Gender Inequality In The Labour Force Essay

, Research Paper

Gender Inequality in the Labor Force

Will I or will I not be promoted? Is there going to be an increase in my pay this year? Do all of my male co-workers earn more money that I do? These are just a few examples of concerns that run through a woman s mind when dealing with inequality issues in the workforce. Because of male dominance in the work force, women do not have a fair chance of getting a high priority job or large promotion. This paper will discuss the various impacts of these concerns on women, job opportunities for women in the workplace, and disadvantages and stereotypes that come with being a female in the labor force. It will also discuss the treatment of women of all races, the inequality level between men and women, the wage gap, and women s position in society.

The inequality levels between men and women in the labor force seem to be an ongoing battle. There are too many men in the labor force that seem to be narrow minded and they are causing problems for women who are trying to succeed in the work force. (22,23)

When you look back on the history of a woman s position in society, no matter what class you look at, females have always been looked upon as second class citizens. Women have always been given stereotypical working conditions of cooking, cleaning, childcare, sewing and piecework. Women have traditionally been given these jobs because there seems to be no separation between work and family for women. (12)

Some women are affected by inequality more than others; some reasons for this include ethnicity, race, and the baggage, in general, that comes from being a female. Some of the impacts of this inequality that women face and the ordeals that go on in order to fix the effects of past racial and sexual discrimination are; equal pay for all employees, equal employment opportunities, and transferring employees from one job to another, within the organization, in order to integrate the workforce. These plans of action resulted in new problems for management. Many employees do not want to transfer jobs and give up the seniority of their present job and move to another job. This dilemma was later resolved by using company seniority rather than job seniority. Here an employee can move around the organization and still maintain their seniority due to the fact that they are still working for the same company instead of losing their seniority because they transferred departments. When there are layoffs to be made, unions prefer the seniority system, which translates to, the last hired, first fired rule. When this rule is followed, the layoffs would be focused on minorities and women because they are usually the newest employees. (*)

An issue that is still unsettled today is pregnancy. The problem is whether or not women will receive compensation for their maternity leave. This is just another equality problem between the sexes. It is seen as a problem if women become pregnant and have to leave the workforce temporarily to have a child. Nature has designed women to have children, not men, it was not the woman s choice to be the bearer or children, and it is just nature. Women in the work force are held accountable for having children. This is just a sample of the kinds of inequalities that women have to face in the work force due to the fact that they are treated as males and expected to act as males do. But women are different that men in many ways that should not be held against them as disabilitating or problematic. (11, 13) This inequality effects all ethnic and racial minorities of women.

Another conflict that arises between minorities, women, and the white male dominated race is, employers lie to the male applicant saying that the company is required to hire a minority or woman for the job. In actuality the male applicant is simply not the best-qualified person for the job. In other instances, black workers are told that they a were hired or promoted because of their skin color, when in fact they were simply the best qualified. Therefore, they think that they are not receiving credit for their skills. The white employers are just making it look like these people are getting the job because they are required to give the job to a member of a minority group. Women end up taking a lot more abuse when it comes to treatment in the labor force. Females have been taught for years to maintain certain etiquette for quite a long time. Women have always been taught that they are put on this earth to serve men, to take care of others, be proper ladies, be polite and obliging to the needs of men. (11, 16, 29) Today s women seem to have become more aggressive, demanding, and committed to achievement as compared to men, because they are beginning to be taken more seriously by the business world. Women still have a belief that they have to prove their self- worth. (17)

Sex segregation in the work place is a major inequality that has an impact on the labor force. There is one very important contrast between men and women. Generation differences in the primary labor market representation are sharper among men than women. Younger men are acquiring primary jobs more rapidly than younger women are. (17, 18)

Women are less likely than men, of the same ability level, to attend college. If they do, the women chose majors that are sex-typed. They usually chose to study English, and History rather than Science or Business. This way of thinking also translates into career options. Many women, over the years, often choose jobs after university and college that are very sex typed. (11, 19)

In all minority groups, men are more often found to be managers and administrators, craftsmen, foremen and laborers. Women are more often employed as secretaries are and as private household workers. The percentage of women who are service workers exceeds the percentage of men who are service workers among Indians, African Americans, Mexicans, and Japanese. There are more male service workers among Chinese, while Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and Filipinos have roughly equal percentages of men and women who are in the service sector. (22) However, within service work, as in professional and sales work, the specific jobs tend to be stereotyped. For instance, police and fire fighters are primarily male dominated jobs, while nurse s and secretaries are extremely female dominated jobs. Such a stereotype leaves very little room for change in equality. Certain female minority groups are usually stressed to follow a certain profession and not go beyond the border.

Females are put in occupations that are lower in educational training and requirement measured by the functional nature of the work rather than educational attainment of incumbents. Occupations, which were low in autonomy, high in supervision, and above all, low in pay. (22)

Men have always been looked upon as the individuals who do all of the important jobs. Therefore, this leaves a huge inequality gap between the men and the women. This perspective is a very hard trend to break especially when women try to take male occupations. (22)

Women are not well represented in high-paying established professions. Men are the ones that dominate the high paying occupational institutional positions. While women are stuck with the less well established professions which are frequently called the female semi-professionals . The semi-professions are well represented for women; they include nursing, social working, and librarians. Women are the majority of the textile workers and housekeepers. The main difference between male and female jobs is the difference in pay. (19, 21, 23)

The root of the money problem is derived from centuries ago, where the idea that boys are better than girls originated. This idea has been shown throughout many cultures, especially in the issues of wages and salaries. Although equal pay has been the law since 1963, women are still paid lower compared to men, thirty-six years later. (23)

In 1996, women were paid 74 cents for every dollar that men were paid. Nationwide, working families lose 200 billion dollars of income annually due to this wage gap. (23) Although our earning capacity was bad, women of color such as African- American women earned only 67 cents and Latino s earn 58 cents to every dollar that a white male earns. Such low wages cause women of color to rank at the bottom of the employment ladder. It is very difficult for these races to move out of low paying, low status jobs because there is such a decrease in pay for women compared to men. (22, 23)

When looking into the different kinds of occupations, there are many problems that occur. A major conflict is the economic power that has been incorporated in to a research hypothesis in sexual harassment. For example, the women who have the least power in the work force would experience the most harassment; researchers have tested to see if women in the lower-status jobs in a particular work place, a woman in a low-status occupation such as clerical and service occupations, more frequently report harassment. After the researchers finished their studies their results were opposite than these hypothesis. In fact, the lower status, women in specific work places do not necessarily report more harassment, and women in lower- status occupations report less harassment than do women in male-dominated, higher-status occupations. The failure of the research to confirm the hypothesis that greater power difference leads to greater sexual harassment, forced the researchers to question themselves on what causes sexual harassment. The study shows that status plays no part when it comes to harassment. Harassment occurs with women of all occupational levels. (20, 21)

One of the other problematic issues that occur within the workforce has to do with managerial jobs. Even though women comprise 40% of all executives, management, and administrative positions (up from 24% in 1976), they remain confined mostly to the middle and lower levels and the senior levels of management are almost always zeroed in on males. Since then there has been very little change. What is even more shocking, is that statistics say that by the year 2466, women will finally be equal to men. (22, 23)

In the Wall Street Journal/ Gallop-poll, more than four out of five women executives say, there are disadvantages to being a female in the business world. In 1986, the Gallop-poll said that the amount of professional women that believe they have less professional opportunities available to them, compared to men, was outnumbered by a 3-to-1 margin on who believes that they have more opportunities available. ()

There was also another study that was documented about gender division in the workplace. The study was by a researcher by the name of Pratto, who was a psychologist. She realized that women make up the sum of pink-collar jobs such as secretary, and men make up most of the blue-collar jobs such as construction worker. These divisions are based on our society s power structure, with employees undermining women for having values that challenge a male-dominated system. Women are known for having values that try to fix the world, while men are out there, usually doing something to destroy it.

There are many consequences for individuals and the economy when it comes to equilibrium between the sexes in the work force. Although the terms of the workforce are gradually improving, the damage has already been done, which has only caused a strain on women s capabilities and self-esteem. A person can only be rejected for so long without it affecting them personally. There has been a strain on women s capabilities and self-esteem due to the constant degradation and manipulation in the labor force. The distribution of men and women strongly affects their psychological and economic rewards. (*)

Women today are expected to work what sociologists call the second shift besides their day job. The second shift includes the daily chores of being a mother, wife and maid. Men provide many barriers for women to cross, in order to move up in life. (26, 27)

Research interest on women and poverty has heightened over the last decade, as increasing numbers of women and children face economic disadvantages. By 1992, over 80% of individuals in poor families were women and children. Due to such conditions, sources have helped us understand the welfare dependency among women.

There is a direct ratio between the level of economic participation and the status of women. A woman s economic activity could bring her a measure of economic independence as an individual. Also, the overall pattern of women s participation in the labor force may indicate that a woman s work is not sufficient for economic development. (22, 23)

Gender inequality is caused by various elements, such as sexual harassment and discrimination, also the under utilization of women. Inequality has kept in place because of beliefs and practices that have been drilled into people s minds for so long. (*)

Although I have not personally experienced gender inequality in the work force, I never realized how much it was going on until I began researching this paper. It is a very frightening thought that we live in a world where the female gender is so cheated and taken for granted. After researching this topic, I became inspired to hopefully, one day, make even a small difference, in order for people to look beyond my gender and look at what I can contribute tot he work force.

Works Cited

1. Blau, Francis D., Marianne A. Ferber, and Anne E. Winkler. The Economics of Women, Men, and Work. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1998.

2. Safliios-Rothschild, Constantina. Toward a Sociology of Women. Toronto: Xerox College Publishing,


3. Women and Work: Exploring Race, Ethnicity, and Class. Ed. Elizabeth Higginbotham and Mary Romero. London: Sage Publications, 1997.

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5. Christiansen-Ruffman, Linda, Francine Descarries, and Mary Lynn Stewart. Women and Work: Feminist Research in Progress. Ottawa: Social Science Federation of Canada: Canadian research Institute for the Advancement of Women, 1993.

6. Sexual Stratification: A Cross Cultural View. Ed. Alice Schlegel. New York: Columbia University Press, 1977.

7. Sex Roles in Changing Society. Ed. Georgene H. Seward and Robert C. Williamson. New York: Random House, 1970.

8. Social Inequality: Comparative and Developmental Approaches. Ed. Gerald D. Berreman. New York: Academic Press, 1981.

9. Women, Employment, and Exculsion. Ed. Caroline Sweetman. UK: Oxfam Focus on Gender, 1996.

10. Miller, S.M. and Pamela Roby. The Future of Inequality. New York: Basic Book, Inc., 1970.

11. Roach Pierson, Ruth, Marjorie Griffin Cohen, Paula Bourne, and Philinda Masters. Canadian Women s Issues: Strong Voices. Toronto: James Lormier & Company, Publishers, 1993.

12. Feminist Issues: Race, Class, and Sexuality. Ed. Nancy Mandell. Ontario: Prentice Hall Allyn and Bacon Canada, 1998.










22.Human Development Report (1995) Chapter 2, Still an Unequal World and

Chapter 3, Measuring Gender Inequality

23. Economic Gender Inequality Indicators (1997)

24. Kane, Emily W. Men s and Women s Beliefs about Gender Inequality: Family ties, Dependance, and Agreement. New York: Plenum Press. Sociological-Forum, 1998, 13, 4, Dec., 611-637.

25. Peirce, John. Canadian Industrial Relations. Ontario: Prentice Hall Canada Inc., 2000.

26. Human Development Report (1995) Chapter 4, Valuing Women s Work .

27.Beneria, Loudres (1992). Accounting for Women s Work: The Progress of Two Decades. World Development. Pergamon Press. Vol. 20, No.11, 1547-1560.

28. Milkman, Ruth. A Dream Come True, Women s Review of Books.Oct. 1997, Vol. 15, Iss. 1, P4, 2p.


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