Gender Disparities in the Workplace
Nainika Vyas, London 30/10/18
Women In Business and Finance, King's College London
The issue of gender disparities within the workplace has been present for decades. Strong movements with the purpose of enhancing gender equality (GE), increasing female labour force participation, changing demographics of families, have contributed to liberalizing gender roles in workplaces (Bolzendahl and Myers, 1998). Women’s position in the UK labour market has improved since 1970, albeit the rate of progress has decelerated in the past 30 years. However, it is increasingly being recognized that disadvantages based on gender arise from systematic discrimination that is deeply embedded in the culture and structure of workplaces (Agócs and Burr, 1996).
Klein (1984) emphasised that exposure through employment builds females’ confidence to compete with men economically, increases their awareness regarding discrimination and heightens their expectations for financial independence, encouraging them to revise gender roles, reject stereotypes and facilitate feminism (Bolzendahl and Myers, 1998).
Women account for 50% of the total labour force in business and government organisations, suggesting improvements in GE (Grosser and Moon 2008). Gender egalitarianism has led to a reduction in discrimination during recruitment, creating gender revolution as more females are entering ‘male’ occupations and fields of study; sex segregation has declined much faster in middle than working-class jobs, showing that women have integrated into historically male dominated jobs such as management, law and medicine (England, 2010).
Acker (2006) suggested that women represent a larger percentage of administrative and secretarial jobs, while skilled trade, machine operations and management are still dominated by males. The persistence of such preferences raises issues by creating wage gaps even when men and women have similar qualifications (Ridgeway, 1997). Employers’ abilities to attract, and women’s willingness to accept a lower wage is critical to the continuation of inequalities (ibid.). This has created a barrier in GE and has helped sustain the disadvantages for females in the workplace. The absence of female workers in top management level is known as ‘vertical sex segregation’. This constitutes a prevalent practice in Japanese companies, where women constitute only 11% of managers and 3% of board members and systems prioritize lifelong employment of male workers, embracing them as breadwinners (Nemoto, 2017). This suggests that the improvements in GE are not ubiquitous across the world. According to Connell (2010), hegemonic gender norms preserve male dominance, making the workplace an important area to investigate challenges to normative gender performance.
There is a need for more attention to the mechanisms underlying the production and theoretical integration of feminist and transsexual opinions in workplaces to ensure that organizations and societies remain plural, democratic and egalitarian.
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