In the 21st century women are more educated and powerful than they have ever been. They are integrated into every work sector, from labour intensive jobs, middle class jobs up to the highest professional engineering, medical, legal and political positions. However, there still remain high gender inequalities within the workplace, which will be covered in this report through several articles and studies in respects to top management positions and payments imbalance. As gender inequality is not a specific event rather a continuously forming process from the beginning of the humanity until present day, and beyond that.
To understand the current state of affairs we have to firstly talk about the processes which have occurred during the past. Historic context: Several studies talk about the division of labour between men and women already in the prehistory. All the evidence shows that from the very beginning, women had the simpler and easier jobs, which was manifested in fruits, eggs and berry gathering, while men had the more dangerous and intensive duties such as hunting and fishing.
The subordinate role of women had already appeared in that time. According to anthropologists, the nomadic lifestyle continues as hordes’ communities, women had the role of carrying the pickings, while men were waiting for any attacks from outside the community. As women were not able to protect themselves while carrying the foods, men became the protectors of the community. Although there were some warrior women, who were called “amazons”, they still are physically weaker.
As race preservation is a function of women, when they became pregnant they were not able to support both the community and their duties together, within the hordes eyes, they were considered of no significant importance and the infants and young children worsened this situation. They had to be supported (fed, protected) which slowed down the community, but in the same time until a certain age the horde had no important role for them. However the prehistoric humans had no knowledge about the biology of insemination, therefore they considered the pregnancy as a magical wonder.
This is evidenced by the first artworks, for example the female statues which they highlighted the body parts referring to fertility, of which the best known is the Venus of Willendorf. Nevertheless after time they have realised that, the participation of men is also necessary to fertilization and women lost the surrounding admiration, therefore they became even more subordinated. Later in history, several communities with the emergence of the ancient slavery society and monogamy had become widespread. All the men could have only one wife yet posses several bond slaves.
Women could have sexual relationship, only with their husbands. If they breached this rule it had serious consequences. Men regarded not only their slave women as their property, but also the female members of the family, over whom men controlled absolute power. In the early feudalism era, the Church had said women cannot be equal to men, as God created Adam first from his own image and only after this created Eve from the ‘rest of the materials’. Women have been created for men, and not inversely. Further more women have to consider their husbands as God.
In the middle Ages children had been socially educated to respect their fathers more than their mothers. The male children, from a certain age received adult rights, to treat their mothers and sisters in the same manner as their fathers. They thought women had to been given constraints and rules, as Eve was who anathematized the humanity, so women had to be chastised for it. Men had to penalize women as a duty, even if it was associated with pain. The only rule which was accepted was that the woman could not die.
In the 17th century in America, woman took taking care of their families an important responsibility. Women and men were working together on their agricultural lands. While they catered their families, they also worked on markets, where they could sell the remaining crops or some weaved clothes, thus they earned some respect. Women and men have shared not only the jobs, but also the wages. In the 18th century, as the economy has shifted from the agriculture to the industrial economy the world of home and work had got totally separated. Women were forced back to their homes and lost all their social respect.
With the occurrence of industrialization, the role of women focused on the duties around the house, or they became industrial workers, for much smaller salary though, as women were treated as inferiority. The most terrible situation was in the lead industry. They have not used protective equipment; therefore lead poisoning was a very frequent workers disease. Women were afflicted by death, poisoning, paralysis; their children were still-born many times. At the beginning of the 19th century women were ignominiously exploited. Their wages were not enough even for their basic needs.
A survey in 1889-93 shows that in France a workwoman received half of that wage, what a workman received for the same work hours. In 1918 women’s salary is half of the men’s in America. The women’s wages rose between 1911 and 1945, although they were less than men’s wages. At the beginning of capitalism, new work opportunities appeared. Women occupied the agriculture, the industry, the trading, the banks, the insurance companies, the offices and the freelance positions. This process accelerated the unemployment during the 1st and 2nd world war, worldwide.
Emancipation in the UK: The sequences of events are roughly the same in many western countries. In some enlightened states (e. g. New-Zealand, Australia, Finland and Norway) women received franchises before the 1st world war. In other countries, struggles have started, but nowhere were as dramatic as in England. In 1903 Emmeline Pankhurst got to the edge of the movement fighting for women’s right to vote. These suffrages interrupted political meetings, chained themselves to fences and were sent to prison as they were not willing to pay any financial penalty.
When the 1st world war broke out, most of the suffrages suspended the fights, and the women who filled in the jobs (instead of the fighting men) coped successfully. This allowed women voting rights from the government, by destroying the stigma surrounding women’s inequality instead of facing the movement again. After the war the US and several European countries undertook similar reforms. Another movement inspired from the UK was created called “Woman’s Lib for life” created in the US back in 1960s which spread through Europe.
This ideology was called “feminism”. Feminism talks about gender equality, but also about sexual abuse, rape and abortion. Feminists succeeded to reach equal opportunities in political, legal, demographical, educational and employment rights. Nevertheless the practical applications of the laws often meet difficulties, even if their enforcements create special executive and examiner bodies. In many parts of the world, women’s most elementary rights are still missing, in many societies they cannot even choose their spouse.
In present days, in the most enlightened countries such as the UK, the distance between females and males in employment decreased significantly, but still women face forms of discrimination. Present: In our days, more and more women take part in higher education. After graduation they try to find a job, build their career what they have to interrupt as their biological clocks are ticking and near their career plans they don’t want to give up building a family. During their pregnancy normally they become less capable to cater their work in full-time.
After their pregnancy they have the right to take a maternity leave with the thought of they can return to their job without any discrimination. However, this is not so simple. In the 21st century as in most of the tolerant countries, as in the UK the unequal and inequitable treatment of employees on the basis of gender i. e. sex discrimination in workplace is illegal. If it can be proved by the employee, the employer could probably face a serious penalty. Discrimination can be classified in two ways. One of them is based on suffered disadvantage e. g. nequal payment, discrimination because of pregnancy or maternity leave, inequality in the scale of employment and different treatment and progress opportunities within workplace. Direct and indirect discrimination: The other classification group divides discrimination according to insulted party as an individual (direct), or a specific target group (indirect). Direct discrimination is “where an employee or prospective employee is less favourably treated because of their race, sex, marital status (including civil partnerships), religion, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, age, disability, pregnancy or maternity” (CompactLaw, 1996-2013).
As it revealed from the most recent article from the Guardian about sexual discrimination “women are suffering escalating levels of illegal discrimination at work when they get pregnant, and are often made redundant while they are on maternity leave, according to a new poll. The figures show one in seven of the women surveyed had lost their job while on maternity leave; 40% said their jobs had changed by the time they returned, with half reporting a cut in hours or demotion. More than a tenth had been replaced in their jobs by the person who had covered their maternity leave” (Tracey McVeigh, 2013). Indirect discrimination is often less obvious. Sometimes, a policy, rule or practice seems fair because it applies to everyone equally, but a closer look shows that some people are being treated unfairly. This is because some people or groups of people are unable or less able to comply with the rule or are disadvantaged because of it. If this policy or practice is ‘not reasonable’, it may be indirect discrimination” (Anti-Discrimination Commission Queensland 2007) One of the most famous indirect cases associated with one of the largest companies in the US being the Wal-Mart Stores.
Wal-Mart had a case which started in 2000, when Betty Dukes, a Wal-Mart worker from California, claimed sex discrimination because of gender discrimination in pay and promotion policies and practices. During the negotiations almost 2000 women joined Betty, representing about 1. 5M women. On 20th of June, 2011, the Supreme Court finally closed the negotiations in Wal-Mart’s favour, as the unequal treatment was not clearly proved. On the other side employers and managers have to be very guarded and deliberate to avoid discrimination and promote equality. There are several details which have to be kept in the front view of management.