Gendered Division of Labour and Its History

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 7
Words: 1676
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: College

Nowadays, equality is one of the significant issues in different spheres, and labour is not an exception. It is generally accepted that all employees should be paid on equal terms, but the actual situation is far from being perfect (Grant, 2016, para. 26). The gendered division of labour is an ideal example of this contradiction: in comparison with male workers, female professionals’ income is lower in the vast majority of cases.

In order to improve the situation and bridge the gap between men’s and women’s wages, one should concentrate on the reasons that led to this imbalance. In this paper, the historical background is described, and several factors that made an impact on the division of labour are identified. Later on, the ideological factors are examined, and their relation to the past and the present is traced. Finally, the modern situation in the field of the Canadian labour is considered.

Historical Factors

The reasons for the inequality of women in the today’s labour include several historical factors, such as wars, rapid economic development and the increased consumption of products, the trade-union movement, and the women’s movement. It is important to state that the history of Canada is closely connected with the processes all over the globe, and the role of the international influence is essential.

First of all, before the World War I, women were normally employed as teachers, servants, housekeepers, launderers, and so on; in other words, only “female” occupations were represented. However, the war changed the distribution of the workforce in Canada. Because men served at the front, women had to perform men’s duties and work for lower wages as much as men did (Pupo, Glenday, & Duffy, 2011, p. 163). The same scenario is relevant to the Second World War. One can state that women’s lower wages became the precedent, and this model was translated to the further development of labour.

The next factor is the substantial economic growth. In the 1950s, Canada was characterized by the high speed of the development. New products and services appeared quickly, and the urgent task was to involve more employees in order to produce the goods or services and satisfy the customers’ needs (Krahn, Hughes, & Lowe, 2014, p. 10). As a result, new workplaces were created, and women were offered new opportunities. In spite of the fact that the number of working women grew and the list of the available jobs became longer, female employees’ wages remained low. In that period, the pay gap was large, and the traditional approach was still present.

One of the reasons for women’s involvement in labour was the necessity to earn more money. It may be explained by the growing needs and desires of people. If a family wanted to afford more high-quality goods and services, both partners had to work (Krahn et al., 2014, p. 89). Apart from that, education began to play an essential role, and parents, naturally, wanted to provide their children with the best education. Schools became another area of expenditure, and both parents needed to work in order to earn enough money.

Another important historical factor concerns the political events and trade-unions. This movement became significant since the rights of workers and justice were the focus of attention. When the trade-union movement was on the rise, female workers were involved in labour, but men tended to consider their work unskilled. At the same time, they needed to protect the rights of all workers including women, and it was a kind of dilemma (Pupo et al., 2011, p. 49).

It may be said that cooperation within trade-unions became an effective instrument, but women did not rely only on this type of political actions. Apart from that, they started the women’s movement. There was a wide range of ideas, for instance, the demands to recognise women’s social, economic, legal, and political positions in society (Krahn et al., 2014, p. 91). Thus, work issues were also addressed.

Female employees wanted to achieve greater equality in wages and working conditions and draw attention to discrimination, impossibility to be hired for certain jobs, family-oriented policies, proper day care facilities for children, protection from sexual harassment, and so on (Krahn et al., p. 92). Overall, the women’s movement made a considerable impact on the history in the context of the gender division of labour.

Ideological Factors

Another group of factors that have an effect on the gendered division of labour in Canada refers to the ideological issues. The historical factors identify the background and influence the present-day situation to some extent. On the other hand, the ideas that a particular society welcomes and promotes help understand the perspectives of the development and future opportunities and threats. The ideas describing the gender inequality in labour are diverse.

The family wage ideology is one of the basic ideologies that affected the society and continue to do it at the moment. The main idea is connected with labour segregation, and the unequal pay for doing the same type and amount of work is justified. This ideology provides the explanation why women were culturally devalued as employees, and their low wages were not viewed as a big problem: male workers’ wages were more significant for their families in the past (Krahn et al., 2014, p. 172). Even nowadays, this distribution of forces is sometimes understood as the standard.

Another system of ideas and beliefs that also makes a great impact is the ideology of household work. According to Krahn et al. (2014), this type of activities is considered to be “the largest and the most serious omission” because it was not seen as work (p. 59). In fact, performing these duties, a woman was thought to be doing what is natural and imperative. It means that the traditional division of powers “man-breadwinner” and “woman-housekeeper” is the only possible model of life, and a woman is expected to do all housework willingly because it must be a labour of love.

The management ideology is the third set of cultural beliefs that can influence people’s perception of labour and gender issues. It focuses on detailed job descriptions, planned workflows, time, and motion (Krahn et al., 2014, p. 238). Although it is not directly associated with gender issues, the traditional approach, and personal opinions may make an impact on the choice of either female or male employees and the way of interaction. For instance, women might be considered to be more suitable for the teaching career than men.

Finally, the blaming-the-victim ideology may form the attitude towards the gendered division of labour. The essence of this ideology is that it is a person who does not want to make an effort and change the unsatisfying situation. It is assumed that workers are “careless, accident-prone, or susceptible to illness” (Krahn, 2014, p. 87). In other words, employees usually have low regard for their workers, and their opinion may consist of stereotypes. If this ideology is close to the employer’s belief, female workers may suffer from this attitude and fail to be successful.

The Present-Day Situation

The gendered division of labour in Canada is characterised by the influence of the historical and ideological factors. Besides, to understand why a person earns a certain wage, it is logical to take into account their education and hours of work. However, the present-day tendencies do not always correspond to the situation. Nowadays, the importance of labour equality and the labour segregation become the issues of the greatest concern, and it gives ground to hope for the future improvement.

One of the peculiarities of the labour in Canada and its job market is the predominance of the educated women. The recent data demonstrate that women’s educational attainment has surpassed that of men (Grant, 2016, para. 1). At the same time, it is emphasised that the level of imbalance is high: a female employee earns about 73.5 cents for every dollar her male peer makes (Grant, 2016, para. 1). There are no objective reasons for these phenomena, and the only explanation is that gender is the criterion.

The second characteristic that may help calculate one’s wage is the scope of work: it is believed that women make less money because they prefer part-time or flexible hours. Still, this fact is explained by the hours on unpaid household and care work: women spend twice as much time as men (Grant, 2016, para. 14). It does not account for lower wages of women who work full-time. Thus, one can say that gender issues play the critical role in terms of wages.

The modern tendencies demonstrate that the situation is not favourable. Labour segregation is present: women concentrate in the health care and education sectors, and female workers “are more likely to live below the poverty line, work part time, and hold minimum-wage jobs” (Grant, 2016, para. 21). At the same time, there are some facts that bring hope. For instance, the Canadian society has started supporting the idea of gender equality in labour. Besides, the problems of female migrants and aboriginal women are discussed. It is probable to state that the ideologies and approaches of the past still linger, but the modern frameworks are becoming more popular.


To sum it up, the gender division of labour is a pressing problem today. The historical and ideological factors form the basis of the people’s perception. From the historical point of view, the traditional model of labour force balance was influenced by wars, economic advancement, social progress, and trade-union and women’s movements. On the other hand, the ideologies that were created in the past are powerful nowadays: they make an impact on modern employers to a large extent.

The family wage ideology, the ideology of household work as a “labour of love,” the management ideology, and the blaming-the-victim ideology are still common. The latest facts, such as understanding the importance of labour equality and public discussions, indicate that the society wants changes. It is possible that the issue of the gender division of labour will be addressed in the nearest future, and all persons will have equal opportunities.


Grant, T. (2016). Women still earning less money than men despite gains in education: Study. The Globe and Mail. Web.

Krahn, H., Hughes, K. D., & Lowe, G. S. (2014). Work, industry, and Canadian society (7th ed.). Toronto, ON: Nelson College Indigenous.

Pupo, N., Glenday, D., & Duffy, A. (2011). The shifting landscape of work. Toronto, ON: Nelson College Indigenous.