Gender basically refers to the cultural construction of biological differences between women and men in society. These differences bring about the sex division of labor in society. Gender scholars beliefs that division of labor on a sex basis leads to gender inequality in society. This is because women are forced to occupy the reproductive labor category while men occupy the productive labor category. This two labor category invites different remuneration packages with men being paid higher than women. The productive labor category is more prestigious and involves public activities, while the reproductive one is less prestigious, and it involves domestic duties and chores. Therefore women are not equally compensated for their services leading to discrimination that is sex-based.
This essay is going to highlight the reasons which force women to be discriminated in public and workplaces. Where statistics are available they will be cited in order to elaborate the argument and finally a way forward will be hinted. Since this problem arises from the social structure of our society, it cannot be addressed fully, without altering the entrenched social structures and this is not something that can be achieved overnight.
Gender discrimination includes: the marginalization of women in the economic process, different forms of violence against women, the fewer number of women in political circles, and few women who are in control of vital resources yet they are the majority in the society. Women face all these predicaments because of the patriarchal system that is in society. The patriarchal system makes men dominate, control, and own everything that is available. Therefore sexual division of labor has forced women to seek employment in low-paying sectors which are much disorganized. Women mostly find employment in sectors such as agriculture, selected service sectors, cottage industries, and other traditional industries. Arguing along the same line Paranjothi et al (2008) notes that ‘although were are having very powerful trade unions, equal payment for equal work still remain a mirage, and unchallenged and gender discrimination at the workplace is still prevalent.
A recent study also proves this case. (“Most work places” 2006) notes that research carried out by Peninsula law firm in the UK showed that ‘ of more than 2,000 who participated in the poll, more than eight out of ten said that they were not ready to report that they were being harassed.’ This is because they feel that reporting won’t help and it may even make things worse for them. This is a common scenario since women at workplaces are bullied by their bosses who are men, thus reporting such a case to men will fall on deaf ears. I addition reporting such a case may force a woman to lose her job. Thus women are compelled to keep quiet in order to retain their job.
A shocking report by the same firm showed that ‘almost three-quarters of women around 76 % confessed that they hand experienced gender-based bullying at work’ (“Most work places” 2006). In addition, many women felt that things were getting worse in their career progression and male biases in the workplace were increasing. In 2002 Peninsula hand reported that 82 percent of women believed that there was male bias in the workplace but in 2006 this percentage had risen to 85 percent. A change in statistics here shows that the problem is almost getting out of hand although the feminism movement is live in our society. Then we are left to look for the reasons that are making things become worse for women instead of improving. The simplest reason to explain this is that gender stereotypes are still live in our society.
Howard et al (2000, p 89) define gender stereotypes as ‘beliefs about the characteristics of women and men, including their characteristics, typical behaviors, occupational positions or personality traits.’ Thus gender stereotypes are beliefs held about traits and activity domains that are “deemed” good and appropriate for both men and women in society. Crossing over these traits is highly discouraged. For instance, women are expected to be submissive while authority is a trait to be exhibited by men. These stereotypes are carried along in the workplace leading to discrimination against women.
Amble (2005, p.1) suggests that ‘gender stereotypes hamper chances of women advancement at the workplace.’ This is because the way the management perceives men and women in the workplace is different. The seniors’ perception of their junior staff is informed by the gender stereotypes that they have, and this blurs them from recognizing the skills and talents that women have. At the end of the day gender gap in business management emerges. Research finding released by Catalyst Research Organization compounds this argument. Women and men who participated in this research agreed that women are better at feminine “caretaking skills” e.g. those that are involved in support and giving rewards. In addition, men were believed to be good at masculine “taking charge” positions e.g. Delegation of duties and responsibilities.
We have to keep in mind that it’s these taking charge skills, which are stereotypically assigned to men that are desired for senior management positions. Therefore men end up becoming CEOs solely because of their masculine nature. This has nothing to do with achievements and problem-solving skills. Even where women are exposed to leadership positions these stereotypical notions are not eliminated: at best they are reinforced. This is because women in leadership create an extreme perception of women making their representation in leadership positions remain stagnant or decrease.
Gender discrimination is also manifested in the payment women receive for services rendered. This inequality occurs in two forms. First, women are paid less for completing a similar job to men. Therefore we end up having different pay for the same job category. Sisely (2004, p.2) suggests that ‘women are also paid less than men because they mostly work in the overlooked female-dominated occupations’. These occupations include teaching, nursing, and hospitality sectors. Therefore it is very common to find a man chef, being paid twice the amount a female chef with similar qualifications is earning. We need to remember that these occupations are categorized in the reproductive labor section by society.
In order to justify this discrepancy, various weak reasons are given. One of the reasons is that society believes that man is the head of the family and the sole breadwinner. Thus as breadwinners men should be paid more than women because they have more responsibilities compared to women. Men are also viewed to be performing skilled work while women fulfill the unskilled category. Most of the skills women possess are believed to be innate and this is why more women serve in human resources functions. All these factors have had a negative impact on women and the job market at large. Thus roles that were traditionally assigned to women have not been fully considered during the development of industrial relations.
At public places the policies that are made by the government may also contribute to gender discrimination. Government policies in Canada on cutting down its expenditure are good examples here. A flexibility policy was employed because it allowed workers to be retrained in order to acquire different skills which could be used in deferent jobs. But since women are often seen as flexible workers the government policies affected them most. Women are perceived this way because of their care giving role and this makes them to be looked upon as persons whom are not committed to fulltime employment as men are. In addition women are also believed to be flexible care givers, and are forced to compromise on their families’ time meaning that they can easily be hired as ‘on call workers’. Once women are put in such categories, the employers expect them to be ready to work any time of the day.
Arguing a long the same line Mareva (2007, P. 4) note that ‘such policies which the government as an employer had used, in order to achieve greater flexibility in her work force, fall in the category of pure gender discrimination.’ Further more the government actions are solely aimed at keeping women out of work because they makes up the largest percentage of employees in this sector. It is also worth to note that more women are employed in public sector because it mostly deals with services. In turn service givers are expected to be women who fulfill the nurturing role in the society.
Gender discrimination at work place also takes different perspective which needs to be addressed. This is because women at times make choices when it comes to looking for employment, and the choice they make may force them to be under paid. Therefore for those complaining of discrimination in work place, they should also look at the choices that women make. (“Gender” 2005) asserts that ‘workplace choices made by women often perpetuate the disparity that we seen in payment.’ some of the choices that women taken and contribute to the m being underpaid may include the following.
Women first of all, tend to drop out of work in order to raise children. The years that women are out of job thus ends up stagnating their income statistics and when they goes back to the job market they find it difficult to climb the ladder. Women also do not value being workaholic because they have other family responsibilities. Since being an executive call for a forty hour per week dedication to the job, many women tend to shy a way from top positions. Moreover, women are not to be interested in jobs that are not physically demanding yet those jobs carry good remuneration packages. Probably it’s because all a long their life they learnt that these are values to be exhibited by men and no by them.
As observed by [Gender, 2005] ‘woman also make wrong choices in colleges and they end up advancing in degrees that ends in low payment jobs.’ For instance many women opt to advance in therapy related degrees which attract low pay while men focus on a degree which pushes them up in the executive ladder. Men generally register for MBAs. In addition, earning power is not a cultural goal for women; it is a goal for men. Thus women are not compelled to ask for better pay compared to their male counterparts. Finally women also charge less for services lender especially in private practice compared to men. Therefore they end up making less money which brings power.
Gender discrimination at work place may have other negative consequences. For instance, it is a good cause of sexual harassment at work place. Sexual harassment generally refers to a form of sex discrimination which is exhibited through use of unwelcome request for sexual favors and other physical conduct which affects the woman performance in the workplace. Sexual harassment mostly involve a senior and a junior employee and it take space because the man knows that the victim will find it difficult to report the case because of the factors that had be highlighted earlier on in the discussion.
Since any form of discrimination is not acceptable in the contemporary world necessary measure should be taken in order to eliminate this vice. Some of the measures that could eradicate this problem include: restructuring the society in order to eliminate the patriarchal system. This is not an easy task but it can be achieved because culture is dynamic and it keeps on clanging, in order to enhance the survival of the society. In order to speed up these changes, the society at large should develop other values and attitudes which put women at par with men.
Private companies as well as government bodies should lead the way in combating stereotyping. This goal can be achieved through a very rigorous and transparent evaluation process. The public at large should be educated about stereotyping through national campaigns and this should be supplemented by enactment of various laws that punish offenders. The achievements that have been made by women should also be highlighted in order to encourage more women to fight for their rights and positions in the society. This show cases should be biased on those women who have successfully made it in the traditionally male dominated fields.
In conclusion, gender discrimination in public and workplace is a common problem today. This problem emerges from our culture since it’s through our socialization process that we acquire various values that in forms our decision. From our cultural teachings men should be masculine while women should always portray feminine characteristics. These notions are then carried on to the work place, thus hampering chances of women advancement as wells curtailing a good pay for them. In order to overcome this problem we need to challenge the patriarchy system in the society through developing other good values that promote equity between men and women.
- Amble, B. gender stereotypes block women‘s advancement. 2005.
- Howard, J.D and Hollander, G. The Gender Lens: Gender situations, Gender lives. Boston: Rowman Altamira press, 2000. pp 70-90
- Gender discrimination in the work place.
- Mareva, m. (2007). The Gender Discrimination Perspective on Public Sector Downsizing. Issues in Business and Society. 2007, November edition
- Most workplaces still biased against women. 2006.
- Paranjothi, T., Ravichandra, k. and Babu, v. N. Empowering women and reducing gender discrimination through kudumbashree programme. New Delhi: regional institute for cooperative management press, 2008
- Sisely, D. Sex Discrimination is alive and well. 2004. Web.