0115 966 7955 Today's Opening Times 10:00 - 20:00 (BST)

Gender Differences in the Workforce

Disclaimer: This dissertation has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional dissertation writers. You can view samples of our professional work here.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

The contention that women’s roles in having a career results in the creation of a problem with regard to them achieving a balance between their work and lives finds its roots in the rights and equality issues women have faced throughout the ages. The subject is not a contemporary one, although this tends to be the common perception due to scant references to resources dating back centuries as a result of either suppression or the lack of relevant data in books. In fact, such information is available via research in many journals and letters.

The sources of the conception that a woman’s career somehow takes second precedence to being a wife, mother or homemaker are founded in a number of myths, prejudicial thinking, misguided notions and historical contexts that have fostered them as second class citizens. A large percentage of feminists believe that the status of women being regarded as second-class citizens is a result of patriarchy being the foundation that modern society was built upon and that this fostered thinking, attitudes and conceptions that relegated them to secondary roles instead of being regarded as equals.

The foregoing notion(s) shall be examined from a number of standpoints to clarify the unenlightened views held by some in this regard. The examination will not be conducted from a feminist point of view, nor shall it seek to explain prevailing views, it shall instead present the relevant facts which the conclusions shall be drawn from. The simple truth is that women have been balancing multiple roles through history and the insertion of the role of career can be equated to any number of functions that they have performed and accomplished.

Chapter 1 – Introduction

1.1 Background

In order to set the context for the discussion regarding the contention that women’s roles in having careers poses a problem in their achieving balance between work and life, the first salient fact that needs tube established is that women constitute 3,209,000,000 of the world’s total population estimate of 6,477,450,857 (Population Reference Bureau, 2006). This means that the under utilization of women represents a 50% reduction in the number of available individuals that can make a contribution in professional terms.

Chart 1 – Education Variables – Women
(Population Reference Bureau, 2006)
Demographic Variable Country Data
Women All Ages, 2005 World 3,209,000,000

All Educational Variables
Literacy Women as % of Literate
Men, Ages 15-24, 2000-04 World 92
Secondary School Enrolment, Female,
2000-03 (as % of school-age enrolment) World 93

As the preceding chart indicates, the slight difference in overall literacy rates does not put women at a disadvantage in terms of educational qualifications, yet their unemployment rate remains considerably higher proportionally. As shown from the following chart, women comprise approximately 40% of today’s work force yet their participation rates indicate bias (see Chart 3 – Male and Female Labour Force Participation Rates and the Gender Gap in Economically Active Females per 100 Males, 2003):

Chart 2 – Global Labour Market Indicators / 1993 and 2003
(International Labour Organization, 2004)
Female Male Total
1993 2003 1993 2003 1993 2003
Labour force (millions) 1,006 1,208 1,507 1,769 2,513 2,978
Employment (millions) 948 1,130 1,425 1,661 2,373 2,792
Unemployment (millions) 58.2 77.8 82.3 108.1 140.5 185.9

Labour force participation rate (%) 53.5 53.9 80.5 79.4 67.0 66.6
Employment-to-population ratio (%) 50.4 50.5 76.1 74.5 63.3 62.5
Unemployment rate (%) 5.8 6.4 5.5 6.1 5.6 6.2

Chart 3 – Male and Female Labour Force Participation Rates and the
Gender Gap in Economically Active Females per 100 Males, 2003
(International Labour Organization, 2004)
Male LFPR Female LFPR Gender Gap in
Economically Active
Females per 100 Males
World 79.4 53.9 68
Middle East and North Africa 76.8 28.2 36
South Asia 81.1 37.4 44
Latin America and the Caribbean 80.5 49.2 64
Industrialized Economies 70.3 50.5 76
Transition Economies 65.7 53.1 91
South-East Asia 82.9 60.5 75
Sub-Saharan Africa 85.3 63.2 77
East Asia 85.1 73.1 83

When wages are factored into the preceding figures, the picture of bias with respect to employed women takes on additional meaning.

Chart 4 – Percentage Change in Real Wages/Earnings,
Men and Women for Selected Occupations.
(International Labour Organization, 2004)

Accountant Computer First- Labourer Professional Welder
(in banking) programmer Level in nurse in metal
in education construction Manu-
insurance teacher factoring
Bahrain (1993-98) 16 1161 near near -7 131 36 24 1n.a.1 1n.a1 1n.a.1 1n.a1
(1996-2000) near near near near 100 35 307 323 near near near near
Cyprus (1990-2001) near near 44 60 23 12 49 37 26 9 near near
Finland (1990-1999) 67 96 44 66 -7 -4 1 8 -7 -6 -10 -1
Jordan (1988-1997) 29 20 -63 -51 25 13 near near -21 -17 near near
Korea, Republic of
(1990-2001) 91 46 94 73 29 60 115 37 71 229 46 49
(1998-2001) 4 -26 near near -14 -39 4 20 -19 -32 near near
Latvia (1997-2001) 39 31 561 142 82 45 36 18 60 33 1 26
Peru (1997-2001) 15 35 -13 -20 34 37 near near near near near near
Poland (1998-2001) 28 31 103 70 53 53 13 20 26 29 45 25
(1995-2001) 126 73 1 38 -7 -6 -19 -24 27 17 -22 -20
(1995-2000) -3 -24 24 43 near near 26 16 9 24 24 19
United Kingdom
(1996-2001) 16 19 near near near near near near 10 12 near near
United States
(1990-2000) 9 12 15 6 4 14 near near -2 10 near near

From the foregoing it appears that the problem with women’s roles in having a career is the problem that is perceived by others rather than women themselves. The preceding statement is made as a result of the purely statistical information which clearly shows that women want to work and have the basic educational background(s), however wages are a reflection of a perceived difference even when gauged against the same profession.

Therefore, there must be other forces, explanations, perceptions and aspects at work. In order to understand the environments outlined by the preceding, it will be necessary to delve into social, gender, historical, economic and other areas in order to develop an understanding of what is at work in even asking the question, as well as answering it. For if the preceding did not consist of underlying causes, then the need to examine the phenomenon would not exist.

The foregoing brings us to areas of examination that at first glance might seem disconnected from the context, but in reality are revealing looks into legislative, sociological, cultural, historical and aspects that aid in providing not just facts, but insight as a result of reviewing them in combination as statistical data and appropriate legislation are a result of changing societal views. But legislation alone cannot cause individuals to evolve their views, and herein lies the problem as there are countless examples where the spirit of the law has been subjugated and artificial barriers created or utilized. The preceding are events, circumstances and outgrowths that are not the product of women’s careers being the problem, these are other forces at work making it a problem.

1.2 Historical Perspectives

Historically women have managed, just as males have, to multi task. The example of the working male who engages in sports, hunting, boating, wood working, and running multiple businesses does not raise the question as to whether they are neglecting or failing to provide their families with enough fathering time. This is a result of patriarchy which means in literal terms that males make the decisions as a result of them being the dominant aspect in political as well asocial affairs.

But, more importantly males own and run the corporations by and large, as well as are dominant in political, military and other manifestations of power. Therefore, whether one elects to think of society at large being patriarchal, it in fact is. Hence, the preceding fosters underlying, hidden and historical perceptions regarding the roles of men and women as established centuries ago.

Support for the preceding view can be traced back to Roman law during the period defined as Augustus to Justinian, as represented by27 B.C. to 527 A.D. A Roman woman was regarded as legally capable at the age of thirteen whereby she was permitted to draw up a will(Hacker, 2004). The foregoing however was bound by the condition that she could do so under supervision. Supervision was deemed to either bathe female’s father, male guardian of husband and their consent was essential in order for the will to be executed. The preceding stipulation of male consent remained as a condition over a Roman woman’s life regardless of her age. This condition was explained as being a result of their “… unsteadiness of character”, “ “the weakness of the sex”, and “ignorance of legal matters” (Hacker, 2004, p-3).

Evidence of subjugation can also be found in Church history. Canon law states that a wife must be submissive to her husband and that she could not cut off her hair under penalty of excommunication (Hecker,2004, p-9). And in the case of Joan of Arc, it was her breaking of the law stating that a woman who wore men’s garments was accursed, that was one of the charges that resulted in her being burned at the stake(Hacker, 2004, p-9). Similar examples can also be found in British law where under older common law a husband had the authority to “… correct and chastise his wife” (Hacker, 2004, p-11).

The preceding examples are a few of the historical foundations that patriarchy has been built upon and hence the underlying foundation from which the subject of woman’s career roles emanates.

Chapter 2 –Segregation in the Workplace

2.1 Segregation

Segregation in the workplace constitutes a phenomenon that is linked to sex discrimination, the glass ceiling, patriarchy and unequal wages in that it reinforces stereotyped views, attitudes and traditions. Resin (1984) states that work related sex segregation can be characterized in the following manner, the first is through norms that separate sexes into separate spheres, such as the predominance of females in domestic work and males in construction, and via functional separation whereby males and females do different work in the same work setting.

Segregation in the workplace is a further subtle reinforcement of inequality that slowly permeates the conscientiousness of both males and females into accepting this abnormality as being normal. A review of segregation in the workplace in terms of its manifestations shall be examined from a neutral stance in order to gauge perspectives from both sides of the equation. Such will be done from a factual information based perspective.

The subject of segregation in the workplace with regard to women is also termed as the ‘Glass Ceiling’. This phrase was developed in the United States during the 1970’s to describe artificial and invisible barriers that were and are created as a result of organizational and attitudinal prejudices that serve to prevent women from assuming top positions in the workplace (Wirth, 2001). As the most visible and publicized example of discrimination and the segregation of women in the work place, the exclusion of females from top positions within corporations is clearly evident by the fact that they hold just 2 to 3 percent of the top positions.

Linda Wirth (2001) has stated that women have not reached top positions in major companies and that the foregoing has nothing to do with their lack of abilities. The International Labour Organization (Chart 5) indicates that around fifty percent (59%) of all women are positioned in occupations that cane be termed sex stereotyped. The preceding term is defined as meaning that approximately eighty present (89%) of the workers within these occupations are either males or females whereas management is primarily male dominated position.

Chart 5 – Women’s Share of Administrative – Managerial Positions and Their Share of Total Employment, 1994-1995
(Wirth, 2001, p 193)
Country Administrative and
Managerial Jobs
(%) Total

Australia 43 42
Austria 22 43
Chile 20 32
Costa Rica 23 30
Ecuador 28 38
Egypt 12 20
Finland 25 47
Israel 19 42
Japan 9 41
Malaysia 19 34
Mexico 20 32
Norway 32 46
Paraguay 23 41
Philippines 33 37
Sri Lanka 17 48
Switzerland 28 40
Turkey 10 30
United Kingdom 33 45
United States 43 46
Uruguay 28 41
Venezuela 23 33

The preceding is an example of how segregation in the workplace extends into wage inequality as well as job satisfaction in that there is a cap on the level of advancement which women can generally aspire to thus slowly dampening their drive and determination in the face of subtle hurdles. Given the predominance of male positioned managers, executives and directors only the most dedicated and brightest of females manage to reach top positions where they still remain underpaid and suffer forms of discrimination in a male dominated environment. The definitive example of work segregation is found in the manner in which men and women are paid for the same work. Chart 4, Percentage Change in Real Wages/Earnings, Men and Women for Selected Occupations, revealed that the fact there has been and is a percentage change in real wage earnings for men and women in selected occupations, means that there was wage disparity in the first place (International Labour Organization, 2004).

The idea of traditional occupations represents one of the most pervasive forms of segregation in work whereby males are thought to be either innately qualified or predisposed to work in certain industries. An example of the preceding is demonstrated by the findings of the Equal Opportunities Commission in Scotland based upon research conducted by Caledonian University in Glasgow. Said study found that there are barriers to younger adults pursuing certain career choices and that these include the negative feedback and or attitudes of family, friends and more particularly employers (BBC News, 2005). Said study pointed to the fact that there were just forty-one female apprentices in the entire country that were actively engaged in pursuing a construction career., and only fifty in engineering (BBCNews, 2005). On the opposite side of the coin the same study revealed that just 15 males were pursuing careers as apprentices in childcare. The report concluded that the barriers concerning the recruitment of males for that occupation were the low pay and attitudes of end users regarding the suitability of males in such roles (BBC News, 2005).

2.2 Gender Segregation

Gender segregation represents a real issue that is neither subtle nor hidden, yet defies the concept of discrimination in that it prevents females from assuming careers that tend to fall outside of what is either considered feminine or represent male dominated areas whereby their attempt at entry will be greeted with barriers. The conception that there are traditional roles for men and women is countermanded byte fact that fully one-third of Finnish and American entrepreneurs are women, as just one singular example (International Labour Office,2004).

The concept of segregation in the workplace has many differing forms and varieties, but it is what it is, segregation. And that fosters the climate that continues the attitudinal as well as prejudicial underpinnings that contribute to the view of woman’s careers as being predisposed to a certain limited sphere as well as inequality. Pascale differences, the conception that certain careers are better suited to women, the disproportionate skew of males in managerial positions as well as the predominate concentrations of females in certain professions and industries reinforce this environment to the detriment of all.

Chapter 3 - Attitudes Toward Women at Work

As pointed out in Chapter 3 – Segregation in the Workplace, certain predefined ideas and conceptions provide the basis that fosters and continues the notion that varied occupations are better suited to women or men. This thinking helps to create an attitudinal atmosphere that reinforces itself in spite of there being proof to the contrary. Evening what we like to think of as our modern and progressive societies of the new millennium, much of the same limited and outdated thinking that existed prior to the 1940’s is still with us, and in spite of all of the legislation, feminist movements and understanding of equal rights, progress in terms of changing or evolving people’s minds has been slowing coming.

The aforementioned ‘glass ceiling’ atmosphere is a pervasive climate that permeates throughout the work environment. Its visual manifestations in terms of the male dominated professions and management positions are consistent reminders of the way things are, as well as the way things were. Thus, an examination of attitudes concerning women at work is linked to segregation in the workplace as well as other concepts as they are inexorably tied to one another. The most disturbing examples of attitudes with regard to women at work arise discrimination and sexual harassment, both outgrowths of segregation in the workplace.

3.1 Looking Under the Surface

Oddly, the Allies would most likely not have won World War I without women. Not because they were nurses, functioned as telephone operators or were basically secretaries to generals and prime ministers, but because they welded tanks, made munitions, drove tractor-trailers, operated heavy machinery and performed all manner of traditionally male jobs (Wikipedia, 2005).

With such a breakthrough in thinking as well as demonstration of female aptitude one would wonders to why the questions of discrimination, work place segregation and unequal pay scales are still with us, yet they are. Once again, the roots of such odd thinking can be traced back to patriarchy, which comes from ancient Greece whereby patria < pater, which means fatherland archer, which is defined as ruler, clarifies its origins(ladyoftheearth.com, 2005). The word represents an important aspect of understanding the habitual attitudes toward women at work, even in the face of the historic work contributions of World War II that should have changed perceptions.

Thus the ramifications of continued second class citizenship with regard to participation in the work force must be explained by ingrained societal foundations, and this is the rationale for the examination of the word patriarchy. Given its foundation of ruler, archer, the platform for at least a partial explanation of the struggle women still face in the workplace seems to have a basis. The foregoing when combined with the ‘glass ceiling’ effect and unequal wage scales brings forth the fact that there is de facto sex discrimination, and these practices create the view that sees women as secondary, or less important workers and individuals. Article 20 of the European Charter of Fundamental Rights, which was enacted in 2000, states that everyone is equal in terms of the law and Article 21 of that legislation states(Silver, 2003):

“Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited”

The European Charter of Fundamental Rights goes on to add in Article23 that it is understood that it recognizes equality between men and women as being (Silver, 2003):

“… in all areas, including employment, work and pay, without preventing measures providing for specific advantages in favour of thunder-represented sex”

The language as well as intent leaves no room for misinterpretation with regard to the stance of the European Union and thus the obligations of all member nations. The problem with the foregoing is that it had to be legislated rather than being a part of the social fabric. And, as it is with all regulations, laws and legislation, penalties form the basis for compliance where common sense and morality do not prevail. Once again, the ingrained thinking of centuries of cultural and traditional foundations of patriarchal societies is at work slowing the process.

And while there has been and is progress in terms of the opportunities open to women, these areas pale in comparison to the overall number taken as a whole. The International Labour Organization (2003) found that while women represent forty present (40%) of the labour force, their proportion of managerial positions is fewer than twenty present (20%). Its studies also uncovered that the higher the management position, the less women are represented. The latest figures on top corporate positions found that women constituted just a 2 to 3 present representation (International Labour Organization, 2003, p-5).

The preceding, while limited to managerial considerations, is clear indication of the prevailing attitude in the workplace regarding careers involving women. It points to the ‘glass ceiling’ effect and the fact that within the structures as well as processes of society and organizations that there is inherent discrimination that transcends legislation through the application of slow and frustrating practices.

The correlation of attitudes in the workplace is best exemplified through what is and has transpired as a result of historical employment patterns. Developed economies such as the United Kingdom and Switzerland report that slightly over ten present (10%) and twelve present (12%), respectively, of executives in these countries were women as of 1999 (International Labour Organization, 2003, p-6). And while there have been increases in the level of managerial positions held by women, the overall percentage increase has been in the range of1 through 3 present.

3.2 Statistical Evidence

Statistical evidence has been utilized to illustrate that the workplace attitudes concerning women has been and is slow to change. In the United Kingdom a survey conducted by the Equal Opportunities Commission(2006) indicated that while females have been outperforming males in education and that they statistically outnumber males in institutions of higher learning, they represent just:

- nine present (9%) of the senior judiciary,
- ten present (10%) of senior police officers, and
- thirteen present (13%) of national newspaper editors

The overall consensus reached by the survey is that there has been little progress or change since the Equal Opportunity Commission first published its findings in 2004. The lack of any meaningful progress in women achieving managerial positions has been utilized as a bell weather to gauge attitudes and indicates that social, cultural and economic variables, as well as wage scales, that are clear indicators with respect to the fact that the workplace attitudes concerning women still sees them in secondary rather than equal roles.

Chapter 4 - Legislation Concerning Gender and Employment

The European Union passed the Equal Pay Act in 1970, which marked its first legislation on discrimination. Society was different in that period than it is now and in some ways it remains the same. The gender divide is still present and research has shown that there is little difference in a reduction of the wage gap. The fact that the European Union has been diligent in its understanding and approach to the facets of inequality, discrimination in all forms, equal pay, employment equality, sexual harassment, and sex discrimination means that there are other factors inhibiting the objective of attaining improvements in these areas.

In order to understand what has transpired in terms of society and legislation, a comparative examination of the 30 year period that represents the enactment of the Equal Pay Act of 1970 and today shall attempt to identify the factors inhibiting progress in the achievement of the aims of legislation designed to eliminate the aforementioned inequities.

4.1 Equal Pay Act of 1970 (Equal Opportunity Commission, 2005)

The Act makes it unlawful for employers to discriminate in the workplace between males and females with regard to their rate of payment when they are engaged in the same as well as similar work, work that is rated as being equivalent and or work that is of equal value. The key provision is that the Act refers to comparisons for the preceding between individuals of the opposite sex.

When the Act was passed in 1970 the wage gap between males and females stood as thirty-seven present (37%) (Woman and Equality, 2006). By the time the Act became law in 1975 the wage gap had reduced to thirty present(30%), and presently it stands at seventeen present (17%) (Equal Opportunity Commission, 2005). The Act provides both men as well as women to equal payment in terms of the contract for employment and provides for coverage for piecework, quotas, bonuses, sick leave and holidays.

Enhancements to the Act under European Law have extended the range of coverage to redundancy payments, concessions for travel, pensions handled by employers and to occupational benefits under pension plans administered by employers. The Equal Pay Act was the first as well as most important piece of legislation in that it immediately addressed the issue of compensation that covered every male and female within the jurisdiction of the European Union. And while being a landmark piece of legislation in terms of seeking to level the playing field for women, the Act also contains provisions that provide employers with a defence concerning pay differences.

It states that employers do not have to pay the same wages as well as benefits for equal work if they can effectively prove that the difference on wages is a factor unrelated toe difference in sex. It also provides for the fact that differing geographic locations might serve as grounds, as well as specialized recruitment for particular positions and the requirement or need to retain workers that perform or occupy particular positions.

4.2 Equal Treatment in Employment and Occupation (International Labour
Organization, 2006)

As referred to as ‘gender equality’ Directive 76/207, which was amended by Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 of the European Commission Treaty, it sets forth the foundations and regulations concerning equal treatment in terms of:

1. access to employment
2. self-employment and occupation,
3. working conditions, and
4. vocational training

The framework that the Directive set down terms and conditions that identified discrimination on the basis of:

- religion or belief, and
- age or sexual orientation,

with regard to employment as well as occupation, thus putting into effect in the European Union states principles of equal treatment as long as the preceding does is not as a result of discrimination based upon sex, which is legislated under the Sex Discrimination Act. And while this piece of legislation is not directly linked to considerations based upon sexual orientation, it does represent a broad context that broadens the scope of the European Union’s legislative powers in these areas and as such constitutes a supporting role in the specific mandates that affect women.

As covered under Chapter 3 -Attitudes Toward Women at Work, societal, traditions and cultural foundations help to shape individual as well as corporate thinking. As such the attack on prejudice needs to take a direct frontal approach as well as from angles to centralize and focus in on the problem or unequal treatment as a concept, condition and principle.

Sex Discrimination Act, as amended, of 1976 (Equal Opportunity Commission, 2002)

The Act provides for the fact that individuals must have legal protection with regard to harassment and sexual harassment in employment as well as vocational training. The Act defines harassments:

“… where unwanted conduct related to the sex of a person occurs with the purpose of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment”. (Equal Opportunity Commission, 2002)

And in terms of the Act, sexual harassment is defined as:

“… where any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of sexual nature occurs…” (Equal Opportunity Commission, 2002)

The preceding refers to when the foregoing violates the dignity of an individual when in particular such creates a hostile, degrading, offensive and or humiliating environment. In the United Kingdom the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 is the singular statute dealing specifically with this subject. It makes it a criminal offence for someone to engage in or pursue a course of conduct, this includes speech, which amounts to the harassment of another individual. Under the UK Harassment Act, harassment is defined as:

“… a course of conduct which amounts to harassment of another, and which he knows or ought to have known amounts to the harassment of another” (Equal Opportunity Commission, 2002)

The laws of the European Union clearly set forth the conditions, circumstances and legal ramifications of equal pay, sex discrimination, harassment and gender equality in its position to create compliance with modern societal thinking and correctness. The heart of the principle is that a law is:

1. A rule of conduct or procedure established by custom, agreement or authority.
a. The body of rules and principles governing affairs…
b. The condition of social order and justice created by adherence to such a system …
4. A piece of enacted legislation ...” (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)

The preceding provides the explanation as to why such legislation is needed. And while there is great debate on the subject, the purpose of government is to protect individual rights and to preserve justice(Wikipedia, 2006). And as it is with any societal system, the prevailing view as well as wisdom changes as thinking evolves. The underlying foundations upon which western societies are primarily built upon are patriarchal and religious precepts.

As discussed in Chapter 1– Introduction, the rights of women were scant and subject to the subjugation of males under Roman law, the church and ancient as well as medieval laws. Since legislation for Equal Pay was only enacted in 1970in the European Union it seems to indicate that medieval principles were still at work in our modern age and apparently still at work in that equal pay, attitudes toward women at work and enacted legislation has made progress, but still represents a prime topic of discussion thirty years later.

Chapter 5 - The Differences Between Men and Women

The biological and social constructions of men and women are known to have scientific basis with respect to differences. The notion that we are all created equal is a truth of the human experience, but within that equality, men and women differ in many aspects. The question in the context of women and their career roles with respect to a work and life balance is, does that difference equate some type of advantage, disadvantage or no applicable correlation with regard to that context?

5.1 The Perception of Differences

A recent scientific discovery indicated that there are 789 different genes that separate men from women (BBC News, 2003), but the study could not detail what they do or the reasons as to what the differences that these genes might hold. And the foregoing represents the point. There are both differences as well as similarities between the sexes that are identified as a result of psychological differences that are attributable not only to chemical and physiological make up, but stereotyping, upbringing, cultural expectations, role models, and use of the language as well.

Halperin (1990) approaches the differences between men and women by believing that gender is more like race, and the point of mentioning the approach is that his reference was made in the context of medieval Europe where conceptions regarding the differences between men and women were customs of stereotyping in that women nurtured, cooked, did sewing, made clothes and duties related to home making. Assumptions along similar lines were made by Bell (1985)in that because women are biologically different than men, that food is important to them while it is not to men and that the two must live different lives as a result of their differences.

These outdated modes of thinking have been the grounds upon which the present day male superiority undertones have been built. Thomas Laqueur (1989) social constructionist research of gender and sex suggests a model comprised of a one-sex variation in which the female version is an inferior one of the male. It must be noted that the idea that women comprised a separate sex was not existent until around the18th century.

Interestingly, there were no vocabulary terms for females organs as there was no conception regarding a distinct female body. The conception of actual differences in female and male bodies did not appear until the late eighteenth century. The social constructionist theory’s primary virtue is that it encourages that questions be asked. A gender theory that approaches the issue as a social construct permits the historian to view differing ways of oppressive social interaction from a varied set of perspectives.

5.2 Understanding Gender

In approaching the subject of gender, be it biological or social, it is necessary to define the historical contexts of both males as well as females, and then examine how these views came into being. The one subversion of the differences between men and women also influenced writing and social interaction which has become a part of our cultural inheritance. The root of the theory of one sex is that men and women were not biological opposites, but simply a differing version of unisex (Laqueur, 1989).

These views concerning the biological and social constructions of men and women still influence society today in that the works of prior periods, from ancient history through medieval times, in that these underlying conceptions regarding sexual misconceptions collared, influenced and distorted perceptions, thinking and thus customs, traditions and laws. With the theory of female inferiority established in the one sex construct the strength of patriarchy was unchallenged.

In today’s terms gender is the biological differences in the male and female reproductive systems. It is on this basis of hormonal and anatomical differences that determine sexual orientation. Equally important in understanding the differences between sexes are the varied as well as complex social characteristics attributed to various cultures as they evolved out of ancient and medieval thinking and misconceptions.

In part, some of these misconceptions remain engrained in traditions and customs and these differences are at times justified, rightly or wrongly, by reference to biology (Women’s HealthOrganization, 2005). Moore (1988) states that in spite of the diversity of societies they are all divided along what is termed the ‘fault line of gender’. The foregoing means that men and women are defined as being different types if individuals and that each have their own opportunities, responsibilities and roles.

This type of thinking fosters the typical stereotyping which results in having to legislate equal employment, opportunity and wage laws as it defined that there are those things which are naturally male, which is the public, work and political sectors, and those things which are naturally female, which represent the private sector of family, household and related areas. As an outgrowth of this women in most societies are seen as having the responsibility to oversee or perform domestic tasks, the care of children, the sick and elderly, whereas the make roles are seen as having the responsibility for support of the family.

Herein lies the conflicts brought about by centuries of historical misconceptions regarding male and female as sexes, and thus the defining of roles. The late 1950’s and 1960’s saw the heightened entrance of women into the work force and the dual working parent phenomenon. This resulted in a change in work force thinking as working moms were now bringing home pay checks as well. The traditional role syndrome now needed re-examination as the household chores, parenting and related areas needed to be divided among the adult whose time and schedule permitted it.

Taking the kids to school might better be accomplished by dad as he was headed in that direction and might be leaving early enough where this was the sensible option. Whereas mom might be better suited to conducting the banking since it was near her job. The dual working parent household did more to shakeup the traditional role syndrome than any other phenomenon and thus brings us to where we are today, examining the aspect if women’s roles in having careers creates a problem in terms of the work/life balance.

The traditional constructs around which society has been based for centuries is now seeing women earning wages alongside males in many cases for the same work, driving and buying their own vehicles, houses, opening businesses and taking companies public. Thus, the idea of the weaker sex, and that men and women live different lives no longer had or has validity.

Chapter 6 - Do Women Want this Balance Between Work and Life?

The financial independence which resulted from working moms and then their daughters and one parent households headed primarily by females has shaken the foundations of the patriarch notion and created ripples in the traditional, cultural and customary roles assigned to females. With the foundation crumbling the question of what women want and do they desire equality became new issues for examination. With entirely new rules to a social phenomenon which were based upon misguided animal functioning precepts, the fabric of traditional roles within society has and is undergoing a metamorphosis. Thus the question as to whether women want a balance.

6.1 What do Women Really Want?

In examining this question, one needs to retrace some covered grounding the form of gender equality as well as revisiting the differences between men and women. The core of the question addresses the concept of women attempting to achieve a work and life balance based upon what has been identified as roles which were defined under the precepts of patriarchy and the church as well as customs and traditions which grew from these foundations. Customs and traditions as well as daughters seeing their mothers in varied roles has been a primary influence and guiding factor in the continuance of customary female roles, along with societal expectations as brought about through peer pressure and varied media imagery.

The realities of ever increasing costs for necessities, the desire for a better life, the increasing realization among women that past traditional roles are lacking in substance as evidenced byte sufferings of their counterparts in failed marriages or households with high levels of stress is forcing women to re-examine their relationship to society and society’s relationship with them.

Unreality women want the same things as men, they just go about it differently (Chatter, 1996). Men want more pay, promotions, a better car, house, clothes, vacations, schooling for their children, assuming they are married, money in the bank, savings for retirement and the expectation of living to an old age comfortably. While there are more items that could be added or subtracted from the preceding list, it is the one that will be utilized for this example. Conceivably this same list could apply to any female as well, and that is exactly the point, women want essentially the same things as men!

6.2 The Struggle for Equality

The traditional fabric of individual societies is being impacted byte effects of globalization, instant communication and informational channels such as the Internet, and increased international competition. These developments have served to cause governments, companies and individuals to respond to increased demands for heightened productivity which correspondingly brings with it the demands of a more educated and motivated workforce. Women’s groups have lobbied and fought for concessions, laws and legislation to address inequities that have become traditional customs in the workplace and are building upon the legacy of pioneers such as Mary Wollstonecraft (1792) whose ‘Vindication of the Rights of Women’ stated that women need to acquire strength in their thinking as well as body to accomplish objectives in the manner that males do.

The list of progressive females who argued for equality includes such unknowns as Barbara Leigh Smith (Wojyczak,2005) who campaigned for the reform of laws regarding the rights of females during the early 1800’s, and whose research on laws in the United Kingdom helped to revise the content of law in that country resulting in a bill that provided protection for married women. The most publicized feminist of the modern era and the one that is generally credited with galvanizing the women’s movement is Betty Freidan (1963) whose book “The Feminine Mystique” set forth challenges to women regarding their way of thinking and how they had come to accept traditional roles.

The entire direction and focus of individual women through the ages, and the seemingly large groundswell of females seeking better paying careers and more opportunities is not a phenomenon that happened last night, it has been building for centuries and is now at its zenith. Want women want is to have a fulfilling life that offers them all of the rewards and challenges that males enjoy, and the opportunity to succeed or fail based upon having an equal chance to do so. In terms of the achievement of a balance between their life and career goals, it seems that women are still working on what constitutes a balance, and what ingredients are a part of this equation.

The answers to that question are as varied as the females involved, but the direction is established and the prospect of a reversal in women’s thinking or desires to have what life offers is unlikely as the sun not rising in the east. An illustration of if women want the balance can be found in Chart 6, which draws comparisons over a thirty year period that are related to the enactment of the Equal Pay Act of 1970 utilizing the United Kingdom as the subject country.

Least there be any doubt regarding the fact if women want to achieve balance, then the following statistics on varied categories indicates that the work aspect of the duality (life/work) is moving ahead full steam. It would seem that women are seeking this balance otherwise the increases in the work side of the equation would not be so dramatic.

Chart 6 – Comparisons Related to the Enactment of the Equal Pay Act of 1970
(Equal Opportunity Commission, 2005)

Topic 1970 2000’s
Education –
School Examinations In England and Wales for 1975, 24% of boys and girls
Achieved five of more A-C Grade GCE ‘O’ levels or CSE grade 1 before leaving school In England for 2004 59% of 16 year old girls achieved 5 or more GCSE A+-C grades compared against 49% for boys.
In Wales the figures were 58% for 16 year old girls and 46% for 16 year old boys who attained 5 or more A+ - C grades
Further Education In 1970 in the UK there were 1 million males furthering their education as compared against 725,000 females In2002/3 59% of students in this category were females, totalling 2.8million as compared to 1.9 million for males.
Higher Education
(University, HE Colleges, etc.) In 1970/71 there were twice as many males as there were females in higher education at 416,000 for males and 205,000 for females, thus accounting for 67% of the total being male. In 2003/04 the numbers of HE students was four times higher than the early 1970’s with 1.4 million female students versus 1.1 million males representing 57% of the total being females

Employment Rates In 1975 six out of ten women between the ages of 16-59were employed compared with none out of ten men aged 16-64 In 2005seven out of ten women between the ages of 16-59 were employed, as compared with eight out of ten men between the ages of 16-64

Number of People Employed In 1975 15.1 million men between the ages of16-64 were employed and 9.1 million women between the ages of 16-59 In2005 the number of men employed in the designated age groups were 15.1million, and women in the indicated age groups increased to 12.5 million

Employment rates of women with dependent children In 1973 47% of women with dependent children were employed and 25% with pre-schoolchildren In 2004 66% of women with dependent children were employed and52% of women with pre-school aged children

Number of Hours per Week Worked by Women In 1975 the average work week for males was 43.0 hours and for women the average was 37.4 hours per week with women working part time averaging 21.4 hours In 2005 the average work week for males on a full time basis was 40.6, with women recording 37.4 and women’s part time average totalling 18.7 per week as compared with 18.1 for men

Full Time and Part Time Employment In 1973 3/5 this of working women were employed full time with ¾ of part time women employed who had children 0-4 In 2004 56% of women worked full time with 65% of women with children 0-4 working part time

Self Employed In 1978 21% of women were self-employed representing459,000 jobs and men held 1.75 million self-employed positions In 2005the number of self employed women increased to 28% to 1,076,000 jobs, with self-employed men recorded 2.75 million jobs

Pay Gap In 1975 the gender full time pay gap was 29% with the part time gender pay gap at 42% In 2005 the full time gender pay gap was 17.1%with the part time gender pay gap at 38.4%
Top Management In 1974 1.8% of managers were women and 0.6% serving as Directors In 2005 33.1% of managers are women and 14.4% serve as Directors
Lawyers In 1975 7% of solicitors were women and 6% were practicing certificate holders In 2005 42% of solicitors were women and 41% were practicing certificate holders

Chapter 7 - The Stay at Home Father

The changing nature of today’s societal outlook on working women and the roles of males and females has taken a dramatic shift in terms of the work/life balance on the female as well as male sides. The question if the shifting roles of females is affecting, upsetting or changing the traditional life/work balance in their own equation also has ramifications for males as well. And within this equation the secondary question is how are males coping with the changes which seem to be evident?

7.1 The Changing Construct of the Parenting

The findings as indicated in Chart 6, Comparisons Related to the Enactment of the Equal Pay Act of 1970, revealed the significant tendencies and advancements that women have made over a thirty year period. And as one half of the marriage equation, as well as approximately one half of the global population equation, anything affecting the females in their quarter also affects other quarters as well.

The most dramatic of these is the relationship within the family structure as it pertains to childcare. With either both parents or, the female working, traditional roles have been modified as marriage partners seek to strike a balance in their lives. The changing outlooks and attitudes in marriage have seen a dramatic shift in the relationship between males, females and the family unit. Chart 7illustrates that today men account for one-third of all parenting time. This is in sharp contrast to the quarter of an hour they spend in this area during the early 1970’s.

Chart 7 – Amount of Time Spent on Childcare
(Equal Opportunity Commission, 2005)
Topic 1970 2000’s
Amount of time
spent on childcare Since the 1970’s the trend in this area has
Indicated an upward swing with the skew
Particularly dramatic for fathers with
Children under five who in the mid 1970’s
Devoted less than a quarter of an hour
Per day to child related activities In sharp contrast to two hours per day in the late 1990’s the current time spent by fathers accounts for1/3rd of all parental childcare time

And as noteworthy as the preceding is, it is just the tip of the role changing shifts taking place in the home. A survey conducted by Pregnancy and Birth magazine which interviewed 2000 pregnant females and their other side revealed the following (BBC News, 2003):

- 1/3 of expectant fathers indicated that they would prefer to remain at home and look after their children
- 1/3indicated that if finances permitted that they would shift to part-timework to allow them to spend time at home with the children
- 98% of expectant fathers stated they want to be in the delivery room, this is in contrast to males traditionally waiting outside in the corridors
- 9 out of 10 males accompany their partner to scans and check-ups
- slightly more than 50% attend antenatal classes

The survey that reveals the tendencies of males in the United Kingdom’s not an isolated event. Father world Magazine revealed the following significant findings concerning male parental care on a global scale(fathers direct, 2005):

- Pygmy males average 47% of total parental care
- Swedish males average 45% of total parental care
- British males average 33% of total parental care
- Globally, males average between 25% to 33% of total parental care

The shifting roles of females in spending more time at work pursuing careers or simply joining the work force has definitely changed the home relationship balance in terms of parental care. Their absence means that the other half of the partnership needs to fill in for the absent mother. The indicated surveys conducted in the United Kingdom as well as on a global basis illustrate that males are devoting more time to fatherhood and that the prospect is one that appeals to their sensibilities. The idea of traditional roles has undergone an evolution as well as revolution as couples seek to maximize their time in balancing work and life requirements. The concept of Mar. Mom is no longer a humorous movie, but an increasing everyday prospect that finds men willing to take up the task.

Chapter 8 - Current Maternity and Paternity Regulations

The enactment of laws to provide women with legislation to ensure equal treatment in the workplace with regard to wages, harassment, opportunities, benefits and representation also includes provisions for maternity as well as paternity. Measures in this regard protect workingwomen so that child bearing does not represent a condition that would deny them equal treatment and opportunities in employment.

The provisions under maternity and paternity regulations represent an enlightened approach to society’s understanding, support and the need to protect individuals from potential detrimental treatment as a result of maternity and thus shall be examined as to their context within the realms of them being contributory elements.

8.1 Maternity and Paternity Legislation

Within the European Union, the methodology for the calculation of maternity leave benefits is the week in which the child is expected tube born (Eurolawline, 2006). For purposes of calculation, the week is deemed to begin on Sundays. Thus, for example, if the baby is expected to be born on a Friday, the 6th of November in 2003, the expected confinement week is calculated as beginning on the 2nd of November in 2003. The 15th week before the confinement is thus calculated as the qualifying week. The EU regulation regarding maternity leave provides for a period of 26 weeks, with stipulations that women who have worked with the same employer for a period of 26 weeks before the qualifying week able to take added maternity leave (Eurolawline, 2006).

Therefore female that qualifies for additional maternity leave may have a total of 52 weeks which is unpaid unless she has entitlement pay arrangements covering maternity. Males qualify for a two week period of paternity leave in conjunction with the expected delivery date of a child and in the United Kingdom women as well as males under the Statutory Paternity Pay and Adoption Pay statute qualify for weekly paternity and adoption rates of pay (Department of Trade and Industry, 2004).

The enactment of maternity and paternity legislation has been result of the dramatic increase in female employment rates on a global basis. As a result more females spend a greater proportion of their lives in compensated employment thereby creating the potential for discrimination not only for equal pay and other rights but for leaves related to maternity. Maternity regulation reflect the increased importance that women make in the workforce when contrasted to the years prior to 1950. Since the 1950 global employment participation on the part of women has increased from fifty-four present (54%) to sixty-six present (66%) in 1990 (International Labour Organization,1999).

Projected increases in this rate indicate an expected rise to an approximated seventy present (70%) by the year 2010 (International Labour Organization, 1999). Taking into account female labour market participation rate increases solely in developed countries, the rate increases are even more dramatic as they are projected to rise to in excess of eighty present (80%) by the year 2010 (International Labour Organization, 1999).

The enactment of maternity leave legislation still does not eliminate the bias that women in the workplace feel or are subjected toes a result of varied forms of subtle discrimination. The complexities of today’s modern office culture create a difficult circumstantial environment for expectant women who are competing with males, as well as other women. Increased competitiveness means more qualifications, longer hours, travel and other aspects for positions with more responsibility and the commensurate pay (BBC News, 2001).

Globally, maternity and paternity legislation has become a trend in terms of labour laws and rights. The protection of women’s rights to return to their jobs after childbirth is being increasingly recognized as a right in today’s labour market. It represents another step forwarding progressive thinking and evolution of society’s, government’s and business understanding of the continuity of their intertwined environment and responsibility to ensure that all members of the workforce are properly protected, utilized and provided with the basic rights needed to enable females as well as males to contribute their best efforts in a workplace that gives, as well as takes.

Chapter 9 - Themes, Concepts and Theories

Past, present and developing theories on biological and social constructs with respect to the differences between men and women, along with conceptual approaches to issues and problems that need addressing in the workplace are an on-going process as governments and authorities seek to strike an equitable balance between employees and employers in today’s global environment. The consistent theme voiced throughout this examination has been society’s need to not only understand the duality of the sexes, but their interdependence, development and evolving roles in a complex social and working environment.

A review of the theme presented throughout this examination represents a look at the impact women have had and are having within the workplace as a critical component in terms of their contributions and participation in arriving at a balanced life and work equation. The preceding brings forth varied concepts relating to their rights, underlying subtle discriminatory practices and the disparity of compensation. Women’s place in society has been based upon an historical hodgepodge of theories relating to their biological and social construction that has contributed to customs, traditions and cultural understandings that require a more modern and progressive view with respect to the viability of their premise.

9.1 Correlating the Theme, Concepts and Theories as a Context

Today’s generation of females has evolved as a result of the experiences and processes that preceded them, and as experienced by their mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers and so forth. The foregoing, when combined with the highly social nature of female interaction and conversation has created an environment whereby what they saw and were taught, as well as heard and experienced represents compendium of information and societal relationships that has and is undergoing change.

The foregoing is simply a process that is an aspect of the lives of all individuals, male or female, as they seek to fit into, understand and prosper in today’s society. What transpired in the past has distinct bearing upon the present and can as well as does in some ways affect the future. The increased costs of living and desire to provide a better lifestyle for themselves as well as their children is a desire that is also a component in men, however, traditional roles have added a dimension to their seeking careers as such impacts upon male / female roles and the perceived balance that seemingly is threatened.

Thought of as nurturers, home makers, and mothers, women are thought to have to see to their societal role responsibilities in seeking careers. This wheel of the car of the family approach suggests that the construct of home life will destruct and or decay if women fail to keep this balance maintained.

The foregoing work/life question presumes that the indicated traditional concepts regarding the roles of women are valid. Since society is built upon historical traditions and customs that evolve as thinking becomes increasing progressive, the preceding assumptions area factor that are considerations which women probably address in varied degrees depending upon their backgrounds, educational and income status.

The question of traditional roles and their importance tend tube a higher consideration in lower income levels where the economic opportunities as well as historical experiences of a women’s parental relationship example, along with those of her friends and associates would more than likely help to shape her views. This is in contrast to an upper income group whereby the female in the family might hold a lawyer or doctorate degree, have a history of her mother and grandmother having either professions or businesses and growing up in asocial circle where such practice is customary. The relativity of women’s environment and experiences are important elements in determining the respective importance in the equation of what constitutes a work/life balance.

Traditional concepts as to women’s roles as home makers, nurturers and primary care givers is rooted in patriarchy underpinnings from ancient civilizations based upon misguided views of the sexes. The unisex social construction as put forth in Laqueur’s (1989) explanations have influenced views and conceptions that still impact society today.

And while there are distinctly biological differences in terms of hormonal and anatomical aspects, the theories relating to how the differences between men and women think, approach concepts, equations and views of the world are still undergoing transitional development. The evolutionary nature of the foregoing means that reliance upon current understandings and past viewpoints are still subject to revision in light of new discoveries about ourselves as human beings.

The question of how women’s roles in pursuing careers results in the creation of a problem with respect to the work/life balance is an issue that seems to be in transition as society grapples with rights, workplace involvement, and economic pressures that have created the two parent working household and women’s rights to employment and opportunity equality. As enlightened governmental leadership continues to listen to and respond to developments as posed by the foregoing, the issues and problems associated with the preceding will evolve.

Chapter 10 – Conclusions

The transitional ramifications posed by the increased participation of women in the workforce is a manifestation of economic realities, self-determination and independence in keeping with the impact of globalization, communications and the availability of information as posed by technological innovations such as the Internet. The societal impact of this increased workforce participation has caused governments to enact legislation that provides a fair and equitable platform of opportunity for equal participation through equal pay, the elimination of discrimination, and the criminalization of harassment.

The subtle limitation placed upon female advancement as demonstrated by the glass ceiling is an example of how workplace atmospheres circumvent equal opportunity and pay scale legislations and demonstrates the extent to which women are the subject of varied limitations in spite of laws and regulations to the contrary. Segregation within the workplace represents a pervasive example as illustrated by the percentage of females in managerial positions when compared against their total employment participation.

Chart 5 – Women’s Share of Administrative – Managerial Positions and
Their Share of Total Employment, 1994-1995
(Wirth, 2001, p 193)
Country Administrative and
Managerial Jobs
(%) Total

Australia 43 42
Austria 22 43
Chile 20 32
Costa Rica 23 30
Ecuador 28 38
Egypt 12 20
Finland 25 47
Israel 19 42
Japan 9 41
Malaysia 19 34
Mexico 20 32
Norway 32 46
Paraguay 23 41
Philippines 33 37
Sri Lanka 17 48
Switzerland 28 40
Turkey 10 30
United Kingdom 33 45
United States 43 46
Uruguay 28 41
Venezuela 23 33

Attitudes fostered by a view of women as inferior or second to men have been an historical component manifested in the perception of their roles as home makers and lacking the ambition, drive and cognitive skills required to succeed in the demanding world of business. This has been countermanded by the increased educational achievements females have demonstrated since 1970.

Chart 8 – Female Educational Achievements In the United Kingdom
(Data compiled from Chart 6 - Comparisons Related to the
Enactment of the Equal Pay Act of 1970
(Equal Opportunity Commission, 2005)

Topic 1970 2000’s
Education –
School Examinations In England and Wales for 1975, 24% of boys and girls
Achieved five of more A-C Grade GCE ‘O’ levels or CSE grade 1 before leaving school In England for 2004 59% of 16 year old girls achieved 5 or A+-C grades compared against 49% for boys.
In Wales the figures were 58% for 16 y

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.

Request Removal

If you are the original writer of this dissertation and no longer wish to have the dissertation published on the UK Essays website then please click on the link below to request removal:

More from UK Essays

Get help with your dissertation
Find out more
Build Time: 0.0069 Seconds