Employment And Gender Equity Sociology Essay

4180 words (17 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 Sociology Reference this

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Introduction:

Although there is a significant progress that has been achieved to gender equality in the labor market over recent decades and women are moving steadily into occupations that have been reserved for men and have managed to overcome the institutional discrimination that prevents them from certain jobs that hinders their career development, but there are many obstacles remain and rooted in the way that the work itself is organized or in the challenges that face women who try to reconcile work and family commitments or for cultural and religious reasons that have social / cultural and anthropological aspects. Women are still concentrated in the most unsteady forms of work and still far reaching from getting equal working opportunities, facing the phenomenon of glass ceiling which hinders them to get into high positions. Women worldwide have achieved higher levels of education than ever before and represent more than 35% of the global workforce in 2007 [1] .

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The majority of top management positions in almost all countries are primarily held by men while female managers are holding lower management positions with less authority than men. It is something goes beyond just sex differences. Although women in general may be less emphasis on career success than men, but there are considerable huge number of professional women seeking top management positions and are unable to get them. Women seeking top managerial positions levels face large amount of challenges and may require different skills to be successful in the work place than their male counterparts. The causes are varies depending upon the size of the organization, level of management, and requisite job duties.

Gender mainstreaming has been defined [2] as “a process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programs, in any area and at all levels. It is a strategy for making the concerns and experiences of women as well as of men an integral part of the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of policies and programs in all political, economic and societal spheres, so that women and men benefit equally, and inequality is not perpetuated. The ultimate goal of mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality”. Gender mainstreaming is a synthesizing concept that addresses the well being of women and men. It is a strategy that is central to the interests of the whole community. Although men and women are entering the labor force in equal numbers and qualifications, but the majority of top management positions still belong to men, and women share of management positions remains unacceptably low.

Perception of Gender Roles:

In 1960s-1970s, liberation movement has helped in changing the public perception of traditional gender roles. The introduction of the Equal Employment Organization, Affirmative Action, and Discrimination Laws helped shape public awareness. Although economic roles between men and women have become more similar over time, sex differences are still prevalent and tensions still exist in the workplace. In the United States in 2003, the most significant difference between men and women in the workforce is between Hispanic men and women 76% to 56% and the lowest difference is between black men and women (only 6% difference) [3] . There is a huge amount of theories explaining why sex differences exist, but most can be categorized in supporting either a nature or nurture theory. Those that support biological factors argue that people behave as they do because they are biologically male or female. Those that support the nurture approach view social-environmental factors as influencing behavior and believe that biological sex has very little to do with how people behave.

What comprise sex discrimination?

Article 11 of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), states that “appropriate measures should be taken to eliminate discrimination against women in the field of employment in order to ensure, on the basis of equality of men and women”. The US Civil Right Act of 1964 provides strong protections against sex discrimination [4] . In modern societies, skilled women have the power, right and ability to compete with every field engaged with men including, employment, athletics, academics and politics without sex discrimination. Unfortunately, there is a fundamental nature all around the world to keep women’s salaries lower and opportunities fewer in the employment realm. Less common, men too can be subjected to unlawful sex discrimination regardless the shape and form it takes. Unequal pay and discriminatory job standards on the basis of sex discrimination are prohibited by law. Unequal treatment on the basis of sex is the core of sex discrimination. Separate rest rooms, does not constitute sex discrimination, but it is sex discrimination to provide different working conditions, salaries, hiring, promotion or bonus criteria to women and men. Everyone, men and women has the right to secure and perform their jobs free of unwanted demands for romantic or sexual relationships, or unwanted communications or behaviors of a sexual nature that interfere with their ability to work.

Another form of unlawful discrimination is the workplace harassment. It is not enough for employers to offer his women and men employee equal pay and opportunities; they must also remedy any sexual harassment situations that are known such as:

Harassment of lower-tier employees by a manager or executive of lower position.

Sexual harassment among coworkers. Harassment involves unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.

Make sexual conduct a condition or term of employment, to base employment decisions on such conduct, or to permit sexual conduct that unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance or creates an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.

Offensive or rude comments, unwanted touching, displays of sexual objects or photographs, or offensive cartoons or drawings may constitute sexual harassment when they interfere with an individual’s work performance.

Is there a real limitation on women employment capabilities?

The role of men and women in the society is clearly segregated. This division of role is part of division of labor. Unfortunately the nature of division of labor between men and women became too firm and continued to persist when it was no longer appropriate. The initial division of labor between men and women was primarily influenced by the child bearing role of women and their lower average of their physical strength. These differences in characteristics have not changed and the importance in division of labor becomes marginal.

The most important requirements for most important jobs are mental capacities that both men and women have. With changing technologies and social structure, women are not tied down to the home to the same extent for performing their child bearing role. Changes in economic structure and culture have greatly reduced the importance and need for domestic duties. Therefore, most of the jobs today can be equally carried out quite well by men or women. For some jobs, it can be performed better by women because of their thin fingers and other jobs can be carried out better by men for it require heavy or physical manual labor.

Women continued to encounter obstacles in first getting employment and advancing in jobs although of the change in the reality that women become equal to men. These obstacles can be referred to two main reasons.

Women were not encouraged to acquire the education and skills that are needed to do many jobs.

There was a cultural resistance in certain societies against women carrying out many of the jobs performed by men. This resistance came not only from men, but from women too, describing them as unladylike.

Women employment situation today has considerably improved and these obstacles are no longer serious enough to be a significant barrier for women with a little determination. Ascendancy of so many women across the world occupying senior most position in government and business, including as prime ministers of countries and chief Executives officers of large corporation is a testimony to this fact.

The Glass Ceiling and its Causes

Although women are entering the labor force in large scale, but they cannot reach top managerial level positions that oppressed by men. About 70 percent of women and 57 percent of men believe that an invisible barrier, the “glass ceiling” (a term coined in 1986 by the Wall Street Journal), prevents women from advancing to top positions [5] .

There are varied causes of the glass ceiling. Some refer the causes to self-imposed by some women for choosing for example to work fewer hours than men in order to spend more time with their families. Women measure their success in the workplace differently than men while men tend to measure success by high salaries and important job titles whereas women place a higher value on their relationships with colleagues and community service. Others refer the glass ceiling cause in organizations to the good old boy network when deciding who to promote in these organizations, women are often not even considered.

The majority of employees in any companies or organizations have a life outside the office. These companies or organizations that are called family friendly organizations recognize this fact and introduce to their employees options such as flex-time, onsite child care, employee-assistance programs, and telecommuting to allow them to have a better chance to accommodate and balancing their home and work lives. But the problem lies in fact that some employees have no children, no family obligations and do not want to work in a family-friendly organization dislike their organization offering services that do not apply to them.

To determining what employees want in the work place is to determine how people define career success. Men and women use different types of measures when determining what makes a career successful. Men focus on earnings, promotional opportunities and success while women focus on positive interpersonal relationships and feelings [6] . There are also difference between men and women in their career gaps. Women not like the men in regards that they are more likely to take a leave of absence and work a part-time job. Organizations need to adopt a culture that will allow them to stay competitive but also allows their employees to maintain a balance with their lives outside of the office. Employees should take advantage of work-family programs offered but women may feel reluctant to take advantage of these programs as they feel it may lessen their chance for success within the company.

Extensive travel is another issue that women must face when considering executive jobs within an organization. Women have to find a solution on how to balance and accommodate family and work life and deal with doing business in countries like Saudi Arabia as an example that might not be as receptive to women in top positions. Although that video and teleconferencing has given companies as well as managers on the top of the company’s hierarchy the ability to offer alternatives to extensive travel but they will not replace face to face meetings for relationship building and contract negotiations.

Great efforts were made by women to knock on the glass ceiling but have not quite broken through it yet. It is true in high business companies where women represent less than 10% of executive positions [7] while they were represent almost 50% of worldwide workforce. This concludes discrimination due to hiring practices. Women will continue to push towards breaking the boundaries of their employment discrimination until companies recognize the value in securing a diverse work force. The glass ceiling may not be shattered for some time, but there are more holes in it than ever before.

Gender Inequality in the Economy

Around 200 million women worldwide have managed to find jobs in the last decade. In 2007, working women were 1.2 billion and men 1.8 billion but still the number of unemployed women increased from70.2 to 81.6 million [8] . If equitable and sustainable progress is to be achieved, women’s status must be improved, their rights must be respected, and their contributions must be recognized.

Women freedom has improved and has more power than before. However, they are still disadvantaged not receiving the full rights compared to men in virtually all aspects of life. Women, in developing countries in particular, often lack the education and skills necessary to gain employment in more lucrative sectors. The reasons can be summarized to the following categories:

Capacity:

Girls likely are less than boys enrolled in primary school and less likely to attend irregularly or not at all. If gender gap exists in primary school, it widens dramatically when it comes to secondary and higher education.

Girls and women are vastly overrepresented among the world’s illiterate. Women are less likely to receive professional or vocational training once employed, significantly limiting their chances at promotion and success.

 Even when resources are made available to women in the form of microcredit and help with starting small businesses, business management practices are not generally taught.  Most women-owned microenterprises do not experience growth beyond subsistence level.

Access to Resources

Women have not much access to resources necessary to start and grow businesses.

Divorce, inheritance, and land laws often discriminate against women and girls, robbing them of valuable capital and property. Without capital, women are often unable to obtain credit, an absolute necessity of business transactions.  

Decision-Making

Women often lack of ability to act as their own agents of change and improvement.

Women are often underrepresented in positions of power and influence, and are less likely to be able to effectively pursue and protect their interests.  

Women lack accessibility to informal channels of power and influence.

Household Responsibilities

Women are generally responsible for the majority of unpaid work associated with care of the home, children, and the elderly.

Household responsibilities thus take away from the time women have to spend in paid employment, whether full-time or part-time.  This reduces female earning power and economic status.

Norms and Stereotypes

Even when laws prevent official employment discrimination, the participation of women in a diverse range of jobs, gender inequality may still result from cultural norms, stereotypes, and traditions.

Economic activity cannot be separated from the socio-cultural context occurred from families to communities.  Values, norms and attitudes shape both hiring and job-seeking; choices are made by men and women alike that serve to economically marginalize many women. Muslim women are not permitted to leave the house while western women strive to balance traditional motherhood with work.

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Policies to enhance gender mainstreaming at workplace:

Recruitment policies or processes should be the same, clearly written and phrases not to discriminate employee on the basis of race, color, national, ethnic origin, gender, religion, disability, etc… . Non discrimination policy encompasses the operation of any work programs or activities. The law is the authority that protects anyone from being directly or indirectly discriminated [9] . Direct discrimination would include treating somebody differently and less favorably than others on the bases of gender, indirect discrimination that would include rules and working regulations within the workplace that advantages males against females or vice versa.

Anny Human Resource Manager in any organization, recruitment process usually has three stages: Announcement or advertising, selection criteria and interview, and appointment. Before creating recruitment policy, a considerable and well thought -out approach is needed rather than trying to tackle issue on an ad hoc basis. Employers should take in consideration the following recruitment principles before formulation a recruitment policy:

To be objective in identifying necessary skills and qualifications of the post candidate that will be able handle the job.

Avoid any discriminatory language or implications

Remain open-minded.

In the announcement stage, it is unlawful to publish any advert that might be understood or hold an intention of discrimination against applicants from a particular racial group or sex. Gender neutral language must be selected and used. If the post title denotes a specific gender, it is necessary to state that application will be welcome from either sex. No graphics, style or expression indicate tendency to recruit a specific gender or race. It is of paramount importance to encourage applications from all categories of the community through including an equal opportunities statement within a job advert. Sex and race are not the only areas of discrimination, but disability, religion, belief, sexual orientation, marital status and age are grounds on which a person may not be discriminated against during the recruitment process.

Selection criteria and interview should be related to the requirement of the post. Employers must be clear, precise and objective in their selection. No assumption as to stereotypical requirements for the job. Because of job criteria requires physical strength, it does not mean to exclude female candidates from the selection process. Employer should consider individual wish to work on part-time basis if he or she could undertake the required job. A covered refusal will negatively affect one gender and might raise complaint for indirect sex discrimination. If the selection process falls down on the basis of gut- feeling selection, more than one person carries out the interview to ensure that discrimination do not affect the selection process.

In the appointment process, some employers use system of points to remove subjectivity from the process. Job is not necessary to be offered to individual with highest points but if it is offered to who did not score higher points is discrimination with no satisfactory explanation. No legal obligation to tell applicants why they have been unsuccessful, but many employers committed to equal opportunities which enable them to explain to the candidates why they were not selected. This approach will reduce the likelihood of a claim for discrimination being made and demonstrate the objectivity and openness used in the appointment process.

Gender equality promotes the equal participation of women and men in decisions making. Supporting gender equality can reduce the gap between women’s and men’s access to and control of resources and the benefits of development are still out of reach for most women worldwide. Women continue to have fewer rights, lower education and health status, less income, and less access to resources and decision-making than men. Nevertheless, women’s critical roles in food production, income generation, and management of natural resources, community organization and domestic responsibilities are essential for sustainable development.

Gender Mainstreaming and Development effectiveness

In the new conceptualization of poverty reduction, access to livelihood resources, capabilities building, security against vulnerability and equality of gender have come to be viewed as one integral process of the national plans of macroeconomic and social policies to promote growth and reduce poverty [10] . Scholars have identified the following dimensions of poverty [11] + [12] :

Lack of access to labor markets and employment opportunities and productive resources.

Lack of access to capabilities and public services as education and health.

Vulnerability to economic risks and to public and domestic violence, as well as constraints on mobility.

Lack of representation/empowerment, being without voice and without power at the household, community and national/international levels

Gender mainstreaming introduced changes that were community sanctioned and supported, precisely because they provided identifiable and visible benefits for the house hold and communities such as: improved health status, expand primary school enrollment or both girls and boys, increased harmony in households and community , greater integration of children into community life etc.. Gender mainstreaming has integrated women more fully into communities in ways that enhanced their status. Instead of withdrawal from the house hold and separation from the community, gender main streaming increased women’s opportunity, collaboration and contribution to the family and to larger community.

Hence, gender mainstreaming quietly challenged long held cultural traditions and practices that ruined individual and community progress. Moreover, embedded in gender mainstreaming is a flexibility that enabled individual and communities to embrace the process at their own level of comfort and need. It dealt a direct blow to poverty, leaving in its wake a change that was desired, positive, purposeful, community driven and sustainable. Gender mainstreaming encouraged total involvement of all and became the driving force for development effectiveness.

Conclusion:

Since the start of the women’s movement, changes in social acceptance of gender equality have been primarily due to changing perceptions among women and men themselves. Gender concept must be truly understood to be promoted effectively. It is neither an easy nor a straight forward process. It requires efforts to reduce gender inequities, whether they favor men or women. A true understanding to gender approach would eliminate gender gap, on the basis that no gender inequality is good either for individuals or the society as a whole. Gender interventions should not stop at gender equality; it should promote positive synergies that will act throughout the social system as generators of development. Gender equality should be seen within a dynamic system of relations embedded in a development process that seeks to empower its actors.

The spread and enforcement of equal opportunity laws have lessened institutional discrimination and add considerable impact on the awareness of populations. Working women have become characterized by more continuous labor force participation. Women have entered many of the professions previously reserved for men, and their earnings have become an essential part of household income. They enjoined the choice for being independent earning that allowed them decide send their children, especially girl children to school. Women’s economic empowerment emerged as key gender mainstreaming benefit and opened opportunities for women’s participation in community development activities, with potential for their emergence as positive force in local and national politics.

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