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Gender Inequality.docx

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Robert Brym

Introduction - Social roles: Behaviours expected of people occupying particular social positions - In 20 century, enormous change in attitudes, expectations, behaviours, and social roles of men and women in Canada - But persistence of gender inequalities:  Hierarchical asymmetries between women and men in terms of distribution of power, material wellbeing, and prestige Understanding Gender Inequality Gender Inequality Defined - Social scientists usually refer to inequalities between men and women as “gender inequalities” rather than “sex inequalities” because gender refers to the social meanings associated with being a man or a woman, whereas sex refers to the biological characteristics of men and women Gender Stereotypes - Gender inequality is reinforced by gender stereotypes:  Set of prejudicial biologically-based generalizations about men and women in terms of personality traits and behaviour  Persistence of polarized gender stereotypes is supported by research - Yet , gender-related identities and behaviours largely socially constructed and continually altered through social interaction* - Socially constructed nature of gender identities means gender identities:  Are not stable or fixed  Need not be congruent with sex assigned at birth  Are not polar opposites (despite notion of “opposite sex”), but can operate on a continuum of masculinity and femininity (there are degrees of masculinity and femininity) - A fixation of the alleged opposed characteristics of men and women is evident in such phrases as the “opposite sex” Dimensions of Inequality - Definition of gender inequalities does not imply men as individuals always have greater prestige, wealth, and power but that, on average, compared with women, men have more wealth, greater power, and positions that are accorded higher prestige - Three dimensions of inequality:  Power: Capacity to impose your will on others, regardless of any resistance  Power involves the capacity to influence, manipulate, and control others, and is exercised at the individual, group, and organizational levels  Material wellbeing: Involves access to economic resources required to pay for necessities of life and other possessions and advantages  Prestige: Average evaluation of occupational activities and positions arranged in a hierarchy  Prestige reflects the degree of respect, honour, or deference generally accorded to a person occupying a given position - Gender inequality is social stratification in reference to gender. Explaining Gender Inequality - Feminism: Body of knowledge about causes and nature of women‟s subordination to men in society, and various agendas - often involving political action - for removing that subordination - Feminist theories:  Liberal feminism - Gender inequalities caused and perpetuated by gender stereotyping and gendered division of labour - Achieve gender equality through:  Removing gender stereotyping and discrimination in workplace and education, and  Changing laws to allow for equal opportunities in labour force and politics - Liberal feminism is rooted in the liberalism of the 1700s. - It assumes that human beings are rational and will correct inequalities when they know about them. - Liberalism assumes that a good society is one in which men and women enjoy equal rights and opportunities.  Marxist feminism - Women‟s unpaid domestic work maintains and reproduces labour force - Capitalists benefit by women (wives/mothers):  Ensuring workers (males) ready to work each day  Raising children to become future labourers  Acting as own reserve army of labour - Achieve gender equality through socialism - A different perspective on gender inequality derives from the writings of Karl Marx. - According to Marxist feminists, women‟s unpaid work in the home maintains and reproduces the labour force. - Capitalists benefit because they obtain refreshed workers at the beginning of each day and mothers raise children who will become future labourers. - They also benefit from women‟s paid work because women in the paid labour force, like men, help capitalists earn profit and because they act as a “reserve army of labour” that can be hired and fired as labour demands change. - Marxist feminists believe that gender equality is possible once socialism replaces capitalism.  Socialist feminism - Agree with Marxist feminist theories but include additional component  Recognize classes constitute only one set of social relations that oppress women - Second set of oppressive social relations:  Patriarchy  System of male domination over women  Patriarchy predates capitalism; the forms it takes vary across time and within societies - But generally, childbearing and the sexual activities of women are the foundation of gender inequality. - Moreover, because domestic and public spheres intersect, inequalities in one sphere can create disadvantages for women in the other sphere (the “public sphere” refers to government and the world of paid work). -Decrease gender inequality through:  State-subsidies for maternal benefits and child care  Equal pay for equal work - Removing inequality altogether requires the eradication of male dominance as expressed in the legal system, the educational system, the family, and the economy Exercising Power - Male power and control over women characterize all social relations, routine behaviours, and commonly accepted practices - Workplace sexual harassment: Result of general belief that men are superior to women and may impose their will upon them  Is example of power as a system of dominance and exploitation  Is system because capacity of men and incapacity of women to control and influence has become routine - Male influence and control over women does not simply mean the predominance of men rather than women in politics and the military - Other examples include women being denied the right to vote, and workplace regulations that encourage or compel women to quit work upon marriage (one such regulation existed in the federal civil service until 1955) - Gender inequalities in power also combine with racial inequalities - As a result, minority women experience the most harassment because they are both women and members of a minority group Separate Spheres - Separation of public sphere for men and private sphere for women - Consequences of separation for women:  Association of domestic labour as women‟s work  Devaluation of unpaid domestic labour  Tendency to view nurturing and care-giving as biologically-determined traits  Financial dependence on men  Reduced access to power, prestige, and material wellbeing - Male domination and female subordination are evident in all social relations: political, economic, familial, and sexual - Gender inequality derives from the historical fact that women have been allocated the private sphere, and men the public sphere: This has created differential opportunities for acquiring wealth, power, and prestige - Two responses:  Some people have tried to eliminate the devaluation of domestic labour by having women‟s unpaid work recognized officially in the 1996 census, and later, discussing adding a dollar value to it  Entry of women into the public sphere  Labour-force participation  Womens‟ labour-force participation rate is still lower than mens‟  Paid work does not mean liberation from unpaid work Sites of Work Female Labour-Force Participation - At the beginning of the 20 century, only 14% of women were economically active in the paid labour force compared with 78% of men - By 2005, slightly more than 60% of women were in the paid labour force, compared to just over 70% of men - Since beginning of 20 century, substantial increase in female labour force participation, including increase in rates of employed married women and women with young children - Factors in increase:  Increased demand for service workers  In the early 1900s, most Canadian jobs were in agriculture or manufacturing.  Starting in the 1920s, more and more jobs became available in firms that provided services (e.g., telephone communication, financial assistance, medical care, educational instruction)  Women started to become secretaries and teachers, because they could be paid lower wages than men (since they were supported by their husbands anyways), and the introduction of the typewriter was believed to have decreased the skill level needed to be a secretary  Decrease in number of children born and labour supply  Declining fertility created an imbalance between labour demands of the expanding service economy after World War II and the available labour supply  As well, there were little men and single women left after to work, so they loosened restrictions and started hiring married women, who were eager to work for wages  Increased financial pressures on families  Women‟s employment had been an important source of income for low- income families  After World War II, women‟s employment became an important source of income for single parent and two-adult families alike  In husband-wife families, wives‟ earnings not only increase family income, but also help keep families out of poverty, particularly when the husbands earn little or nothing Domestic Labour - Despite rise in female labour force participation, women still more likely than men to do unpaid work involving home maintenance and child-care - While men have begun to do housework and child-care, women still spend more hours than men on domestic activities - Consequences of “double day” for women:  Less time available for recreational activities  More likely to report feeling stressed - The demands on women to provide unpaid care likely will increase, because the number of senior Canadians in need of care will increase substantially - Past care-giving patterns suggest future providers of care are most likely to be women - This situation is exacerbated for the “sandwich” generation: Women caught between demands of caring for children and caring for older relatives Labour Force Inequalities Occupational Segregation and Sex Typing - Women in paid labour force typically do jobs that involve care-giving, nurturing, and household-type management - Stereotypical association of women with care giving is also found in paid work - Men tend to be managers, doctors, construction workers, etc. - Has given rise to:  Sex typing (or sex labelling) of occupations: Designating an occupation as appropriate for one sex  Sex segregation of occupations: Concentration of women and men in different occupations Occupational Segregation - Sex segregation does exist in Canada. - For women, the 10 most frequent jobs include secretary, registered nurse, elementary schoolteacher, babysitter, and receptionist. The only occupation that both men and women occupy in large numbers is retail salesperson. - The census collects information on more than 500 different occupational titles. These longer lists confirm that women and men often are concentrated in different occupations. - The degree of occupational segregation by gender has, however, declined somewhat since the 1960s. - This decline is attributable mainly to the movement of women into previously male- dominated occupations rather than that of men into female-dominated occupations. - Sex labelling of occupations usually accompanies occupational segregation - These views are so ingrained in our thinking that we recognize sex typing only when unstated expectations are contradicted Power At Work - “Women‟s” occupations often lower than “men‟s” occupations in terms of authority, responsibility, earnings, skill requirements, and mobility opportunities - The nature of sex-typing in our society implies that the work traditionally performed by women in the home has created sex stereotypes about the work that women should do in the labour force - Inequalities indicate male advantage in labour force - You need to know whether men are indeed able to make more decisions and exercise authority over men - Women typically supervise fewer employees than men and are less likely to hold top positions - Women confronted with glass ceiling: Level in an organization above which women and minority members seldom found  Women face invisible barriers that prevent them from penetrating the highest levels of organization where power is concentrated and exercised Gender and Skill - Sex typing and general devaluation of work done by women influence commonsense evaluation of what constitutes “skilled” work - Women less likely to have high-skilled jobs given gender bias in socially constructed definition of skill - Our definition of skill is socially-constructed  What we define as skill reflects other social
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