Unpaid Labor and Women’s Compliance at Workplace

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 8
Words: 2196
Reading time:
8 min
Study level: PhD

During the middle of the 19th century, when feminist activities were at their peak, several scholars and psychologists were against the idea of giving women the same rights and privileges as men. They argued whether women were basically similar to men or different from them. The main contention was on the biological differences that men and women had. The arguments heightened when several feminists favored the idea of giving women special rights such as right to take part in a ballot, purchase assets, address gatherings, and attain higher studies. The reasons given by the anti-feminists for opposing such a move were very absurd; like, since a woman’s brain was small, she could not attain higher studies.

Nations around the world experienced several changes in their political and social standards as a result of globalization. Globalization can be considered to be a global assimilation of knowledge, goods, thoughts, technologies, cultures, and manpower. During this time, the Western nations were already under the impact of feminism. During this period, the idea of feminism started brewing and as such some change was eminent. Globalization brought ideas on the kind of feminism that was supposed to be developed. It brought great relief to women in terms of social life such as marriage, right to inheritance, and place of work. Obviously, such a move changed women’s eminence of life and created ample prospects of growth.

Globalization had an impact in the form of feminism that developed in the 1990s. The new form of feminism was adopting features found in feminism in Western countries. Body writing, beauty, and sexuality became the main themes in the late 1990s that were derived from modernity.

The main concern of women during the 1980s was the overtiredness that women experienced as a result of playing double roles. The first one was that of a liberated woman working outside the home and the other one was the domestic role that awaited them when they got home from work. The physiological differences had been identified by the Women’s Federation as essential to protect women in the workplace in the 1970s. The Women’s Federation asked for “special arrangements to be made in the allocation of work during menstruation, pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding” (Zhong 2006). Feminists were advocating for recognition of these differences which were later drafted into law.

Coming to recent times, one would wonder how can people talk about equality for men and women when even today, women are doing the majority of the household work without any remuneration. Undoubtedly, over the years, women’s role has undergone a drastic change, whereas the change in men’s role has been nominal. Even today, men are considered to be the bread-earners. But it’s not a universal rule because there are men who want to contribute (and actually do contribute) towards household activities.

Today, there are several women who go out for work but the problem is that in cases where men earn more than their wives, it makes little sense that they should reduce their working hours (for loss of pay) and devote time towards the household activities (unpaid). Considering another situation where the wife earns more than her husband, it will still be the wife who will compromise and reduce her working hours to take care of the household activities.

God has given women the special privilege of giving birth to babies. During pregnancy, working women have to take pregnancy leave. This kind of leave is usually unpaid. So, they have to bear the financial loss. Another disadvantage of taking leave is that it is quite possible that during the leave period (that is generally for a couple of months) she might lose on growth opportunities at her workplace. In some cases, they might even lose their jobs. So, the next option is to take part-time jobs that are usually not well paid and even the career prospects are not excellent. Such inequality has great social impacts (negative ones).

Societies around the world have different perspectives about unpaid household chores. It will be better understood if a couple of examples are discussed. In the United Kingdom, men and women share equal responsibility as far as paid work is concerned. But the difference is in the unpaid work (household work). While the men spend long hours at the office, women reach home early and do the unpaid household work. They are the only ones who take care of their children at home. The case in Sweden is totally different. In this country, people follow a policy that requires both father and mother to share the responsibility of their children; they call it ‘shared parental leave’.

Society tends to consider men to be superior to women. As per society, men can still be entrusted with a responsible position in any organization. Even today a family needs to be patriarchal as the father should be given the position of being the head of the family.

The logic that they provide behind such thought is that men have more strength in mind and they are the major bread-earning members of the family. So it goes without saying that they can handle all the financial responsibilities in a much efficient manner as compared to any woman. Side by side, people even depend on men when it comes to a job that may require or demand physical strength as well. According to them, men can be entrusted with such jobs which may require you to put your energy and strength to get the required objective.

So in any case, society still considers women to be the weaker sex. Women are considered to be good home managers but not worth relying on when given the responsibility to look after a senior role in any organization. Still, it is felt that women need to depend on men but not the other way round.

It is an irony of the society that women don’t get any credibility for their efforts or performances like men do. Such an indifferent attitude of society has even forced some women to assume male identities.

Sheryl Sandberg has aptly mentioned in this context in her writing that, “…as a man gets more successful, he is better liked by men and women, and as a woman gets more successful, she is less liked by men and women” (Sandberg 2013).

During the present decades, women have proved themselves and have gallantly taken up the challenges given by society, by rising high up the hierarchical ladder and competing with their male counterparts. As per our traditional critics, men are still considered as born leaders and are looked up for possessing many such unique traits which apparently women are lacking. Even after putting so much effort to be at par with the men, women have to face severe competition while they put an effort to prove themselves as efficient leaders.

In this context distinguished writer, Sandra Bem has given an excellent instance. In order to point out the ongoing discrimination that females generally suffer in professional spheres, Bem has made an excellent comparison by citing the way women’s power is being stagnated and the manner in which people with short heights are under-estimated in society. Her remarkable quotation needs special attention here, “It isn’t short biology that’s the problem; its short biology being forced to function in a tall-centered social structure” (Bem 1993).

It’s not that the governments of nations are not aware of the plight of women. In fact, it is the policies of the government of any particular nation that add to the woes of women. Let us consider the case of Canada. Canada is a country where female nurses are in great demand probably due to the reason that the local females are interested in more lucrative jobs or they consider the nursing profession not according to their status. Anyhow, since there is a demand for female nurses, it is fulfilled in developing countries such as the Philippines.

Both the employer and the employee are benefitted from this; the employer gets sincere workers at lower wages and the employees (unable to earn a better livelihood in their homeland) get better salaries (as compared to the salaries in their homeland). But the immigration policy of Canada is believed to be detrimental to the family lives of such immigrants (female nurses). Canadian immigration policy does not allow immigrant workers to bring their families until they have successfully completed a couple of years in their respective jobs (Cohen 2000).

In their compliance to the workplace, such female nurses have to face and experience the pain of being away from their families for a couple of years. This separation sometimes takes a serious turn and family relations suffer. However, in cases where the immigrant female nurses are able to defend their family ties and when, after completing the requisite job years, they do bring their families to Canada, a sense of strangeness among husband and wife haunts them (Cohen 2000).

Another drawback in such cases is that, in the majority of cases, the husbands are not well qualified to take administrative jobs and as such land up doing odd laborious jobs. This makes them disappointed, discouraged and upset. They have apprehensions in accepting the fact that they are not the major contributor to their family’s income. They feel dishonored and start developing an inferiority complex within them. Obviously, such feelings are bound to create tensions among the families. Gradually, these tensions take the shape of physical violence (Cohen 2000).

Families are not only about wife and husband. Children also form an important part of any family. So, when children of the immigrant female nurses join them in Canada, they face a totally different environment and unfamiliar surroundings. They have to adjust to the busy schedule of their mother and also accept and respect her friends. If the children are teenagers, the problem becomes very severe. There have been instances of teenagers leaving their homes (Cohen 2000).

Ethnicity, culture, origin, language, color, and education are some of the factors that also have an impact on the working condition of female immigrants. Female immigrants from South East Asia have a different status than those coming from Europe and Australia. Similarly, people with higher education levels have better prospects and are greeted with greater honor than those who migrate to Canada with the aim of working as manual laborers. Language is also a major deciding factor for a person’s job status. English speaking candidates are always preferred over those who are not proficient with the language (Ralston 1991).

Likewise the rest of the world, the Canadian government also restructured its social services policy (since mid-1980s). This restructuring resulted in a decrease in funding (for social works) and major privatization throughout the nation. The social services witnessed a shift of jobs and surprisingly, this shift was downwards. People who once had discretionary powers were shifted to lower levels where they had to work under someone and complete jobs before deadlines.

The newly sprung private sector also made major changes in the position and duties of employees. Women workers were the most affected lot because due to their financial constraints, they had to accept insecure jobs (Baines 2005).

In China also, women workers are experiencing a change in their working conditions. The government’s position on feminism can be identified in the policy reforms that were implemented in the late twentieth century. It can be seen in the 1984 Labor Insurance Regulations which entitled women to a five-year early retirement plan (Leung 2003). It was five years earlier than the age men would retire. It can also be seen in the 1990 Labor Prohibition Regulations that outlined some of the jobs that were unfit for women. It was in line with feminism in the period that sought to clarify the natural and sexual differences between men and women. Recognizing the differences and protecting women from their identified weaknesses became the state’s recognition of feminism (Wang 2013).

Over the years things have changed in favor of women but still, there is a lot of improvement to be done in the working conditions of women. Recent years have witnessed women being members of various unions. But the ill-treatment of women is still rampant (whether at the workplace or otherwise). Even today, a majority of the household chores, including rearing the children are done by women. Women’s dual role of working at home (unpaid) and at the workplace might be considered to be oppressing and exploiting (Fieldes 2013).

Survey results suggest that at higher levels there is no prejudice towards female workers. While some organizations find it costlier to follow diversity within the board members, others feel that having women directors will benefit the organization. According to the organizations that consider women employees as assets, women are less prone to being absent from board meetings (Adams & Ferreira 2004). In such situations, the performance of meetings is increased and better decisions can be made without delays.

In conclusion, it is true that women have an extra responsibility for their households and children but this doesn’t undermine their right to equal opportunity and status. Let us hope that the ensuing years bring in more liberty and equality for women.

Works Cited

Adams, Renée and Daniel, Ferreira 2004, “Gender Diversity in the Boardroom.” Web.

Baines, Donna. 2005. “Women’s Occupational Health in Social Services.” Canadian Woman Studies 23(3-4): 157-164.

Bem, Sandra 1993. “Transforming the Debate on Sexual Inequality: From Biological Difference to Institutionalized Androcentrism.” Web.

Cohen, Rina. 2000. “Mom is a Stranger: The Negative Impact of Immigration Politics on the Family Life of Filipina Domestic Workers.” Canadian Ethnic Studies 32(3): 76-88.

Fieldes, Diane 2013. “The Impact of Women’s Changing Role in the Workplace.” Web.

Leung, Alicia. 2003. “Feminism in transition: Chinese culture, ideology and the development of the women’s movement in China.” Asia Pacific Journal of Management 20(3): 359-374.

Ralston, Helen. 1991. “Race, Class, Gender and Work Experience of South Asian Immigrant Women in Atlantic Canada.” Canadian Ethnic Studies 23(2): 129-139.

Sandberg, Sheryl 2013. “Lean In: Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg explains what’s holding women back.” Web.

Wang, Lingzhen. 2013. “Gender and sexual differences in 1980s China: Introducing Li Xiaojiang.” A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 24(2): 8-22.

Zhong, Xueping. 2006. “Who is a feminist? Understanding the ambivalence towards Shanghai baby, ‘body writing’ and feminism in post women’s liberation China.” Gender & History 18(3): 635–660.