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Current Gender Roles and their Expected Redefinition

 

 

 

 

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Current Gender Roles and their Expected Redefinition

Introduction

The 1960s and 1970s saw the beginning of the feminist movement whose purpose is the liberation of women (Kimmel, 2000). This is because the world was riddled with male chauvinism, which encouraged treatment of women as lesser beings than men. 50 years on, some social change is identifiable, such as more women working, and going to school. Notably higher education institutions are seen to have more female than male students, which was not the case previously (Ridgeway, 2011). This means that more women are getting an education so as to join the workforce. However, more change is imminent as relationships in the workplace and also at home have not been as egalitarian as is desired by most people. England, (2010) concluded that the results of her study showed that most of the participants wanted egalitarian relationships. The question remains, why this has not happened so as to match the desire of the participants. This paper explores the current roles of men and women at work, the reasons for this and also what the situation is likely to be in future.

Current roles of men and women at work

Working hours

More women than men work part time in the UK (Yerkes & Visser, 2005). Part time work pays less and also has less benefit to the worker. For instance, the option to work overtime is usually only available to fulltime workers, who are mostly men (ECHR, 2010). Also, part time workers are unlikely to be promoted. This means that those who work part time stagnate in their positions, unable to move up in the career ladder.

 

 

Unequal pay

The occupations associated with women such as that of teachers, assemblers of final products and house helps attract little pay, compared to the jobs associated with their male counterparts. In Walby and Olsen’s (2002) study, on average men at the age of 40 are earning 27% more than women of the same age. These include mechanics, plumbers and electricians. These highlight the occupations that do not attract large salaries. Despite this,  in other higpaying occupations,  Lewis, Campbell & Huerta,  (2008) hold that the payment is not the same between the two sexes.

Gender equality; the one way street

Both women and men have a role to play in the efforts to achieve gender equality, which is now something that most men and women desire (England, 2010). More women, especially from the middle class pursue jobs and courses that were originally associated with men (Kimmel, 2000). Occupations such as political roles, business and medicine are now being pursued by women as well. On the other hand, men are not so eager to embrace the occupations and courses associated with women. Haller & Hoellinger, (1994) argue that men only go for jobs that were traditionally women’s when all else has failed. Therefore, jobs such as nursing and hairdressing are the jobs they fall back on when there are no other options to pursue.

Promotions

When it comes to moving up the career ladder, men are seen to be climbing higher and faster as studies have shown.  ECHR, (2010) posits that women are underrepresented in higher paying managerial and professional occupations that come with better status. On the other hand, their male colleagues are widely promoted leaving them behind on the career ladder

 

Economic restructuring

Most of the jobs affiliated with women are service jobs such as child care, nursing, hair dressing and the like. On the other hand, jobs associated with men hardly include service jobs but encompass manufacturing and carpentry (Lewis, Campbell & Huerta, 2008. This means that when the economy shifts to one side of either the jobs affiliated with men or women, one of them suffers. This happened in the 1980s where the economy shifted to more of the service industry, which women are associated with (Dex, 2015). Therefore, women had the opportunity to occupy more jobs so as to meet this need. Despite this, men’s employment rates have remained higher than those of women (Dex, 2015). However, women’s employment rate is increasing progressively so as to close the gap between the two rates.

Work-family conflicts

Work-family conflicts occur especially when the employee becomes a parent. Given women’s traditional role as the child rearers, they are the most affected. It is therefore no surprise that this breeds conflict when employed women become mothers. This  usually results in resigning, or request for part time employment, with more mothers opting for part time work (Doherty, 2004). However, with legislation promoting family-friendly policies such as maternity and paternity leave, this has changed.  Other legislation such as those effecting a minimum wage caters to the part time workers, most being women who had previously endured low pay under this arrangement (Ridgeway, 2011).

 

 

 

Reasons for the current roles of men and women at work

The impractical nature of egalitarianism

As mentioned earlier, egalitarianism is desired by most people of both sexes as it was apparent in England, (2010)’s study. However, its desirability does not mean that it has been applied. It has not been applied by most households, impracticality being cited as the causative reason. Yerkes and Visser, (2005) elucidate that the current state of the economy does not allow this to be. This is because services such as day care and hiring nannies for children is not available to everyone, as they are expensive (Yerkes & Visser, 2005). Workplace policies are unsupportive to egalitarian relationships as they favour one gender, that is male (Hart, Stachow, Farrell & Reed, 2007). Therefore, promoting inequality in the couples involved, making it hard to achieve.

Double burden

The notion that women are to do more domestic work and child care as well as have careers is still held by many people. Moliner, Martinez-Tur, Peiro and  Ramos’, (2005) study shows that most women who work also have to fulfil most of the domestic responsibilities with little help from their spouses. This means that women become less productive at the workplace and also opt for part time work. The case for women without children is also the same because they are of the same gender and as such the implications are the same for them (Ridgeway, 2011).

Occupational sex segregation

Occupational sex segregation is associating jobs with the gender of people. In the case of men and women, the jobs associated with the latter are hardly pursued by the former (England, 2010). Therefore doing this is usually as a necessary as it is frowned upon by the more conservative people in the population (England, 2010). This is a hindrance to gender equality in the workplace as it belittles the works associated with women. This also explains why the pay gap between men and women is wide. Therefore, the jobs associated with women attract low salaries just because they are affiliated with women (Chevalier, 2007).

Higher education

More women pursue higher education so as to be able to compete with men in the job market. With more women than men enrolling in universities and colleges, changes have already begun being seen (Chevalier, 2007). This gives the women the ability to be able to apply for and perhaps qualify for the jobs that men usually get, thus setting them on a somewhat equal footing.

Religion

Religion is an important part of the lives of those who subscribe to it. That being said, it influences the role played by women at the workplace and the choices they make. Roamn Catholicism and Islam are the two religions that have been known for being rigid when it comes to women. The Catholic Church, through its schools and mass, propounded that the role of women is to nurture, with an emphasis on their role to guide children in Christian living (Kimmel, 2000). Therefore, women aspired to become teachers, and nurses; and looked forward to motherhood as their role in society. The same is applied to Islam, with its laws on how women are to behave making it difficult for Muslim women to gain and maintain employment (Syed, 2010). These include that women are forbidden to shake hands with men as elucidated by (Syed, 2010).  ECHR, (2011) highlights that although women earn consistently less than men, Muslim and Sikh women are the least paid well with gaps of 22% in 2004-2007.

Gender bias

Gender bias is a basis that has caused some of the major problems that women face in the workplace (European Commission on Equality, 2010) . Studies have shown that a good number of  employees prefer male to female employees, even when it comes to giving promotions (European Commission on Equality, 2010) . There are laws that are against discrimination on any basis that make efforts to protect women. However, this is not enough as even proving that one is being discriminated against in a court of law proves difficult.

Feminist movement

This movement which began between the 1960s and 1970s has had an impact on ensuring that women’s rights are improved and provided for. However, the different types of feminists such as radical and cultural feminists often cause divide in the movements. For instance, the radical feminists want to be equal to men, while the cultural feminists seek to want recognition of women as a unique species that is different from men (England, 2010). Such dividing factors cause the feminine movements to sometimes lack support because they do not share the same ideology. Consequently, this makes it difficult to spearhead changes in the workplace and thus women still remain under suffrage.

Child bearing past the age of 30

For the purpose of being able to compete with men at a somewhat equal footing at the workplace, some women postpone motherhood to the age of 30 and beyond (Dex, 2015). This is because of the need to be full time workers so as to be seen as reliable and hence worth giving a promotion to. Also, to give time and space for higher education, some women postpone motherhood so as to be able to gain the necessary qualifications for the jobs they need to get (Chevalier, 2007).

Gender socialization

Gender socialization denotes how children, at a young age are made aware of their gender roles by parents and society as well. For instance, girls play with dolls while boys play with cars and action figures. This brings about problems when it comes to effecting change in the promotion of an egalitarian society. This is because, what is entrenched in children at a young age is hard for them to forget, even if they identify the problems in society and would like a change (England, 2010). This is indicative of the roles that parents teach to their children, as they pass on what was taught to them by their parents. Therefore, this is the reason why people are found to desire egalitarian relationships as elucidated by England, (2010), but they are unable to effect them.

Organizational culture

Organizational culture encompasses the norms that are entrenched in the workplace, usually consisting what the supervisors and managers approve of. When these norms establish a workplace environment where the female workers are mistreated and discriminated against, this is unlikely to change (Hart, Stachow, Farrell & Reed, 2007). This is because the women and their male counterparts see the mistreatment as normal (Hart, Stachow, Farrell & Reed, 2007). They therefore fail to agitate for change in the workplace, subjecting them to the norms that are against them. Further, newly employed worker usually adapt to the situation at hand to prevent repercussions such as being fired and isolated from the rest of the workers who accept the norm (Hart, Stachow, Farrell & Reed, 2007).

Progressive politics

Haller & Hoellinger, (1994) identify that for the success of the economy, working women need to get support through systems that encourage their employment rather than doing the contrary. The idea to increase overall productivity in the workplace requires mitigating the hindrances that cause some women to avoid employment. One of the ways to achieve this is through legislation, which is propounded by progressive politicians. This has effected changes in the labour law in the UK, with efforts to make part time employment suitable to women by effecting the minimum wage. Also, the paternal and maternal leave increase the women’s support structure and also act as family friendly policies.

Requirement for higher qualifications

Chevalier, (2007) posits that more and more employees feel the need to further their education so as to qualify for promotions and general employment. This is why both men and women flock to the institutions of higher education so as to gain the necessary qualifications. With this change, women are also pursuing higher education as they do not want to be left behind (Chevalier, 2007). These changes are accredited to change in the society whereby technological innovations cropping up at each turn. Subsequently, this requires the need to acquire the needed skill set so as to fit the demands of the workplace.

Future roles of men and women at the workplace

Emergence of the transgender society

The issues concerning women and men in the workplace are likely to take a back seat because of the emergence of the transgender in society.  This is because, their issues are not clearly identified and adequately researched. Germany adapted the option of not having their children identified as either male or female, giving way to a third gender (Yerkes & Visser, 2005). Studies do not have adequate data on this population (European Commission on Equality, 2010). Therefore, this is likely to overshadow the plight of men and women at the workplace as it is new unchartered ground.

Increase in numbers of women’s employment

The progressive nature of the family friendly policies is likely to result in more women getting employed and staying employed whether full time or part time. The implementation of family friendly policies such as childcare and paid leave have been steadily increasing over the years making it seem likely that it will continue to do so (Dex, 2015). Higher education also contributes to this as the women gain qualifications and therefore increase the number of years during which they’ll participate in employment.

Men’s employment rates

Men’s employment rates have not had catastrophic changes over the years (Dex, 2015). In general, men do get employed. The changes in their employment rates are usually minimal with adaptations to the changes that take place in the economy. Although women are increasingly gaining employment, gender bias is still active in the UK, therefore giving men a slight advantage in the labour sector (ECHR, 2011). For these reasons, men’s employment rates are expected to remain stabilized in the future. This means that they will remain the same, giving them an edge to compete with their female counterparts in the labour industry.

Bridging the pay gap

The pay gap between men and women is likely to shrink progressively. This is because the occupational segregation has been reducing progressively mostly due to statutory provisions pushing employers to employ women and men on an equal footing (Dex, 2015). This trend has been increasing progressively as it has become important for employers to show that they do not discriminate on the basis of gender (Chevalier, 2007). This is a positive improvement that is likely to be seen in future as the government implements changes in the labour industry so as to improve the economy of the UK.

Equality between part time employees and full time employees

As previously mentioned;  women make up most of the part time employees due to necessity as they have to care for their children as well. Therefore, they are likely to fight for equality between part time employees and the full time ones (Dex, 2015).  Further, Dex, (2010) elucidates that benefits such as overtime and promotions are hardly availed to part time employees. However, legislation that has empowered part time employees such as the minimum wage statutory provision indicates further change to come (Doherty, 2004). This means that this trend is likely to increase over time as the part time workers are still at a disadvantage currently. Improvement of the part time employment industry is a way of promoting employment as it indicates that more people will have jobs and also have time for their families as is the case for mothers.

Division of unpaid domestic labour

Women are expected to do less unpaid domestic work in future. This could be attributed to the progressive increase in the amount of domestic work that men do in the house as recent trends indicate(European Commission on Equality, 2010). Also, the outsourcing of such work to the immigrants that flow to the UK each year is likely to increase (Dex, 2015). Women’s education has been increasing over the years.  They therefore gain more qualifications and join the workforce, the likelihood of them staying at home becomes more minimal (Dex, 2015).  This indicates that the amount of unpaid domestic labour that women take part in will also decrease.

Conclusion

The current situation in the workplace in regards to men and women is not a static situation. These dynamics change over time for the better and sometimes for the worse. However, government policy on labour issues has made some improvements in this sector so as to accommodate the minorities such as women. Further policy changes do need to be made as it is clear that the women minorities working part time will agitate for them. Most people’s desire for egalitarian relationships indicates the need for the society itself to change. Veering away from gender socialization is a good place to start since what is entrenched into a child’s mind is not easily forgotten (England, 2010). As for the future of the labour industry, the predictions made in this paper may be off the mark but are expressions of what the present implicates. It is yet to be seen whether the imminent changes to the labour industry will take place as predicted or in a completely different way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

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