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Equal opportunity is a descriptive term for an approach intended to give equal access to an environment or benefits, such as equal treatment under the law, and not excluded from education, employment, health care. Equal opportunity practices include measures taken by organizations to ensure fairness in the employment process.

Equal opportunity practices are race-blind or gender-blind and may be distinguished from practices that involve or require affirmative action or reverse discrimination. The United States federal government and various state and local governments require affirmative action in terms of governmental hiring and contracting; many other countries make such action illegal.

The method of providing equal opportunity is often a subject of controversy, as is the means by which to measure the success or failure of equal opportunity policies. Opportunity itself is often difficult - if not impossible - to accurately measure. Thus, in practice, equal opportunity is said to exist when people with similar abilities reach similar results after doing a similar amount of work. In other words, equal opportunity is measured by the degree of equality of outcome that it generates. Indeed, equal opportunity and equality of outcome are often seen as complimentary. For example, as long as inequalities can be passed form one generation to another through gifts and wealth inheritance, it is unclear that equality of opportunity for children can be achieved without greater equality of outcome for parents.

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