Gender Inequality Essay Research Paper Gender InequalityThe

Gender Inequality Essay, Research Paper Gender Inequality The issue of gender inequality is one which has been publicly reverberating through society for decades. The problem of inequality in

Gender Inequality Essay, Research Paper

Gender Inequality

The issue of gender inequality is one which has been publicly

reverberating through society for decades. The problem of inequality in

employment being one of the most pressing issues today. In order to examine

this situation one must try to get to the root of the problem and must

understand the sociological factors that cause women to have a much more

difficult time getting the same benefits, wages, and job opportunities as their

male counterparts. The society in which we live has been shaped historically by

males. The policy-makers have consistently been male and therefore it is not

surprising that our society reflects those biases which exist as a result of

this male-domination. It is important to examine all facets of this problem, but

in order to fully tackle the issue one must recognize that this inequality in

the workforce is rooted in what shapes future employees and employers–

education. This paper will examine the inequalities in policy, actual teaching

situations, admission to post-secondary institutions, hiring, and job benefits

and wages. It will also tackle what is being done to solve this problem and what

can be done to remedy the situation.

The late 1960s brought on the first real indication that feminist groups

were concerned with the education system in North America. The focus of these

feminist groups captured the attention of teachers, parents, and students. At

first the evidence for inequality in schooling was based on no more than

specific case studies and anecdotal references to support their claims but as

more people began to show concern for the situation, more conclusive research

was done to show that the claims of inequality were in fact valid and definitely

indicated a problem with the way that schools were educating the future adults

of society. One of the problems which became apparent was the fact that the

policy-makers set a curriculum which, as shown specifically through textbooks,

was sexist and for the most part still is.

Textbooks are one of the most important tools used in educating students

whether they are elementary school storybooks or university medical textbooks.

It is therefore no surprise that these books are some of the most crucial

information sources that a student has throughout their schooling. Many studies

have been done examining the contents of these books to reveal the amount of

sexism displayed in these educational tools. The results clearly show that

gender inequality definitely runs rampant in textbooks some of the sexism subtle

and some overt. To begin with, it is apparent that historical texts show a

distorted view of women by portraying them unfairly and inaccurately and

neglecting to mention important female figures, instead opting to describe their

sometimes less influential male counterparts. Elementary and secondary school

textbooks are also guilty of gender bias.

In elementary and secondary school textbooks, sexism takes many forms.

Boys predominate in stories for children; they outnumber girls 5 to 2. When

girls are present in texts, they are almost always younger than the boys they

are interacting with, which thus makes them foils for the boys’ greater

experience and knowledge– a situation commonly referred to as the ?ninny

sister syndrome.’ Girls are shown to be far more passive than are boys and to

engage in fewer activities. In fact, sometimes grown women are portrayed who

rely on small boys (often their young sons) to help them out of difficulty.

(Fishel and Pottker 1977. p. 8)

Surprisingly it is not only these hidden forms of sexism that appear in


One study found sixty-five stories that openly belittled girls (two were

found that belittled boys). Another study pointed out an instance where Mark, of

the Harper & Row ?Mark and Janet’ series, states: ?Just look at her. She is just

like a girl. She gives up.’ Male characters said, in another story, ?We much

prefer to work with men.’ This type of material on the treatment of girls would

seem to have little social or educational value, and its widespread use is

difficult to understand. (ibid, p.8)

In the long run, the ideas put in students heads through textbooks,

perhaps through the lack of female role models, can affect the choices they make

in the future with regards to employment.

Actual teaching situations are also prone to sexism. For the most part

teachers do not try to be sexist but, for sociological reasons, can not help it.

For the sake of this paper, it will be assumed that these situations occur

mostly in co-educational schools, but single sex schools are in no way immune to

the same problems. A perfect example of society’s male-dominance interfering in

education unintentionally is when teachers assign projects to their students.

The teachers may hand out lists of acceptable topics ranging, in a history class

for example, from fashion to transportation. The teachers then give the students

a choice as to which topic they would like to do the project on. The underlying

problem with this is that girls tend to choose what could be considered more

“feminine” topics while the boys will choose the more “masculine” ones. “Offered

to the pupils as free choice, such selections are self-perpetuating, leading to

the expected choices and amplifying any differences there may have been in

attitudes.” (Marland 1983, p. 152) The reason for this could be that society,

through the media and other modes of communication, has pre-conceived notions as

to what issues are “male”, “female”, or unisex.

Another example of how females are prone to gender inequality in the

classroom is during class discussion and also what the teacher decides to talk

about in the class. Classroom behaviour is a major focal point for those who

identify examples of inequality. There are many differences in the way that

females and males present themselves at school. It is apparent that in classroom

situations males talk more, interrupt more, they define the topic, and women

tend to support them. It is generally believed in our society that this is the

proper way to act in classroom situations, that males have it “right” and

females don’t, they are just “pushovers” and don’t have enough confidence. This,

however is a big assumption to make. Some research has been done in this field

that could, however, begin to refute this stereotype. It is frequently assumed

that males use language which is forceful confident and masterful (all values

which are regarded as positive). Females on the other hand, it is assumed, use

language that is more hesitant, qualified, and tentative. One can look at the

example of the use of tag questions, which are statements with questions tagged

onto the end such as “I’m going to the store, all right?” It is obvious that if

the above assumptions about the use of language were true, this hesitant, asking

for approval type of question would be more frequently used by women. “. . .

studies were carried out to determine whether women used more tag questions than

men. It was found that they did not. Betty Lou Dubois and Isabel Crouch (1975)

found that men used more tag questions than women.” (ibid p. 100) The end of

high school brings about more obstacles for women on the way to achieving

equality in the workplace. One of the most important steps in achieving a high

paying, high status job is post-secondary education. It is apparent that even

today women are being encouraged to follow certain educational paths. This is

shown very simply by the fact that even here at Queen’s University, men vastly

outnumber women as both students and faculty members in such programs as Applied

Science, while women greatly outnumber men in the programs of nursing and

concurrent education. Women have historically been encouraged to enter into what

could be considered “caring professions” such as nursing, teaching, and social

work. This is shown very crudely in the book Careers for Women in Canada which

was published in 1946 and written by a woman. The book devotes almost 200 pages

to pursuing careers in such fields as catering, sewing, being a secretary,

interior decorating, the arts, teaching, and nursing while it only allocates 30

pages to medicine, law, dentistry, engineering, optometry, and more combined.

The following quote clearly illustrates the beliefs of the more liberal people

of that time. “Some women have specialized in surgery. There can be no doubt but

that a capable woman may operate very successfully on women and children, though

it is doubtful whether a man would call in the services of a female surgeon

except in an emergency. (Carriere 1946, p. 234) Although much has improved since

the 1940s, the enrollment numbers in university programs clearly indicate that

women still have a long way to go before gender is not an issue. After choosing

a career path, women enter the workplace with a disadvantage. They have the same

financial responsibilities as men with regards to supporting families and

themselves and much of the time they have an even heavier burden because there

are many women in today’s society who are single mothers. Given that there is no

question that the need for money is identical it can, therefore, be concluded

that there is a major problem with the wage structure in today’s jobs. The wage

gap clearly shows that society as a whole puts more value on the work of males

than on the same work done by females. The facts that have been displayed above

showing that education is itself a sexist institution perhaps explain why there

is this inequality once schooling is finished. The fact that textbooks show

males as being more successful than females, that teachers set assignments which

reinforce gender stereotypes and sex roles, the fact that “masculine” behaviour

is reinforced while “feminine” behaviour is condemned, and the fact that women

are encouraged to choose certain career paths all validate the claim that the

gender inequality in employment situations can be directly related to the way

that children are educated.