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Inequality Between Men And Women Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 5477 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Part of: Gender Inequality

Gender inequality means inequality between men and women in accessing the existing resources. In the view of Krammara Treicehr any kind of behavior, policy, languages, and other actions that represents a fixed, comprehensive, and institutionalized view in regard to women as inferior beings, means gender inequality. (1985:185). Therefore, gender inequality refers to the differences between men and women in receiving social and economic advantages which is often to the benfit of men at the expense of women, which means men take superiority over women.

Men and women experience the world of work quite differently. Wage disparities, occupational sex segregation, and gender differences in authority, for example, are well recognized (e.g., Padavic and Reskin 2002). Despite distinguished changes in work, meaningful differences in these areas remain persistent features of contemporary society (England 2006, 2010).

While there are certainly other factors at play, this paper focuses on discrimination in a variety forms, including in hiring (Gorman 2005; Goldin and Rouse 2000), promotions (Olson and Becker 1983), wages (Meitzen 1986), glass ceiling, and as well as sexual harassment (Welsh 1999).Of course, documenting the contemporary occurrence of gender discrimination in employment is only a first step. As Reskin (2000, 320) argues, “We need to move beyond demonstrating that employment discrimination exists, and investigate why it persists in work organizations.” We must look at processes that lead to unequal outcomes for women and men. The real challenge is to uncover how discrimination unfolds in actual work settings.

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1.2 Background

The issue of gender inequality can be considered as a universal feature of developing countries.One of the areas of disparity between males and females is related to the difference in their employment status which is present through occupational segregation, gender-based wage gaps, and women’s disproportionate representation in informal employment, unpaid work and higher unemployment rates (UNFPA, 2005). As women in developing countries have low status in the community, the activities they perform tend to be valued less; and women’s low status is also perpetuated through the low value placed on their activities (March et al., 1999).

In the case of Mauritius, even though there has been a rapid change in the society where women have reached a high level and hold status such as Judges, Directors, Engineers which were unconceivable to be the fields where women could emerged; there are still some occupation where women are entangled in the culture norms and could not take the lead. For example, there are some sectors such as Fire Men at the Fire Services where there are no female officers.

There are less women who work as Electrician, Plumber or even Carpenter, as these occupations do not allow women to perform well due to their physical strength. Besides there is no doubt that there are organisations which are gender biased. Most of the organisations are entirely rules by male managerial culture as when organisations were first performed; only males were in the paid workforce. 

Despite there has been an increased in the education field at all level and the increase of women in the workforce, there has been a minor change to the men dominated culture in the workplace where women are still treated as inferior agents. Our study focused on how gender inequality still has an impact on the Mauritian female within the workplace.

1.3 Problem statement of the study

An ultimate matter of social scientists has been why women continue to lag behind in men salary, promotion and authority. Gender inequalities in the labour market have received considerable attention by researchers over the past twenty years. Since the colonial period, Mauritius has been regarded as a patriarchy society with a high rate of marriage. Overwhelming evidence suggests that gender segregation exists in more occupational categories and the number of women segregation is greater than the number of male segregation.

Gender socialization is one of the factors responsible for the reinforcement of gender inequality since childhood. The society continues to transmit the traditional gender roles to the individual through the various agencies of socialization. Despite many Acts of discrimination, many workers are faced with sex discrimination which affect them.

Gaps in wages, organizational power and employment opportunities have narrowed somewhat but disparities remain. According to the gender statistics in 2011, it has been found that a lesser proportion of men in employment and for female activity rate it was 43.7% against 75.5% for men. Even though women are higher than men in terms of population, they are still at the disadvantage of the corporate ladder. Studies in Mauritius on the labour market have laid much emphasis on gender equality. Therefore, this study will shed light on the other side of the coin where gender within the workplace is ignored.

1.4 Aim of the study: The study aim to analyse gender inequality within the workplace of Mauritius.

1.5 Objectives of the study:

To find out how gender socialization process reinforces gender inequality.

To discuss the different components of gender segregation.

To analyse how sex discrimination affect workers.

To identify which gender is more prone towards inequality at the workplace.


2.1 Gender inequality and occupational segregation

Gender can be identified as set roles, and behaviour patterns that differentiate women from men in socially, culturally and relations of power (Women Information Centre, 2005). From Hirut (2004) standpoint, these roles, behaviour models and power relations are active and vary over time and between different cultural groups. Gender inequality is the inequity of opportunity, right, role, and access to and control over resources and is the outcome of socialization Almaz E (1991).

Occupational gender segregation continued from era to era and is apparent in lands of the globe (Grusky and England 2004; Moshe and Frank 1999; Preston 1999; Rosenfeld and Spenner 1992). Anker (1997) distinguished two main explanations for why occupational gender segregation should is a continuing concern: first, it is a major foundation of labor market inflexibility and economic incompetency. Second, it is detrimental to women in the sense that segregation brings about harmful views of both men and women as a result, affecting women’s status, income, education, skills (Anker 1997).

The important outcome related with occupational gender segregation is the segregation of the payment methods and the continual sex discrepancy in earnings with women on the inferior edge. The proportion of the gender wage gap is to 5 to 40 percent attached to workplace segregation is seemingly advanced than the amount by career break 15 percent and equivalent worth wage upgrading 5 percent (Hakim 1992; Preston 1999).

There are two types of segregation: horizontal segregation, which occurs when there is a concentration of women and men in a determined ¬elds and occupations, and produces disparity in terms of career, pension and vertical segregation, which take place when there is a focus of women and men in determined degrees and levels of responsibility or positions, and produces disparity on salaries.

2.2 An Overview of Gender Inequality in Developing Countries

The issue of gender inequality can be considered as a universal aspect of developing countries. Unlike women in developed countries who are, in relative terms, economically empowered and have a powerful voice that demands an audience and positive action, women in developing countries are generally silent and their voice has been stifled by economic and cultural factors.

Economic and cultural factors, together with institutional factors state the gender-based division of labour, rights, responsibilities, opportunities, and access to and control over resources. Education, literacy, access to media, employment, decision making, among other things, are some of the areas of gender disparity.

One of the areas of disparity between males and females is related to the difference in their employment status which is manifested by occupational segregation, gender-based wage gaps, and women’s unequal representation in informal employment, unpaid work and higher unemployment rates (UNFPA, 2005). As women in developing countries have low status in the community, the activities they perform tend to be valued less; and women’s low status is also perpetuated through the low value placed on their activities (March et al., 1999).

In-depth analysis of DHS by Hindin (2005) showed that only 17% of women in Zimbabwe, 12% in Zambia and 4% in Malawi have higher status job than their partners. The respective percentages of women whose partners have higher status jobs are 52, 43 and 53.

Women are also overrepresented in the informal sector. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 84% of women’s non-agricultural employment is informal compared to 63% of men’s. The figure is found to be 58% and 48% for women and men, respectively in Latin America (UNFPA, 2005). Studies generally show that women are more likely to be engaged in work which is for longer hours than men. For instance, in 18 of the 25 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, greater than 50% of women were employed and even in six of these countries the percentage of employed women was greater than 75% (Mukuria et al.,2005).

However, as most of the employed women work in agricultural and other activities which are mostly considered to be having limited or no financial returns, their employment does not contribute much to their status in the workplace. Thus, women in those countries are dependent on their partners in most aspects of their life. In spite of its importance in enabling women to get access to information about personal health behaviours and practices, household, and community, the percentage of women exposed to different types of media is limited in most developing countries.

Women’s limited access to education, employment opportunity, and media, attached with cultural factors, reduces their decision making power in the society in general and in a household in particular. Regarding their participation in decision making at national level, though the number of women in national parliaments has been increasing, no country in the world has yet achieved gender parity.

According to the millennium indicators data base of the United Nations, cited in the UNFPA (2005), the percentage of parliamentary seats held by women in 2005 was 16% at world level, 21% in developed countries, and 14% in developing countries. This low representation of women in national parliaments could be due, among others, to type of electoral systems in

different countries, women’s social and economic status, socio-cultural traditions and beliefs about women’s place in the family and society, and women’s double burden of work and family responsibilities (UNFPA, 2005).

Women are underrepresented in the formal sector of employment. The survey conducted by the Central Statistical Authority (CSA, 2004) showed that women account for less than half (43%) of the total employees in the country. Considering the percentage of female employees from the total number of employees by employment type, the highest was in domestic activities (78%) and followed by unpaid activities (59.3%). In other types of formal employment (e.g. government, NGOs, private organizations), the percentage of female workers is less than 35.

On the other hand, the survey showed overrepresentation of female workers in the informal sector. About 58% of working women work in the informal sector whereas the percentage of working men in the informal sector was 37.7 % (ibid).The breakdown of the federal government employees by occupational groups also indicated gender disparity. From federal government employees found in the clerical and fiscal type of jobs 71.3 % were female, while the percentage of females was slightly more than half (51%) in custodial and manual type of jobs.

Women make up 25% and 18% of the administrative and professional and scientific job categories, respectively, indicating that upper and middle level positions are overwhelmingly dominated by men (Federal Civil Service Commission, 2005). This concentration of women in the informal sector and low level positions has implication on their earnings. In this regard, the survey showed four out of ten women civil servants earn Birr 300 a month compared to two out of ten for men (Federal Civil Service Commission, 2005).Ethiopian women’s access to mass media is one of the lowest. In their DHS comparative report, Mukuria et al. (2005) show that, among 25 Sub-Saharan African countries,

2.3 Gender socialisation as a medium for encouraging gender inequality

Crespi (2003) see socialisation as a logical route with its objective is to construct gender personality. The gender socialization process is a further composition of socialization. It is how children of different sexes are socialized into their gender roles (Giddens, 1993, p. 165) and learn what is male or female character (Morris, 1988, p. 366). According to many sociologists, there exists difference between sex and gender. Sex is the biological classification and gender is the outcome of social construction of separate roles of males and females.

According to Lorber (2005), masculinity and femininity is not inborn that is children are taught these traits. As soon as a child is identified as being a male or female, everybody start treating him or her as such. Children learn to move in gendered ways through the support of his environment. As the child grows up, he develops his identity, know how to interact with others and learn the role to play in the society. There are many drivers involved in the socialization process which transmits the traditional gender role to the children and henceforth leading to occupational segregation later on.

One set of gender socialization occur between parents and the offspring. Parents are considered to be the primary agency in the process of socialization. They are inclined to interact with boys and girls in discrete styles. For example, a one year old baby is considered to have no sex difference however; parents are likely to act with boys and girls in dissimilar ways. They react to boys, when they seek interest by being aggressive and girls when they use gestures. As such interaction have long term effect on girls and boys communication styles, leading boys to more assertive styles and girls with more emotive styles in adulthood.

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Ann Oakley (1974), studies mention four central avenues in which socialization into femininity and masculinity roles occur. Firstly, apply diverse physical and verbal manipulations to the child. For example, dress up children according to their sex, girls in pink and boys in blue color clothes. Secondly, draw the child concentration towards gender-identified toys. This is known as canalization whereby, boys and girls are given certain toys, clothing and other objects often culturally identified more with one gender than the other. The games of the boys tend to advance physical interest whereas for the girls it leads to physical closeness and mother-child talk.

Thirdly, employ different verbal explanations to similar behavior. In professional careers, women might find that they might are identified with different standards for the same behavior, being called “assertive,” for example, for behavior at work that in men is admired for being “aggressive.” In childhood it is the same case, a boy is cheered for being “active,” where as a girl is reprimanded for being “too rough.” Or a girl is complimented for being “gentle,” but a boy is criticized for not being “competitive enough.”

Finally, encourage or discourages certain stereotypical gender-identified activities. For example, girls are asked to help mother with sewing, cooking, ironing, and the like. Boys are to help dad to do yard work, shovel snow, takeout the trash, and so on. The classification of girls with indoor domestic chores and boys with outdoor chores becomes training for stereotypical gender roles. According to Oakley (1974), the socialization route aid to the preservation of male domination and female subservience. The roles learn through the above process shape adult behaviour and hence, contribute to the reproduction of differences in behavior of males and females.

School is the agency where conscious socialization happens. The education system is the main part of gender socialisation process. Looking through books from the very beginning gender stereotypes is present and reinforced. The small kids see women being represented in pictures in their books as with babies in their hands or women in domestic chores or at the high end – women nurses, women teachers. At the same moment, men are usually soldiers, playing some prestigious physical games and leaders. These images often direct to further divisions between man and woman.

The hidden curriculum is known for reinforcing the traditional model of how girls and boys look and act through the use of course material. For example, teachers strengthen gender roles by encouraging boys and girls to develop different skills. According to Thorne (1993), children also split themselves along gender lines in the lunch room, declaring different space of the playground and often sanction individuals who go against gender roles.

The school location can be strong context for gender behaviors. For example, the cafeteria is a strong context where boys and girls separate tables if given choice. Likewise, on the playground, boy and girl groups take over spaces. The children of Different World project found that in societies where all the boys and girls go to school together, identical gender interaction was very high during free play, thereby follow-on in more gender segregation than was generally found in homes and neighborhoods (Whiting & Edwards, 1988).

Generally the mass media are one of the most influential instruments of gender socialization because television, magazines, radio, newspapers, video games, movies, and the Internet are present in almost everywhere around the globe. As a social institution, the mass media reinforce traditional gender roles. Magazines pointing towards females bring light to the importance of physical appearance as well as finding, pleasing, and keeping a man. While boys’ and men’s magazines focus on significance of physical appearance, financial success, competitive hobbies, and attracting women for sexual encounter.

These supposed ”masculine” and ”feminine” characteristics and behaviors are reinforced across the media system, from video games and movies that show athletic heroes rescuing thin and busty damsels in distress, to television programs that depict women as housewives, nurses, and secretaries and men as lawyers, doctors, and corporate tycoons.

Print media also play an important role in socialization. In children’s literature, for example, boys typically are the protagonists, who use strength and intelligence to overcome an obstacle. Girls are included in stories as being naturally passive followers of the male leader or helper’s eager to support the male protagonist in his plan. This state of affairs is undergoing change, however. An increasing number of television shows, movies and books have crafted new visions of masculinity and femininity. It remains to be seen if these images take hold and affect gender socialization processes.

2.4 Theories of gender inequality

Theories explaining the existence of occupational segregation by gender can be categorized into three broad groups: the neoclassical and human capital theories, institutional and labour market segmentation theories, and non-economic and feminist (or gender) theories.

2.4.1 The neoclassical human capital model

Neoclassical economics believes that workers and employers are normal and that labour markets function efficiently (Anker, 1997). The neoclassical economic view explains occupational segregation between individuals or groups by different human capital investment, or by different choices in the tradeoff between pecuniary and non pecuniary job rewards. According to the human capital theory, men are paid more than women because men usually have more human capital. The term human capital refers to qualities of individuals that employers consider useful, like level of education and years of experience. Females are considered to have a lesser experience than males due to careers break up in effect of motherhood.

Some economists who support this theory put forward that women’s are not dedicated towards their jobs and hence, they have to undergo through a series of difficulties. For example, they have less chance to have a permanent job, be promoted to superior and better paid occupation. In this model, wage gender inequality is maintained because men collect more human capital in the competitive free market. Opponent of this theory like Witz (1993) contends that even when female work constantly with no professional rupture, they still terminate in inferior and poor-grade employments.

2.4.2 Institutional and labour market segmentation theories

The initial point of Institutional and labour market segmentation theories is the notion that institutions, such as unions and large enterprises, join in determining who is employed, fired and promoted, and how much employees are paid. Institutional theories are also based on the belief that labour markets are divisional in certain ways. The famous institutional theory is the dual labour market approach.

Dual labour market theory was initially employed by Barron R.D. and Norris G.M. (1976). From their viewpoint, there are two labour markets. The primary labour market consists of high wage, job security and better chance for promotion. The secondary labour market includes lower paid occupation with little job security and poor working condition. According to this theory, women earn less than men because they are disproportionately employed in secondary labour market. Dual labour market is the outcome of the strategies used by company boss to get hold to the varieties of workforce they necessitate Barron and Norris (1976). Companies are ready to propose superior rewards to retain primary sector workers.

It is somewhat a short step to become accustomed to the model of dual labour markets to occupational segregation by gender, with one labour market segment consisting in “female” professions and the other in “male” occupations. This segmentation entails moderately low wage rates in “female” occupations because many women workers are “overcrowded” into a small number of “female” occupations. On the other side of the coin, “male” occupations, benefit from reduced competition within a broad set of occupations and, consequently, tend to enjoy relatively high wage rates. If females, but not males, are crowded into low earnings jobs only due to discrimination, then the gender composition of a job becomes an index of labour quality for males and, to a small degree, for females (Hansen and Wahlberg 2000).

Veronica Beechey in 1986, identified some limitations of this theory, firstly, certain women in blue-collar employment are given low salary even if their occupation is alike to primary area males employment. In addition, this model cannot clarify the reasons why women are less promoted than men, even when employment in same occupation.

2.4.3 Gender theories

The central image of the gender theories is that women’s disadvantaged status in the labour market is mainly due and is an evidence of patriarchy as well as females subordinate position in the society and in the family. In many societies, men are regarded as the sole breadwinner and women are accountable for household chores and child care. Anker (1997) explains, this division of responsibilities and male domination are vital for influencing females to accumulate less fewer human capital in contrast with men prior the labour workforce. That is, why girls receive less education than boys, and is less likely to pursue fields of study such as sciences, but is more talented for literature or languages study.

The same influences are also instrumental in explaining why women acquire less labour market experience, on average, because many of them withdraw from the labour force earlier, and many others have discontinuous labour experiences.This theory further show how female occupations mirror common stereotypical roles. For example, women’s caring nature, skill and experience in household work, greater manual dexterity, greater honesty and attractiveness can qualify her for occupations such as nurses, doctors, social worker, teacher, maid, housekeeper, cleaner, etc. while women’s lesser physical strength, lesser ability in math and science, and lesser willingness to face danger can disqualify her for occupations such as engineer, mathematician, driller, miner, construction worker (Anker 1997; Anker and Hein 1985)

2.5 Component of gender inequality-horizontal and vertical segregation

Jonung (1984, p. 45) defines the presence of occupational gender segregation as when women and men are differently spread across occupations than is consistent with their overall shares of employment, irrespective of the nature of job allocation. Gender segregation mean when the percentage of one gender is higher than that of males and females in an occupation. It reflects the gender differences in employment opportunity. The number of occupation with segregation against women is far greater than the number of occupations with segregation against men. Occupational gender segregation consists of two main component dimensions known as horizontal and vertical segregation (Blackburn et al, 2000).

Horizontal segregation is known as under or over representation of certain group in the workplace which is not ordered by any criterion (Bettio and Verashchagina, 2009). According to Anker (1998) horizontal segregation is an absolute and universal characteristic of contemporary socio-economic systems.

It focuses mainly when men and women possess different physical, emotional and mental capabilities. Such discrimination occurs when women are categorized as less intelligent, hormonal and sensitive (Acker 1990). Women are labeled as unreliable and dependent workers when they are pregnant. They are less competent as they will not work as long and hard as others. They become more stressful and sensible to tiny issues happen in the workplace. Martin (1994) declared that in masculine management style, most of the time women possess ‘soft skills’ and men possess ‘hard skills’. It is this concept which creates gender segregation in the workplace.

Vertical segregation referred to the under or over representation of a clearly identifiable group of workers in the workplace at the top of an ordering based on ‘desirable’ attributes such as income, prestige, authority and power.

Huffman (1995) finds that women do not possess enough supervisory authority at work, in education, occupational experience and prestige. One reason that women lack authority is because most women are more concentrated in female-dominated occupations which comprise fever position of authority than male-dominated occupations. Moreover, it is viewed that men’s have greater status value, that is men’s personality are more valuable than women’s and they are much more competent. (Broverman et al. 1972; Deaux and Kite 1987; Eagly 1987).

Men possess more powerful position in the workplace (Bridges & Nelson 1989). Women’s wage rates are lower than men’s even when their qualifications are similar. As women enter an occupation, this reduces the amount of prestige associated with the task and men leave these occupations.

2.6 Sex discrimination-discrimination, harassment and glass ceiling

In many parts of the world, women have experienced breakthroughs in their rights in employment. Despite these advances, women from every country and culture continue to face sex discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. The international community has recognized both discrimination based on sex in the terms and conditions of employment and sexual harassment as violations of the fundamental human rights of women (Gudrun and Danya, 1998).

Although sex discrimination is prohibited by law, it continues to be a widespread problem for working women. There are three forms of sex discrimination that have an effect on women in organizations: overt discrimination, sexual harassment and the glass ceiling. Each has negative effects on women’s status and ability to perform well at work.

Overt discrimination

Overt discrimination is defined as the use of gender as a decisive factor for employment-related decisions. This type of discrimination was targeted by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited making decisions based on sex in employment-related matters such as hiring, firing, and promotions. It consist such behaviours as to refuse to hire women, to pay them inequitably or even to steer them to “women’s jobs”. Overt discrimination also led to occupational sex segregation where jobs are classified by low pay, low status and short career ladders (Reskin, 1997).

Sexual Harassment

MacKinnon (1979:1) defined sexual harassment as “the unwanted imposition of sexual requirements in the context of a relationship of unequal power”. As in overt discrimination, sexual harassment is a persistent gendered problem for women in the workplace around the world. Sexual harassment, a form of sex discrimination, is but one manifestation of the larger problem of employment-related discrimination against women. It now appears obvious that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination.

There are three psychological dimensions of sexual harassment that continued to persist worldwide: sexual coercion, gender harassment and unwanted sexual attention ((Fitzgerald et al., 1995; Gelfand et al., 1995). The case of sexual harassment in the workplace is mainly due to obtain more power and status than the opposite sex (e.g., Baugh, 1997; McKinney, 1992; Piotrkowski, 1998; Riger, 1991; Welsh, 1999)

Statistical discrimination is another form of sex discrimination in the workplace, it consists of sex-typed job assignment (i.e. “error discrimination”-Aigner & Cain 1977, England & McCreary 1987, Bielby & Baron 1986a). For example, employers segregate men into jobs with physical demands and women into jobs demanding social skills (Bielby & Baron 1984, Farkas et al 1991). However, employers’ use of sex in job assignments exceeds technical or economic justifications: within the “mixed-sex” occupations that either sex could presumably perform, small differences in job requirements were accompanied by large differences in sex composition (Bielby & Baron 1986a:782).

The Glass ceiling

The term ‘the glass ceiling’ refers to invisible or artificial barriers that do not allow women from advancing past a certain level (Federal Glass Ceiling Commission -FGCC, 1997; Morrison and von Glinow, 1990). These barriers reflect “discrimination … a deep line of demarcation between those who prosper and those left behind.” The glass ceiling is the “unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements” (Federal Glass Ceiling Commission 1995b:4; emphasis added). This official description suggests that the definition of a glass ceiling m


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