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Gender Inequalities in the Workplace Essay

The issue of gender inequality has been in the eyes of the public and been in awareness of society for decades. The problem of inequality in employment is one of the most vital issues in today’s society. In order to understand this situation one must try to get to the root of the problem and must understand the factors that cause the female sex to have a much more difficult time in getting the same benefits, wages, and job opportunities as the male sex. The society in which we live has been shaped historically by men.

“A woman’s primary attachment is to the family role; women are therefore less intrinsically committed to work than men and less likely to maintain a high level of specialized knowledge” (Oakley, 1974, p. 28)President Clinton proclaimed April 11, 1996, as the “National Pay Inequality Awareness Day. In the year 1972, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act was established; the goal of the government was to change and eliminate the discrimination in the workplace. The major aim of these two acts is to protect individual rights and promotes employment opportunities and fairness for everyone within the workplace. We accept that the government is aware of the inequality between men and women in work place, and they are trying every way they can to prevent and discontinue the inequality; so the question is what are the reasons why women are still being treated unfairly at work?Work plays an important role in helping individuals find their true identity as well as helping one builds their self-esteem.

However, in the past women were not encouraged to work “real jobs”, instead they often stayed at home and are often labeled as housewives. The truth is women do work, they always have worked, but the work that they do are often unpaid labor work. Before men assumed that women didn’t really want to work; they didn’t need the money; and that they have different interests. (Kimmel, 2000, p.175) So it was assumed that women either couldn’t do a job, or, if they could, they would neither want to nor need to do it. Now in the twenty-first century things have changed dramatically, more women are educated, and more determined to search for their identity. In order for them to do that, they often time seek employment. Women’s participation in the labor force has grown to such an extent that society can no longer ignore and view women as unimportant. Women face many obstacles when seeking out jobs, and even more obstacles when they are working with men.

Sex discrimination and gender inequality have always existed in society, but when does it actually start? The answer is ever since the minute they were born. In 1995 Wall Street Journal report observed that elementary school girls receive smaller allowances and are asked to do more chores than boys. (Kimmel, 2000, p.174) When a woman grows up and enters womanhood, if she wishes to work, she would have to face many irrelevant tribulations. Sex “discrimination occurs when we treat people unequally because of personal characteristics that are not related to the job. Discrimination can be when we treat people who are similar in different ways, or when we treat people who are different in similar ways.” (Kimmel, 2000) We often discriminate the people we meet because of our past experiences, from what we have learned, and through stereotyping.

Stereotyping is the process of judging someone on the basis of our perception of the group to which he or she belongs. (Robbins, 2003) Stereotypes exist because of the differences among individuals. Since it is almost impossible for human brains to process such large degree of differences quickly, people simplify these differences and make generalizations without even noticing doing so. While these generalizations has originally begun with observed differences among people and have a shred of truth to them, most of these generalization have been so largely exaggerated over time that they no longer serve their original purpose of describing people accurately. The way that people make these generalizations are greatly dependent on their ability, background and culture. These characteristics influence how individuals perceive the world around them and their expectations toward others.

Socialization and information overload also play a big role in gender stereotyping. Individuals begin learning stereotypes as early as in their infancy. According to The Reproduction Mothering theory by Nancy Chodorow (1978), infants learn expected gender behaviors and stereotypes from their mothers. The girls remain attached to their mothers to learn about emotionally intimacy, while boys are forced to separate from their mothers to be strong and independent. Then from media, school, peers and religion institution, children gradually learned what is to be expected from people who are different from themselves in ethnicity and gender, for instance. The large amount of information readily available to us today also increases stereotyping. Since it is impossible to take in all the information, individuals have to cope with information overload by simplifying what is around them.

Stereotyping generally prevents people from recognizing who an individual really is. When a person believes certain stereotypes to be true, his or her perception of a group will most probably be limited by these stereotypes and are unlikely to change. These groundless generalizations can often delay effective communications as a person assumes things about another. In the workplace, this can lead to not recognizing individual achievements and unfriendly relationships between groups, which reduces employee morale and productivity.

It is important to recognize stereotypes in the workplace because of the diverse workforce today. Globalization and feminist movement have greatly increased the diversity in the work force. However, stereotypes delay management from recognizing the value of diversity and reinforce conformity in the workplace, thus limiting the organization’s potential to grow. For instance, managements can miss out good potential employees who can do good. Stereotypes are also “noises” in communications. (Robbins, 2003) In today’s organizations where communications are essential to success, stereotypes can create misunderstandings and harmfully affect day-to-day operations. Therefore, it is important that people should understand the harmful impact of stereotypes.

It is also important to mention that even though occupational sex segregation started to decrease in the 1970’s and in the 1980’s, it still exists in today’s workforce. Such discrimination is operated through interviewing techniques and the stereotypes of the initial recruiter. A recruiter may believe, for example, that a managerial position is a “man’s job.” He or she may believe that a woman’s nature does not allow her to be a good manager because women are seen to “lack” leadership, managerial and technical skills. Recruiters should avoid stereotyping and realize that women are ready to join the work force in any type of job. (Robbins, 2003)Men and women differ in their experiences with both paid and unpaid work.

In comparison to men, for example women do a disproportionate share of unpaid – and usually less valued – work. Discrimination at work often leads to income gap, for doing the same job as the men, women get less pay. One of the reasons for the inequality wage gap is the assumption that when a man enters a labor force, he enters for good, while for a woman the assumption is that when she enters will eventually take time out for childbearing and parental leave. This too greatly affects women’s wages; women who drop out of the labor force have lower real wages when they come back to work than they had when they left. Jobs held by mostly females are considered unimportant and lower skilled as compared to male jobs.

The other obstacle that women face in workplace is the glass ceiling and the sticky floor; these two elements are barriers preventing women from succeeding and raising their status at work. The glass ceiling is an expression used to describe the inequalities of men and women within the workforce. It seems that women can become employed but then run into an invisible barrier when they try to move up the ladder of hierarchy within the organization (McGuire, 2000, p. 3).

Employers should pay close attention to gender stereotyping which exists within a workplace. If they avoid doing so they may lose an opportunity to hire or promote a good employee. In order to avoid gender stereotyping it would be of use to mention the stereotypes that exist today. Some common masculine behavior include: independence, superiority, status, competition and aggression. In contrast, the feminine behaviors are consensus, inferiority, harmony, and gentleness. (Kimmel, 2000) David Geary, a psychology professor at the University of Missouri, Columbia, concluded that such qualities of men and women are generally true.

He states that these stereotypical behaviors are strongly influenced by nature. He also mentions that “Over the course of evolution, these stereotypes have resulted due to strategies used by males and females to attract mates. Men and women use certain sexual strategies in order to reproduce, and they are essential to our mating patterns.” These sexual strategies are the cause of the male and female differences of today including physical attributes, social behavior, parental interests, and motivational and emotional patterns. However, as an employer, it is important to realize that these are generalities, and that one person can express both masculine and feminine behaviors. People should not be labeled, but instead they should be judged as individuals.

Men believe that it is easier to work with men and that men do a better job and therefore deserve more money. Their pride and egos tell them that women cannot do the job as well as they can. These personal beliefs must be changed. Pairing men and women together on teams will expand the male mindset and hopefully help them realize that females and minorities are as equally qualified. Valuing the differences of all employees can make an organization stronger. Society requires that men and women work together and this is not going to change. What has to change is the way we work together. Communication is the key. If we do not communicate effectively, then the best intentions of both genders will fail (Heim, 1995, p.3).

“Society influences what we are taught as children in regards to roles of females and males overflow into the workplace (Hale, 1999, p.14) “In sum, it is the relationship between social roles, interests, intergroup relationships and organizational culture norms and values that set the conditions that perpetuate unequal employment opportunities and outcomes (Hale, 1999, p.13). It is impossible to change people overnight; especially what they have been taught and what they have always have confidence in generation after generation.

The managers of today grew up in families where their mothers stayed at home, kept house, and took care of children. They have been taught at home that men should be the bread winner; the leader of the house, and women should only be housewives and take care of the house. They are also taught that men are stronger and should be the leader of the household and therefore these behaviors flow into the work setting. Even the Bible states that a woman should not be over a man. These beliefs are taught generation after generation.

Despite the awareness of gender inequality, there are still arguments about gender difference and assumptions that women and men are from different planets; women and men are still treated distinguishably in society. The workplace still remains an unequal arena, plague by persistent sex segregation, wage inequality, sex discrimination, and sexual harassment. Women and men work because they want to and because they have to. Employers should not judge women as being non-dependable. Family structure has changed dramatically over the years. Fathers and mothers today now share family responsibilities. To compensate for this change, businesses have introduced flextime, job sharing, telecommuting, on-site child care and parental leave. (Kimmel, 2000) Employers should accommodate a woman’s needs and expand the gender diversity of their company. There was a time where the balance of respect and roles never existed between the two, but today, men and women are truly redefining themselves and their relationships with each other.

Most importantly, women have broken from the bondage of dependence on men. Women no longer have to submit themselves to one main role in family life as the mother. Along with being the mother, women have become the educated breadwinners. As for men, the need for dominancy has changed dramatically because today, men have been found to be the nurturing stay-at-home fathers of their family. Male and female relation is not entirely a dispute on inequality that women received from society, although that is what propels finding equality between the two genders. Besides, men today also require such needs and hiring based on gender is no longer relevant. Rather, male and female relation resolute this emergent society to work together as a unit.


Oakley, Ann. (1974) The Sociology of Housework New York: Pantheon BooksStromberg, Ann H. & Harkess, Shirley. (1978) Women Working: Theories and Facts inPerspective. California: Mayfield Publishing CompanyRobbins, Stephen P. (2003) Organizational Behavior. New Jersey: Prentice HallMcGuire, Gail M. (2000) Gender, Race, Ethnicity, & Networks [Electronic version]. Work &Occupations, 27(4), 500-523.

Hale, Mary. (1999) He Says, She Says: Gender and Worklife. Public Administration Review,59(5). Retrieved March 4, 2009, from www.questia.comKimmel, Michael S. (2000) The Gendered Society. New York: Oxford University Press

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