Gender Inequality in the Workplace and Career

Introduction

Working women are usually faced with a multitude of challenges. On top of balancing their duties and responsibilities as members of their families, they need to be efficient workers and competitive in their chosen professions.

One main challenge is the issue of proving themselves as worthy employees to gain equal opportunities with men. Some workplaces may not be too accepting of the empowerment of women in employment and may strip them of their dignity to make them realize that they do not belong there.

Many researchers have investigated the problem of equality rights and gender prejudices in the workplace. Many claims that because of the established dominance of males in the vast number of areas of public life, women are often placed in a disadvantaged position from the very beginning. Studies have revealed that such gender inequality has grave effects on women’s perceptions of their efficiency and motivation. Some women fall into the trap of giving in to bleak self-fulfilling prophecies that they are not as good as their male co-workers and eventually prove the expectations to be right.

Problem Statement

This research paper explores the perceptions of men and women workers of the realities in the workplace regarding gender equality. It will attempt to investigate the grievances and fulfillments of women regarding their current jobs, pay, and career advancement and probe the psychological and emotional effects these have on their job performance and motivation.

Hypotheses

It is hypothesized that gender inequality exists in workplaces, especially in bigger companies. This is exhibited by a large pay discrepancy between men and women who hold the same position and job descriptions. This study will investigate the workers’ perception of gender inequality across the board. The hypothesis will be: Women will perceive gender inequality within the organization while men will not perceive gender inequality.

(Independent variable shall be gender (male or female) and dependent variable shall be their perception of gender inequality in the workplace.)

Literature Review

Due to the significance of equal opportunities to citizens the world over, laws have been passed to ensure that they are available to everyone. These laws have been designed to protect anyone from being discriminated against by reason of sex, marital status, ethnic or national origin, color, race, nationality, age, disability, religion, and different terms of employment, including pay for jobs of equal value.

In the United States of America, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces all laws on employment opportunities. EEOC also provides oversight and coordination of all federal equal employment opportunities. One major kind of discrimination in the workplace is on the basis of gender. Sexual discrimination is a biased attitude towards a person because of his/her gender, pregnancy, marital status, etc. This is considered to be direct sexual discrimination. An example is a company’s policy of not hiring married women because of possible restrictions their marriages can pose that may affect job performance.

Indirect discrimination happens when the requirements are equal for all people, but these result in an unfair disadvantage on certain groups due to their gender, marital status, or pregnancy. An example is a manager’s demand for overtime for the whole staff including pregnant workers.

The monumental worldwide response to the Platform for Action for the resolution of women’s issues delivered in the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women still reverberates until the present time. Much of the initial initiatives regarding this Plan of Action include creating new mechanisms upgrading existing structures and energizing participatory processes. The movement against discrimination of women, particularly those who are disabled either temporarily (by pregnancy, illness, etc.) or permanently has likewise been strong. On October 15, 2003, the Honorable Stefania Prestigiacomo, Minister for Equal Opportunites of Italy read the Statement on the Advancement of Women to the Third Committee, on behalf of the European Union. She states that “The European Union appreciates the efforts by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women and urges States to accept the amendment to Article 20, paragraph 1, which would allow the Committee to enjoy greater flexibility. ” (Prestigiacomo, 2006).

Equality of gender rights is very controversial and highly disputable. Putting men and women in the same work conditions may be unacceptable, considering the physical strengths and limitations of each.

Many critics claim that is exerting all their efforts to advance themselves in the professional sphere, women become unable to perform successfully as mothers, wives, and life partners. However, the latter are among the primary duties of all women. The issue of equal rights and family priority indicates that without neglecting their basic duties to family, women can still get an education, which is equal to the education of men. The majority of job placements should be available to women.

Presently, women now can occupy positions even in professions considered male-dominated. Many researchers try to prove that women are more responsible and hard-working and can perform with more efficiency than their male counterparts.

A study by Kattara in 2005 of career challenges of female managers in Egyptian hotels found out that the majority of female managers were not in situations that would lead them to the positions of general managers. “The study detected several factors preventing female managers from reaching the glass ceiling. The stepwise multiple regression showed that 35.5 percent of the variance in the existence of challenges could be explained by four factors; gender discrimination, relationships at work, mentor support and lack of network access”. (Kattara, 2005).

In the hospitality sphere, there exists strong gender segregation in work. Burgess, in her research, claims that there exist considerable discrepancies between the career development and salaries of men and women in the hospitality industry. The most prestigious and, therefore, better-paid job positions are occupied by men (Burgess, 2003).

Female employees tend to work in housekeeping, the kitchen, or in the food and beverage departments. While there tends to be an equal amount of men and women in the front office, top managerial positions still tend to be held by men.

There appears to be a constant conflict between mutually beneficial relationships and contemporary situations, where males dominate the social, political, and professional spheres (Taylor, Kemeny, Reed, Bower, & Grunewald, 2000).. Many women claim that they have fewer opportunities to succeed in their work than men do and have to exert greater effort in order to be promoted in their jobs. Men are more readily employed and more supported by their employers than women (Bergman, 2003).

Within each occupation, a considerable hierarchy can be seen. Vertical segregation implies that women quite seldom occupy top posts in management in the European Union and in the rest of the countries (Equal Opportunities Policy and Statements).

The Career Development Group maintains that there is a social disadvantage due to the fact that there exist particular social roles which influence the public lives of both genders. These roles were established in patriarchal societies and are therefore strongly influenced by social power, which usually belongs to men. Being influenced by the rules of social conduct people yield to these stereotypes (Equal Opportunities Policy and Statements).

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a turning point. In barring most firms with at least 15 employees from assigning jobs based on sex, the act made it illegal for employers to impose segregation on workers. Amendments to Title VII and Presidential Executive Orders in the years that followed created a legal foundation for challenging sex segregation. (Reskin, 1993). The very existence of such laws serves as reminders to all that a person’s sex should not limit his or her opportunities, and are likewise deterrents of employers that they should provide equal opportunities due to their prospective and current employees.

The problem of the pay gap was well studied by the Women and Equality Unit and the Equal Opportunities Commission. These units aimed to improve the position of women in the workplace and to increase their wages (Advancing Women in the Workplace, 2004) They studied the employers’ actions and other factors which determine the lower payment of women’s wages.

Research funded by the European Commission showed that generally women who work full-time, receive only three-fourths of the hourly earnings of men. This holds true in the European Union in all professions with equal qualification levels and ages of men and women (Equal Opportunity, 2006).

The pay gap is partly explained by the fact that women are much more likely to be in lower-grade, lower-paid occupations than men. Another factor contributing to the pay gap is that women in management have less seniority and are rewarded at a lower rate. The paid survey of women in the City of London found a clear age-related factor in that salaries for men and women diverged during their mid-twenties and the gap increased with age (Wren, 1990).

One of the researches, conducted in 2002 in the USA studying 500 companies showed that women occupied not more than 15.7 % of corporate-officer positions and only 5.2 % of women were top earners. The other characteristic feature is that the greatest part of all women, who occupy top positions, take not line but staff positions (Hymowitz, 2003). Staff positions are less prominent and therefore women are less likely to receive promotions and attain the very top of the job hierarchy.

Studies have shown that workers’ job efficiency has much to do with how they perceive their responsibilities and significance in their particular job positions. Valentine (2001) indexed a variety of research studies on how perceptions of own jobs and expectations of other people in the workplace of one’s job efficiency may create self-fulfilling prophecies. Findings in these researches show that despite their managerial competencies, women must, unfortunately, deal with negative stereotypes that can impair their job mobility and advancement. As leaders, women may be viewed as passive, overly relationship-oriented, and emotionally unstable. The masculine task-oriented styles of leadership highly favored by management are not always exhibited by women. Many of the negative ideas about women in management may affect how they are treated and accepted at work.

Despite representing almost half of the workforce, women’s presence is much less noticeable in positions with executive responsibility. Even worse, women are frequently given assignments that are excluded from social and professional networking concluded that women reported greater career barriers and the greater importance of performing well on the job than did men using matched samples of male and female executives. These negative ideas, unfortunately, lead some women to question their own supervisory abilities, to evaluate themselves harshly on performance appraisals, and to set low-performance expectations. They experience more motivational problems and career uncertainties compared to men, and this could be attributed to their negative work experiences.

Objectives

The current research attempts to validate researches that may prove or disprove perceived gender inequality of women in the workplace. This study intends to hear women’s voices that bespeak their current status in their respective workplaces and the ways and means that could improve their work conditions to afford them fulfillment in their careers. It will also compare men’s and women workers’ perceptions of gender inequality in the workplace.

This paper will examine the research questions:

  1. Do most workplaces give fair and equal pay and job descriptions to male and women workers?
  2. Are sexual discrimination and sexual harassment prevalent in the workplace? If so, what could be the reasons behind it?
  3. Do most workplaces conform to the legal bases of some employment practices protecting women workers?

Research Methodology

To pursue the objectives stated in this research, a qualitative type of methodology is proposed using interviews and questionnaire surveys (to be determined yet).

The questionnaire/ survey and interviews shall focus on women’s various issues on gender inequality in the workplace (pay gap; sexual discrimination; sexual harassment, etc.). An investigation if their employers are abiding by legal bases on equal opportunities shall informally be assessed during the interviews.

Final results shall be compared with historical literature to compare if there have been developments in equal opportunities afforded to women.

Subjects: One hundred workers whose ages range from 18 and above and whose positions range from rank and file to top management in 5 selected workplaces shall complete a questionnaire provided by the researcher. Follow-up interviews on these issues shall also be briefly conducted. Twenty respondents (10 males and 10 females) shall be randomly selected in each company. Their work experiences may vary in terms of duration, position, or industry.

Measurements and instruments: The questionnaire to be answered is in the form of a Likert scale. The respondents shall choose their responses to the questions by choosing a number from 1 to 5 depending on their agreement or disagreement. The reliability and validity of the questionnaire shall be tested with a pilot group of 30 respondents to check if all questions are clearly understood from the same perspective.

Design: To pursue the objectives stated in this research, a questionnaire will be distributed to five different companies. For each company, 20 respondents will be randomly chosen. Profile information (educational background, years of work experience, marital status, salary, etc.) shall be collected along with the questionnaires and shall be charted for comparison.

The questionnaire shall focus on various issues on gender inequality in the workplace (pay gap; sexual discrimination; sexual harassment, etc.) and the psychological and emotional effects these have on their job performance.

Data analysis plan: The total sample for this study is 100 and the data shall be entered and analyzed through the Statistical Program for the Social Science (SPSS). Frequency counts, percentage distributions, correlation, and ANOVA analysis will be used.

Qualitative analysis of the subjects’ responses in the interviews shall also be done by classifying responses by themes and plotting them in a grid. These responses shall be compared and analyzed across gender and position.

Informed voluntary consent: Consent shall be sought from the randomly selected subjects before beginning the questionnaire. If informed voluntary consent is not given, then another subject shall be approached to fulfill the required number of subjects that shall participate in the study.

Potential risks: It is possible that subjects will not give truthful answers to the questions and such behavior shall affect the validity and reliability of the results. To prevent or minimize the risks, the researcher shall brief the respondents on the importance of honesty and assure them of confidentiality. A common script shall be used for the briefing and debriefing of the respondents.

Time Schedule: Four Months

First Month:

  • submission of research proposal
  • search for prospective workplaces to conduct data gathering

Second Month:

  • securing permission from prospective workplaces that will participate in the study
  • random selection of respondents
  • data gathering

Third Month:

  • analysis of data
  • presentation of results

Fourth Month:

  • editing, completion, and submission of a research project

Resources Needed

Personnel

Apart from the researcher who will head the whole research project a number of staff will be necessary to carry out the necessary tasks for this research. The following will be the job descriptions of the personnel

Researcher

  • Heads the research team
  • Creates the research design
  • Coordinates with the authorized persons in the workplaces selected
  • Coordinates with the staff
  • Does the final qualitative analysis
  • Writes the full report
  • Presents the finished research

Interviewers (1 assigned per workplace)

  • Selects and handles the respondents per workplace
  • Distributes the survey/questionnaires
  • Conducts follow up interviews

Transcribers/ Coders

  • Transcribes the interviews
  • Classifies the responses according to the themes (specific issue on gender inequality)

Statistician

Does the quantitative analysis of the survey/ questionnaires.

Budget

The budget will be determined by the following:

  • Cost of documentation: questionnaires and survey forms; office supplies for writing the research paper, correspondences and analysis of data; printing costs & bookbinding of copies of the final research paper
  • Honoraria of personnel
  • Food and transportation allowances of personnel
  • Tokens for the participation of the respondents
  • Tokens of gratitude for the 5 workplaces

Needed assurances/clearances

  • Letters of intent to the authorized personnel in the 5 workplaces
  • The informed voluntary consent of the participants
  • Questionnaires/ Survey forms

References

Advancing women in the workplace. Labour Market Trends. 2004.

Aherne, A. M.(2003) Women and Workplace Discrimination Trial. Web.

Armstrong, D.,(2006) ‘Cracks in glass ceiling Hotels are opening doors for women in management’ Chronicle.

Bergman, B. (2003) The validation of the women workplace culture questionnaire: gender-related stress and health for Swedish working women. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research.

Beyond Promises: Governments in Motion One Year After the Beijing Women’s Conference, 1996.

Burgess, C. (2003) Gender and salaries in hotel financial management: it’s still a man’s world. Women in Management Review.

Doherty, L. (2004) Work-life balance initiatives: implications for women.

Employee Relations. Equal Opportunities Policy and Statements. 2008. Web.

Equal Opportunities Management Guidelines, 2008. Web.

Farrar, A., Hardigree, C.E. & Sammons, G.(2003) Demographic Differences In Perceptions Of Sexual Harassment Among Hospitality Management.

Hsueh, C. (2001) Hospitality students’ understanding of and attitudes toward sexual harassment in the workplace. 2008. Web.

Hymowitz, C. (2003) Why Women Professionals Miss Great Opportunities. The Wall Street Journal Investigation: Free to Choose – tackling gender barriers to better jobs.(2005)

Ismail, A.(2002) Pay and conditions. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research.

Ismail, A., (n.d.) Women In The Workplace, 2008. Web.

Kattara, H.,(2005) Career challenges for female managers in Egyptian hotels. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management.

Prestigiacomo, S, (2003)EU Presidency Statement – Advancement of Women, 2008. Web.

Purcell, K. (1996) The relationship between career and job opportunities: women’s employment in the hospitality industry as a microcosm of women’s employment. Women in Management Review Recruitment and Career Development. 2008. Web.

Schultz, V., (2003) ‘The Sanitized Workplace.’ Yale Law Journal. Volume: 112. Issue: 8.

Taylor, S. E., Kemeny, M. E., Reed, G. M., Bower J. E., & Grunewald, T. L. (2000)Psychological resources, positive illusions, and health. American Psychologist.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2008. Web.

Valentine, S., (2001)‘Men and Women Supervisors’ Job Responsibility, Job Satisfaction and Employee Monitoring’. Sex Roles: A Journal of Research. Plenum Publishing Corporation.

Verkaik, R. (2005) Thirty years on, women still face harassment in the workplace: Equal Independent. The (London).

Wren, J. (1990) Women’s Pay in the City. London: Jonathan Wren Executive.