing the same work or that they should be treated with different medicines and methods in order to make healthcare equal.
Quantitative and Qualitative Gender Equality
The focus of gender equality work varies depending on the meaning assigned to the concept. It may be a matter of achieving a quantitatively even distribution of women and men or of implementing measures to change the power balance between the sexes.
Gender equality work with a quantitative perspective implies a focus on an even distribution of women and men in the workplace, in schools, in power positions and at different organisational levels in community institutions. An equal gender distribution is said to occur when the balance between women and men in a group is at least 40/60. Quantitative gender equality work also concerns resources and indicate that women and men should enjoy the same financial resources in a given field. Thus, it concerns matters that can be counted and measured using gendered statistics.
Qualitative gender equality work focuses on the situation of women and men, respectively. More specifically, it concerns attitudes, norms, values and ideals affecting the ability of women and men to influence in school, in the workplace, in politics and in other areas.
The qualitative gender equality work addresses structures that do not necessarily change as a result of a more even distribution of women and men. Qualitative gender equality work calls for a critical approach, including careful assessment of which perceptions about women and men exist and are taken as given. And of the consequences of these perceptions for, for example, individual employees, citizens or patients. Qualitative gender equality work aims to counteract stereotypical gender norms with the ultimate objective of having women and men enjoy the same opportunities and access to power and resources.
It is important to remember that neither women nor men form homogenous groups. For example, not all women share the same life experiences or living conditions. In gender equality work, it is therefore important to be aware that different power configurations may interact. This is something that is made visible by means of a so-called intersectional perspective.