Gender Differences in the Workforce
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Published: Tue, 20 Feb 2018
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
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
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
F M F M F M F M F M F M
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
(1996-2001) 16 19 near near near near near near 10 12 near near
(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
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
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
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 differen
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