While there are two main types of stock—common and preferred—the term equities is synonymous with common shares, as their combined market value and trading volumes are many magnitudes larger than that of preferred shares.
The main distinction between the two is that common shares usually carry voting rights that enable the common shareholder to have a say in corporate meetings (like the annual general meeting or AGM) where matters such as election to the board of directors or appointment of auditors are voted upon while preferred shares generally do not have voting rights. Preferred shares are so named because preferred shareholders have priority over common shareholders to receive dividends as well as assets in the event of a liquidation.
Common stock can be further classified in terms of their voting rights. While the basic premise of common shares is that they should have equal voting rights—one vote per share held—some companies have dual or multiple classes of stock with different voting rights attached to each class. In such a dual-class structure, Class A shares, for example, may have 10 votes per share, while the Class B subordinate voting shares may only have one vote per share. Dual- or multiple-class share structures are designed to enable the founders of a company to control its fortunes, strategic direction, and ability to innovate.