Gender & Disadvantage at Work
(i) What are the particular experiences of and challenges facing women (compared to men) working in male-dominated occupations or industries?
(ii) What can we expect for the future of women in male-dominated occupations or industries?
(iii) How are the experiences of women manifested, and responded to, in your workplace?
(iv) In light of the implications for ethics or sustainability of developments gender equity, in society in general or in your own workplace in particular, should anything be done about it?
In the 19th century, women were underpaid, had poor employment conditions and had continuous docking of wages. (Peetz, 2019). Now, since then, women have made a huge progress towards their representation in the workplace. (Socratous, 2018, p.167). This is due to the business world being increasingly competitive, organizations now cannot afford to miss out on the contributions of talented women. (Chang, & Milkman, 2019, p.5). This report distinguishes experiences of and challenges facing women in male-dominated work, the expectations for the future of women in male-dominated work, the experiences of women manifested, and responded to, in the workplace and what should be done in light of the implications for ethics or sustainability of developments gender equity, in society, in general or in the workplace. My main focus on females in the male-dominated workplaces include the mining industry (the workplace – Glencore), and other male-dominated industries.
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The labour market segmentation refers to female-dominated and male-dominated workplaces, is critical in understanding the situation of women. (Peetz, 2015, p. 353). Only 5.5% of all women work in male dominated occupations. (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2018, as cited Avendaño, 2018). Women who work in male-dominated occupations face different challenges to those whom work in more gender-balanced and female-dominated occupations. (Martin, & Barnard, 2013, p. 1).
The impact of the domestic sphere on the value of work varies according to segmentation. (Peetz, 2015, p.353). Because of segregation however, women can be disadvantaged in male-dominated networks, due to the access of the high-level men, which significantly is related to women’s career advancement and influence within the organization. (Timberlake, 2005;2012, p. 41). Kanter described women in minority skewed groups, as tokens, “individuals who belong to a social category that constitutes less than 15% of the entire group.” (McDonald, Toussaint, & Schweiger, 2004, p. 401-402). Kanter also identified issues in relation to women as a token group and other aspects including high visibility, polarisation (the difference between tokens and dominants are exaggerated), the token group and assimilation of women into ‘traditional’ female roles, which leads to ‘role entrapment’. (Peetz, 2019, p.150).
Women in male-dominated occupations, have high performance visibility, meaning that mistakes made are easily remembered. Leaving them to comment ‘she’s not up to it’ and ‘I said women can’t do this job’, whereas as men are easily forgotten, therefore women work harder to achieve recognition or promotions. (Kanter, 1977; Murray and Peetz, 2010, as cited Peetz, 2015). Discrimination in promotion and abuse are also some of the challenges faced by women in the labour force. (Forkuor, Buari, & Clifford Kwaku Agbenyo Aheto, 2019, p.2).
For the Future of Female jobs, they are less likely to become automated compared to men, according to Frey Osborne (as cited Peetz, 2019). Perhaps, an issue for women is what role they will have in the key jobs of the future when many of those jobs are male-dominated. (Peetz, 2019, p.153). As men dominate in managerial jobs, they dominate in jobs also relating to engineering, computing and Information and Communication Technology (ICT). (Peetz, 2019, p.153). However, segmentation is forecasted to decline in the future. (Peetz, 2019). Over the past two decades female share of employment has risen and the rising rates of female labour force participation indicates that female employment has grown faster than male’s employment. (Peetz, 2019, p.141). As recorded from 2017, the trend female participation rate climbed to a further historical high of 60.4 per cent. (Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2017). However, in Australia, the female share in the computer system design and services virtually halved between 1985 and 2015. (Peetz, 2019, p.153). Internationally, this is an employment area that is not welcoming of women, predominantly due to scandals and mistreatment or sexual harassment in some high-tech companies. (Peetz, 2019, p.153).
Kanter, found that women or other minorities need to represent more than the 15% of a work group to have any effect in the workplace. (Peetz, 2019, p.150). Eveline and Booth (2002) reflected this issue of women working in the male-dominated industry of mining. In the 1980s, the company sought to hire women in part for public relations reasons in the context of new anti-discrimination laws, and in part because women was thought, would ‘civilise’ the men. (Peetz, 2019, p.150). However, it was recorded that when Emsite joined the Voluntary Affirmative Action Program (‘a fair go for women’ program), women’s female employment fell from 14% in 1985, to just 4% in 2000. (Murray, & Peetz, 2010). This reflects what Kanter had said, that women have no capacity to have an effect with just a small percentage in the workplace.
From as early as the 19th century, “Governments, unions and male miners opposed any prospect of women working in mines.” (Murray & Peetz, 2010). Instead of supporting unequal wages for men and women, now, trade unions for example have been easing their underrepresentation of women. (Peetz, 2019). Women seem to gain more from union membership compared to men, as those with weaker labour market positions often have more gain from unionisation. (Peetz, 2019, p.143). Unionisation also appears positively linked to gender equity and lowering the gender pay gap as countries with higher rates of union density tend to have higher ratios of female to male earned income. (Peetz, 2019, p.143).
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Skills or capabilities of women in male-dominated workplaces, are continually questioned by men if women can do ‘a man’s job.’ (Peetz, 2015, p. 353). However, men expect tradeswomen to ‘do it like a man.’ (Denissen, 2010, p. 1059). A survival strategy commonly by women to fit in is to become ‘one of the boys’ (Wright, 2016), however it has limitations as explained by one miner in Murray & Peetz (2010) that “you make sure you know your limits” as “boys can take it too far.” (261-262). As there is only 16.3% females in the mining industry (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2019), accepting them hasn’t been easy for men see them for who they are, a woman. From experience at Glencore, many women, whom in working with, can sense the difference in their behavior and personality when around men, compared to talking to other women.
Australia has made significant progress towards gender equality in recent decades, however, women still continue to earn less and are less likely to advance in their careers as far as men. (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, n.d.). Women who enter male-typed occupations such as mining are usually regarded as incapable “intruders.” (Tallichet, 2000, p. 235). They find it difficult to become socially integrated because of men’s sexual harassment and hostility. (Tallichet, 2000, p. 235). Moreover, as women are excluded from these networks, the qualifications for their advancement tend to disadvantage them; a job-based sexual division of labour results. (Tallichet, 2000, p. 235).
In male-dominated areas, men are more likely to reward other men through promotions. (Kanter, 1977, as cited Peetz, 2015, p.353). This reflects the career barriers women face in relation to accessing promotions, or training necessary for career advancement, as supervisors expect women to perform poorly or leave to have children, which in-turn results in direct or indirect discrimination. (Peetz, 2015, p.354). Both men and women may experience harassment at work, but women are more likely, so forms of harassment experiences also vary by labour segmentation. (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2012, as cited Peetz, p. 354). For example, in male-dominated workplaces, harassment can include pin-ups or pornography magazines posted up in common areas, even when seven out of eight women objected (Eveline Booth, 2002). In mining industries today, from experience in the workplace, men still watch inappropriate things at work, disregarding that women/men/management walk by and see this, ignoring their feelings and other discrimination matters.
Ethics and sustainability relate to each other. Sustainability refers to economic activity that meets present needs without compromising the ability to meet future needs. (Peetz, 2019, p. 162). As ethics has different views to different people, it doesn’t lessen the importance of identifying ethical considerations in the workplace. (Peetz, 2019, p. 163). The concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) means that corporations have a degree of responsibility not only for the economic consequences of their activities, but also for the social and environmental implications. (Australian Human Rights Commission: Corporate social responsibility & human rights, 2008).
Australia has made progress over time with achieving gender equality, however at work, women continue to face a gender pay gap and other barriers, such as parental leave and flexibility arrangements to care for family. (Australian Human Rights Commission: About Sex Discrimination, 2019). Although mining companies view sexual harassment as a serious offence and treat it accordingly, it is evident that much more needs to be done to minimise and eliminate the occurrences of sexual harassment in the workplace. (Botha, 2016, p. 11). The Sex Discrimination Act 1984, Anti-Discrimination Act 1991, The Fair Work Act 2009, Equal Opportunity for Women and Equal Employment Opportunity are all examples of legislation that cover partially discrimination, harassment and bullying in the workplace. In the mines, organisational policies and practices, Enterprise Agreements and Awards are also important when dealing with workplace discrimination and harassment.
The term gender pay gap, refers to the proportionate difference in wages received by men and women (Peetz, 2015, p.345). Encouraging women to enter male occupations associated with higher earnings has been one strategy for reducing the persistent gender pay gap. (Women and Work Commission, 2006, as cited Wright, 2016). Currently, Australia’s national gender pay gap is 14.1%. (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2019). At November 2018, women’s average weekly ordinary full-time earnings across all industries and occupations was $1,455.80 compared to men’s average weekly ordinary full-time earnings of $1,695.60. (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2019). In Australia, there is a large gender pay gap, however it is more pronounced in the mining industry. (Mayes, & Pini, 2014). In the mining sector, the 2012 gender pay gap was recorded as 21.8%, ranging from 2.9% at the lower end of the salary scale to 32.3% at the upper end. (AusIMM, n.d, as cited Mayes, & Pini, 2014, p.531). The mining Company Glencore in the UK, for example, women paid hourly wages are 27.7% lower than men. (Glencore UK Ltd, 2017-18).
Employers play a key role in normalising the uptake of fathers/partners taking parental leave and flexible working arrangements to meet caring responsibilities. (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, n.d., p.11). One mine worker in Murray & Peetz, had to quit because child care became too hard with her first child and working seven-hour shifts (p.269). As female participation rising, mining companies are leading the way with flexible workplace arrangements and paid parental leave. (Minerals Council of Australia, 2018). More than 62% of mining companies also now offer paid maternity leave over an average period of 12.1 weeks. (Minerals Council of Australia, 2018). For example, in relation to closing the parental gender leave gap, countries such as Iceland, Sweden, Germany, Denmark and the United Kingdom, have parental leave policies that are flexible about when leave can be used, and have parental leave payments that are relatively high. (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, 2018). This way, parents both have more flexibility in how to care for their children but also supports women and men as both employees and carers. (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, n.d).
The purpose of this report was to explain being a woman, can be seen as already a disadvantage in male-dominated industries. Yes, women have come far since the 19th century, however it is still a long on-going process just for women to come this far, and still not being paid equally to men. “To be able to achieve this with gender equality in the workplace for both men and women, this requires:
- Workplaces to provide equal pay for work of equal or comparable value
- Removal of barriers to the full and equal participation of women in the workforce
- Access to all occupations and industries, including leadership roles, regardless of gender; and
- Elimination of discrimination on the basis of gender, particularly in relation to family and caring responsibilities.” (Workplace Gender Equality Agency, n.d.).
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