Gender Inequality in the Workplace
Gender inequality is a serious social problem even in modern society. Many people think that this issue is the legacy of the past. However, the practice shows the opposite since women still face discrimination in the workplace. It should be noted that women constitute more than half of the world’s population. Despite this fact, their contribution to the world’s economic performance, well-being, and growth is significantly lower than their real potential. However, in the recent decades, considerable progress has been made. Nevertheless, labor markets over the world are still segmented by gender. For example, at this stage of human development, conditionally male professions are dominated by men in most cases. In such a way, there is still much work to do to decrease the situation of gender inequality in the workplace. The purpose of the paper is to study the history and modern condition of the problem of gender inequality in the workplace.
A Notion of Gender Inequality
Gender inequality, especially with a separate focus on the feminist movement, is a very delicate subject that requires a careful approach. The feminist movement is greatly discredited in the minds of people with both external criticism and its individual representatives. Gender inequality is a social problem, which is reflected in the life of every human being and originated in the legal culture as a whole. Being the main client of the problem of gender inequality, feminism is often positioned and understood rather distortedly. The problems of discrimination always rest on the level of education and understanding of the issue. Thus, education and the correct formulation of questions are the key to a gradual change in the attitude towards them.
In some part of society, an idea of natural rights is formed in a healthy direction. Stereotypes are rethought and social problems emerge and attract attention. The understanding of the most important ideas is a task that should be worked out and solved. Nevertheless, there are frequent cases of discrimination, and it is especially true for the discrimination of women in the workplace. In many countries, women work mostly in the low-paid and undervalued jobs. They have a limited access to education and training and they cannot make important decisions.
Every democratic, social, and legal state produces gender policy to ensure equal rights and opportunities for all people. The state gender policy is the activity of public institutions aimed at the implementation and enforcement of equal rights, freedoms, and opportunities for women and men, the affirmation of gender democracy, and the formation of gender culture in society. Since the actual situation of women is significantly different from that of men, the emphasis in the structure of gender policies and their implementation is always on the policy on the advancement of women’s state.
History of Gender Inequality
The origins of gender discrimination go back to the ancient times. Even then, scientists and politics covered the unequal position of women in society. At that time, there were numerous debates about women's place in society. A look at a woman as an inferior being was reflected in the theological and philosophical works of the ancient world. For example, Socrates affirmed that three things could be considered happiness – when a person was not a wild animal, a barbarian, or a woman.
Two and a half millennia have passed since the time of Socrates. Nevertheless, the issue of gender inequality has not lost its relevance. In particular, it is confirmed by the adoption of certain regulations by the world community with the aim of equalizing men and women in their opportunities. In 1946, the UN Commission was created to monitor the situation of women and the promotion of their rights. In 1979, the UN General Assembly adopted the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. The real impetus for the revitalization of public policies to improve the status of women in society was the UN World Conference on women’s problems that was held in Beijing in 1995. The participating states approved the introduced obligations. The equality of rights of women and men in all spheres of life should be respected in all states. Women should be considered not only as objects but also as subjects of changes. Every society should use the model of development considering gender factors – the extension of choice for women and men on an equal basis. The provisions on gender equality are directly or conceptually recorded in the constitutions of different countries.
There is a direct relation between gender equality and economic and social development. In this connection, gender equality is one of the most important goals in the XXI century. Therefore, the elimination of gender discrimination and the presence of a public position are among the most significant components of the social responsibility of every state.
A Modern Situation of Gender Inequality
Practically every woman has faced gender inequality in the workplace. Thus, according to Cecilia Ridgeway, “The institutional organization of paid work at present is deeply structured by gender”. More to say, in certain professions, women are not even accepted. For example, in an extremely modern profession of IT professionals, the absolute vast majority of workers are men. Such a situation is a clear manifestation of gender prejudices. When there are prejudices and gender preferences, the human workplace can be highly stressful, especially if the person does not fit into the mainstream of the common gender. In the developed countries, there can be plaintiff's claims against the employer in violation of gender equality. Thus, Figart and Warnecke state that “despite legal and organizational efforts to alleviate gender inequality at work, gender difference in career opportunities and the allocation of workplace rewards persist”. Consequently, many cases on gender discrimination are still registered in many companies worldwide.
These days, one can encounter most frequent forms of discrimination based on gender that a person may encounter in the workplace. First, it is unequal wage - one of the most obvious problems lying on the surface. The issue of equal pay between men and women is quite politicized in society. In the countries with developed democracy, the issue is addressed at the legislative level or with the help of regulatory documents of other branches of power. It is necessary to make sure that the salary of employees and a system of relations are based not on one’s sexual preferences but on the experience and professional qualities. Nevertheless, the pay gap is preserved in the world. At the same time, Williams and Dellinger have noted that “the presence of women in positions of power could impact the gender wage gap”. Women earn about 77% of men’s salaries. Without the actions targeted at addressing the differences in wages, the salaries of men and women will be equal only in 2086. In addition, the gap between wages is bigger in developing than in developed countries. Globally, the gap between the salaries of men and women increases, depending on how many children a woman has. When a woman lets sex play a role in deciding her salary, she becomes a part of the future challenges and possible claims.
Interviews and a list of questions asked in employment include a more subtle level of gender preferences. Most often, it is seen in the different ways of conducting the interviews of men and women. For example, an employer usually asks a woman questions about her marital status and children. These questions have a zero impact on the quality of employee’s business management at work. Thus, questions about family and family life should be outside the boundaries of preference. Furthermore, in some cases, they are simply illegal. Every woman has or plans to have children and it does not affect her skills in the profession. Perhaps, the presence of children influences the professionalism and dedication of men even more. The reduction of assigned duties and responsibilities is another way to highlight gender inequality. It is manifested in the fact that women’s responsibilities and assignments are often easier than those of men.
A positional bias is another level of gender inequality. For example, it is estimated that a woman is better suited to be a secretary or a receptionist. However, such a perception violates the rights of men to occupy these positions. At the same time, in the professions belonging to the first line of protection in society, preference is given to men. In turn, it violates the rights of women already. This type of gender bias is extremely widespread in all kinds of business. However, modern society should get rid of these stereotypes. For example, most men are rather suitable to occupy the position of a secretary. They can make responsible and right decisions in the workplace and help a manager to organize the work time successfully. At the same time, many women have the skills of martial arts and they are attentive to their official duties. It is especially true if an offender of the order or a commercial spy is also a woman.
The outdated views on society are also a cause of gender inequalities. Society is not static, and it has greatly changed in the recent decades. The notion that women should stick to some old fashion standard and the availability of this kind of reasoning are already outdated. It hinders promotion in business and it must be eliminated from any workplace. Women can be professional without wearing a business suit or a dress, while men can be professional without a tie.
Glass ceiling is a term entered by women in the struggle for their rights, when a promotion or career ladder rests on the invisible barrier characterized only by gender preferences. Every employee regardless of gender should have equal opportunities in the workplace. In equal conditions, men and women are able to achieve all the career steps, taking into account only their skills and professional characteristics.
Sexual harassment is an extremely important issue in the workplace as women more likely than men become victims of sexual violence in the workplace. About 35% of women worldwide become victims of physical and sexual abuse. In turn, it affects their employment. However, the cases of male harassment are also extremely common today. Every responsible person should know that there are no circumstances where sexual harassment at work may be allowed.
Globally, the gap in the labor market participation of men and women has decreased slightly. These days, about 50% of women are employed as compared to 77% of men. In 1995, these figures were 52% and 80% respectively. Today, women own and manage more than 30% of all enterprises. However, as a rule, they work in small enterprises. Women constitute only 5% of executives of the world’s largest corporations, which is an extremely small percentage.
Negation of the Problem
In general, the problems of gender inequality and discrimination are often ignored with the usage of different kinds of arguments. Thus, with the assertion of Pettit and Hook, “no single explanation can account for gender inequality in employment, occupational sex segregation, and wages across countries”. The most common is the position of the so-called naturalness and notorious destinations of people because of their gender. It was in the past and remains in the present. Bell Hooks states that “when men did most of the work, women worked to make home a site of comfort and relaxation for males”. Thus, a woman’s destination is to give birth and take care of family while man’s predisposition is to earn money and protect family, be afraid of strangers, and love the country. Furthermore, Hooks writes in her book Feminism is for Everybody “since our society continues to be primary a ‘Christian’ culture, masses of people continue to believe that god has ordained that women be subordinate to men in the domestic household”. This simple position is promoted in many countries. However, there is no single natural model of the family, society, and behavior of men and women. Studies in the field of anthropology and animal psychology clearly show that the variability of relations in the animal communities and societies formed throughout the history of humankind is radically different. Therefore, there is no single natural mode of behavior. In principle, the existence of such an approach has an explanation and justification of motions for overcoming gender discrimination.
Another objection to the relevance of the gender issue shows that in most countries, equal rights for men and women are legally enshrined. Therefore, the possibilities are the same for every person. However, the rejection of them is motivated by personal preferences not related to any imposed gender role. People position liberal society as the society of free choice. Thus, if the percentage of women in serious business or politics is negligible and that of men engaging in household is even less, it is the problem of people’s choice. Such a position is quite common in many countries.
A third approach consists in the fact that according to the opinion of many people, there are more important issues such as economic, political, and social ones. Therefore, the problem of gender inequality is not so important. However, the gender issue is just as important as the issues mentioned above.
There are various problems in modern society. The rights of various groups of people based on gender, sexuality, age, and nationality as well as economic and physical basis are frequently violated. However, all people have equal rights regardless of such attributes. Therefore, Flynn, Haynes, and Kilgour are of the opinion that “gender equality is a fundamental human right, and a social justice perspective is sufficient for providing the rational to address gender and other inequalities”. Most of these prejudices are connected with the lack of education and the misunderstanding of the subject. Even for the conscious people that have a critical attitude to information, which they are offered, the issue of discrimination is often non-obvious. It should be remembered that all issues of legal culture are resolved with the help of education. In such a way, it is necessary to increase the erudition of people on the problem of gender inequality.
Nowadays, people live in the times of rapid changes. It is obvious that the relations between men and women in all spheres of society have also changed. However, the problem of gender inequality is still rather urgent. This issue runs through all the problems of the present and it is relevant in the life of every person. On the societal level, the declared rights and opportunities of the individual are not fully respected regardless of gender, while bias and gender discrimination still exist. These days, women and men have unequal access to social status, resources, privileges, prestige, and power. Gender discrimination means the limitation or loss of rights by gender in all areas of life, including labor, social, economic, political, and domestic areas. Such a discrimination leads to a lower social status and it is a form of violence against the person. All employers should pay close attention to the issue of gender inequality in the workplace. Together, the whole world will come to the equality among people.