gender inequality in the workplace

I. Introduction

            From birth until death, human feelings, thoughts, and actions reflect social definitions of the sexes. Children quickly learn that their society defines females and males as different kinds of human beings and, by about the age of three or four, they begin to apply gender standards to themselves (Kohlberg, 1999).

            Gender is at work in our society’s expectations for us as well as our aspirations for ourselves. We can see how different these visions are for the two sexes by noting that “becoming a woman” often involves bodily processes: starting to menstruate, losing virginity, or having a child. “Becoming a man,” by contrast, is more likely to mean taking on significant responsibility (Wolf, 2002).

            Just as socialization incorporates gender into personal identity, so it teaches us to act in sex-linked ways. Gender roles (or sex roles) are attitudes and activities that a culture links to each sex. Gender roles are the active expression of identity. In other words, insofar as our culture defines males as ambitious and competitive, we expect them to engage in team sports and aspire to positions of leadership. To the extent that females are defined as deferential and emotional, we expect them to be good listeners and supportive observers.

            On the other hand, the family is the first and the most fundamental unit of society. It is made up of the father, mother, children, and relatives. The family is a necessary society which is derived from natural law. It springs from conjugal love between husband and wife and is sustained by in its efforts towards its objective.

            Aristotle regards the family as prior to the State. On the other hand, marriage is not the pleasure of marital sex. The end of nature is not pleasure. But pleasure is an incentive for spouses to embark on the most difficult task of building a home for the child.

            Moreover, from birth until death, human feelings, thoughts, and actions reflect social definitions of the sexes. Children quickly learn that their society defines females and males as different kinds of human beings and, by about the age of three or four, they begin to apply gender standards to themselves (Kolhberg, 2000).

            People in the United States traditionally have used to define females and males. Consider the overall pattern: Not only do we distinguish between the two sexes; we define them in opposing terms. Polarizing humanity in terms of gender is still widespread in this country, despite the fact that research suggests that most young people do not develop consistently “feminine” or “masculine” personalities (L. Bernard, 1999).

            Just as socialization incorporates gender into personal identity, so it teaches us to act in sex-linked ways. Gender roles (or sex roles) are attitudes and activities that a culture links to each sex. Gender roles are the active expression if gender identity. In other words, insofar as our culture defines males as ambitious and competitive, we expect them to engage in team sports and aspire to positions of leadership. To the extent that females are defined as deferential and emotional, we expect them to be good listeners and supportive observers.

            This paper investigates the cause and effects of gender discrimination or gender inequality in both sexes in the workplace.

II. Background

            Discrimination also varies intensity, ranging from subtle to blatant. Prejudice and discrimination often-but not always-occur together. A personnel manager prejudiced against members of a particular gender may refuse to hire him/her. Nowadays, racial discrimination is not the only dilemma in our society but as well as sex discrimination where the agencies or organizations prefer a particular gender to perform a specific task. This would despise the abilities and skills of an individual if the preferred gender is not suited to her or him. The problem of our society is that, it always stereotypes men and women’s abilities and capabilities without realizing that every gender has a potential to perform such task as long as they are able to meet the requirements for that specific position setting aside the gender prejudices issue.

            On the other hand, principles of fair play tend to change along with economic development. In less-developed societies, people routinely favor the preferred gender. Traditional people typically recognize a moral duty to “look after their own.” In industrial societies, by contrast, cultural norms elevate the individual (both men and women employees), so that achievement rather than ascription guides our code of fairness. Many organizations, therefore, seek out the most qualified applicant while forbidding “nepotism” or “conflict of interest” by which employees would hire or favor a preferred gender. More broadly, we condemn treating people categorically, although this practice has been commonplace throughout human history and continue in much of the world today.
Research on the psychology of women and men evokes the concern that studies of male-female differences might exaggerate people’s gender stereotypes. Others assert that gender differences are not women’s deficits. If women, for example, are more socially connected, well, in most cases maybe that is healthy rather than a symptom of an overly supportive (“co-dependent’) personality.

            Moreover, individual men and women vary from gently nurturant to fiercely competitive. Yet diversity exists between as well as within the sexes. After listening to women’s reasoning and concerns, psychologists Nancy Chodorow (1999), Jean Miller (2001), and Carol Gilligan and her colleagues (2004) concluded that women more than men give priority to relationships. Unlike boys who must define themselves in separation from their usually female caregiver, girls more easily identify with their mothers and develop an identity based on their social connections. Later experiences reinforce the sense of independent self among men and of interdependent self among women. Women emphasize caring and they provide most of the care to the very young and the very old. Although 69 percent of people say they have a close relationship with their father, 90 percent say they’re close to their mother. Men, like empowered people generally, emphasize freedom and self-reliance.

III. Discussion

A. Social Dominance

            Around the world, men are also perceived as more dominant. From Finland to France, Peru to Pakistan, Nigeria to New Zealand, people rate men as more dominant, nurturant, and affiliative. Indeed, in virtually every society, men are socially dominant. When groups are formed, leadership tends to go to males. As leaders, men tend to be directive, even autocratic, and women tend to be more democratic. When people interact, men are more likely to utter opinions, women to express support. In everyday behavior, men are more likely to act as powerful people do, to talk assertively, to interrupt, to initiate touching, to smile less, to stare.

            These behaviors differences lessen with maturity, as middle-aged women become more assertive and men more empathic. Nevertheless, the behaviors held maintain the inequalities of social power. When political leaders are elected, they usually are men. When salaries are paid, those in traditionally male occupations receive more. When asked what pay they deserve, women often expect less than do similarly qualified men.

B. Gender and the Family

            The first question people usually ask about a newborn-“Is it a boy or a girl?”-looms so large because the answer involves far more than the infant’s sex; it carries a great significance for the child’s entire life. Sociologist Jessie Bernard (2001) suggests that the “pink world” of females contrasts sharply with the “blue world” of boys. In fact, the historical preference for boys among parents show that gender inequality is at work even before a child is born (Lengermann & Wallace, 2003).

            In global perspective, the preference for boys is greater where patriarchy is more pronounced. Generally speaking, such societies are poor and face enormous population pressure. All too often patriarchy and poverty add up to female infanticide, the practice of aborting female fetuses and neglecting, or even actively killing, infant girls by parents who would prefer to raise boys. In North Africa and in most of Asia, life-threatening discrimination against females is commonplace. Researchers know that, assuming equal social treatment, a society should have about 106 females for every 100 males-a disparity that reflects the generally hardier physical condition of females. The People’s Republic of China, however, tallies only 94 females for every 100 males; roughly 12 percent of the females we would expect to find are not in the records. Some of this shortfall may be due to parents not reporting the birth of daughters. But much of the disparity surely results from sex-selected abortion or violence by families against daughters. Worldwide, researchers estimate, as many as 100 million females are “missing,” and many presumably have fallen victim to deadly discrimination (United Nations Development Programme, 2001).

            Children grow into different expectations families have for daughters and sons. Research on parental attitudes suggests that parents want sons to be strong, aggressive achievers while they expect their daughters to be sensitive and differential (Witkin-Lanoil, 2003). Parents can convey these expectations unconsciously even in the way they handle their children. A researcher presented an infant dressed as either a boy or a girl to a number of women, noting that her subjects handled the “female” child tenderly, with frequent hugs and caresses, and the “male” child aggressively, lifting him high in the air or bouncing him on the knee (Bonner, 2000). The message is clear: the female world revolves around passivity and emotion, while the male world involves action and independence.

C. Legal requirements for Marriage

            Persons acquire special duties on account of their moral and legal relationship to another. One such relationship is established in marriage. Marriage is a moral and legal contact between a man and woman. It is a moral contract because it is entered into by both parties, giving free and voluntary consent. It is a legal contract because it is solemnized in accordance with the law. Marriage is an important institutional element of the family. It is the cultural mechanism that ensures its continuity. Marriage is an institution consisting of a cluster or mores and folkways, of attitudes, ideas, and ideals, of social definitions and legal restrictions (Brennan, 1999).

            People marry for a combination of reasons: love, economic and emotional security, the parents’ wishes, escape from loneliness or an unhappy home situation, money, companionship, protection, adventure, or common interests (Bowman 1999:98). Sex or sexual attraction is the least consideration, but marriage makes sexual intercourse legitimate. It sanctions parenthood and provides a stable background for rearing of children.

            Marriage is the foundation of the family, an inviolable social institution. Its purpose may not necessarily be for procreation or to have children but for companionship, as in the case of couples past the age of procreation.

            Marriage has the twofold purpose of establishing a conjugal life (companionship) and the establishing a family (procreation and support of children). The married state constitutes a conjugal society. Conjugal society, as defined by Paul Glenn, is “the stable union entered into by a man and a woman for the procreation and education of children and for mutual support and helpfulness (Disch, 2000). Marriage is a natural institution. Man is drawn to it by the necessity of his natural nature. While marriage is not necessary in order to beget children, it is necessary for the purpose of care and training of children. The welfare of the children then is the primary purpose of marriage. This is precisely why marriage by nature and by divine will is stable or permanent relationship since welfare of the children would not otherwise be assured. The secondary purpose of marriage is mutual support and companionship. Marriage is a state where spouses compliment each other. Love and concern for each other is the foundation of a happy marriage. Without such love and appreciation for each other, no man and woman can be together permanently. Thus, such love which draws spouses in marriage must be more than physical attachment, sexual attraction, or infatuation. It is the deep commitment of matured persons for each other.

1. Contracting parties must be a male and a female of legal age. This means that both parties are free from any legal impediments and are 18 years old and above. Some legal impediments are: (a) existing previous marriage; (2) mental or psychological incapacity; (3) blood or legal relationships, such as that of brother and sister, or that of an adopter and an adopted child; (4) treachery or deceit, such as when one party killed the spouse of the other in order to facilitate marriage (Goodpaster & Sayre, 2001).

2. Free and voluntary consent must be expressed in the presence of solemnizing officer. This means that consent given mutually but in private, no matter how sincerely expressed, does not constitute a valid marital contract. Cohabitation or “live-in” arrangement is not a legal marriage. (Goodpaster & Sayre, 2001).

D. Responsible Parenthood

            Marriage leads to parenthood. This is the primary purpose of marriage that children are generated and cared for. “Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents.

            There was a time before the advent of contraceptives when parenthood meant simply providing food, clothing, shelter and education to the offspring. Today, mainly because of economic factors, as the exigency of providing the necessities of life has become more difficult to obtain, parenthood has become a heavier challenge.

            Today responsible parenthood includes the ability to make an honest decision on the size of the family, on the number of children that couples can manage to care for and to support given their resources. In spite of the intimately private nature of this decision, it has a wide socio-moral implication, making such decision difficult. In many countries, the size of the family and the methods to be employed towards this particular objective has become a political controversy (Kant, 2001).

            Concededly, the decision has to be made by the parents themselves. But such decision shall not be based solely on personal motives but on the requirement of the family itself and of the common good of society. Certainly such a decision is moral and, therefore, cannot be arrived at without recourse to the moral order established in human nature by God.

E. Sex and Marriage

            Despite today’s focus on sex and related problems, sex is not that all important in a happy marriage. This conclusion was arrived at by Ellen Frank and Carol Anderson who conducted a study of 100 happily married couples whose ages range from their early 20s to their early 60s.

            “In examining the responses to out questionnaires, we discovered that over 90      percent of the couples had less-than-perfect sexual relationship. Yet more than             80 percent rated their marriages as “very happy” or “happy’. Almost all of            these    individuals denied this lack of sexual bliss was a problem for them, and     none expressed a need for change, Apparently, a sexual problem is not   synonymous with a marital one (How Important is Sex to a Happy Marriage.,     Readers’ Digest, August 1999. 102-104).”

            Sex is a normal biological need. In this sense, it is good. It is besides moral and, therefore, permissible only when its natural end or purpose is preserved. This is why pre-marital sex is wrong. Not because it may not generate offspring, but precisely because it may result in offspring whose care is uncertain. It is only within marriage that the natural end of sex, that is, procreation is capable of being respected. Procreation insofar as it is the natural end of the sex act requires responsibility in its use (Kant, 2001).

            In marriage, the sex act is moral even if procreation is not always achieved. But to deliberately frustrate the natural end of sex by artificial means so that couples may avail of its pleasures only while    refusing responsibility over its consequences is immoral. It is not that couples exercising the marital act also intend procreation (Kant, 2001).

F. Friedrich Engels: Gender and Class

            Engels suggested that the activities of women and men in hunting and gathering societies-although different-had comparable importance. A successful hunt may have brought men great prestige, but the vegetation gathered by women constituted most of a society’s food supply (Leacock, 1999). As technological advances led to a productive surplus, however, social equality and communal sharing gave way to private property and, ultimately, a class hierarchy. At this point, men gained pronounced power over women. With surplus wealth to pass on to heirs, upper-class men took a keen interest in their children. The desire to control property, then, prompted the creation of monogamous marriage and the family. That way, men could be certain of paternity-especially the lineage of their sons-and the law ensured that wealth passed to them. For their part, women were taught to remain virgins until marriage, to remain faithful to their husbands thereafter, and to build their lives around bearing and raising children.

            Engels contended that capitalism intensified this male domination. First, capitalism created more wealth, which conferred greater power on men as the owners of property, the heirs of property, and the primary wage earners. Second, an expanding capitalist economy depended on defining people-especially women-as consumers and encouraging them to find fulfillment through the pursuit o personal beauty and consumer products. Third, to support men working in factories, society assigned women the task of maintaining the home. The double exploitation of capitalism, then, lies in paying low wages for male labor and no wages for female work (Eisenstein, 2000).

G. Cultural Variations in Gender Roles

            Around the world, men predominate in fighting wars and hunting, women in caring for infants. Yet different societies socialize children for varying gender roles. In nomadic societies of food-gathering people, there is little division of labor by sex. Thus, boys and girls receive much the same upbringing. It agricultural societies, women stay close to home, in the fields and with the children; men roam more freely. Such societies typically socialize children into more distinct gender roles (Segall & others, 2000).

            Men and women who assume distinct roles develop skills and attitudes that help their differing social behaviors (Eagly & Wood, 2001). Roles vary enormously among the industrialized countries. In North America, medicine and dentistry are predominantly male occupations; in Russia, most medical doctors are women, as most dentists in Denmark. Socialization practices vary just as widely. In countries around the world, girls spend more time than boys helping with housework and child care; boys spend more time in unsupervised play (Edwards, 2001). In rural central India, for example, girls spend two-thirds of their time doing household work, including a daily hour and a half fetching water; boys spend two-thirds of their time in leisure. In Israel, Arab adolescents favor more distinct gender roles than do Jewish adolescents, thus anticipating the adult Arab world’s more distinct norms for male and female behavior (Seginer & others, 2000). Similarly, compared with American 14-years-olds, Mexico City youth have more strongly gender-typed ideals.

H. Variations in gender Roles over time

            Gender roles vary over time as well as across cultures. In 1999, only 1 in 5 Americans approved of “a married woman earning money in business or industry if she has a husband capable of supporting her”; by 2001, 4 in 5 approved. In the flick of an apron, the number of American college women hoping to be fulltime homemakers plunged during the late 1990s and early 2000.

            The change is behavioral as well. The number of women earning education degrees fell sharply. Moreover, between 1996 and 2002, the proportion of American women in the work force increased from 1 in 3 to nearly 3 in 5. Over the same period, these trends contributed to a 7-fold increase in the number of female doctors and a 24-fold increase in the numbers of female lawyers and engineers (Wallis, 1999).

IV. Conclusion

            Men and women who assume distinct roles develop skills and attitudes that help explain their differing social behaviors. In the United States, women are 3 percent of top executives at Fortune 1000 corporations, 4 percent of the Marine Corps, 97 percent of nurses, and 99 percent of secretaries. Such roles enacted by men and women have psychological consequences. Leadership roles foster assertiveness; care giving roles foster nurturance.

            Roles vary enormously among the industrialized countries. In rural central India, for example, girls spend two-thirds of their time doing household work, including a daily hour and a half fetching water; boys spend two-thirds of their time in leisure. In Israel, Arab adolescents favor more distinct gender roles than do Jewish adolescents, thus anticipating the adult Arab world’s more distinct norms for male and female behavior.

            Social-conflict analysis stresses how society places two sexes in unequal positions of wealth, power, and privilege. As a result, the conflict approach is decidedly critical of conventional ideas about gender, claiming that society would be better off if we minimized or even eliminated this dimension of social structure. But social-conflict analysis, too, has its critics. One problem-they suggest, is that this approach casts conventional families-defended traditionalists. A third problem with this approach, for some critics, is its assertion that capitalism stands at the root of gender stratification. Societies with socialist economic system-including the People’s Republic of China and the former Soviet Union-remain strongly patriarchal. Some researchers, in fact, argue that capitalism, with its emphasis on evaluating people on the basis of personal merit rather than categories, actually advances women’s social standing more than socialism does (Moore, 2002).

            Furthermore, the foundation of the family is marriage, which provides the cultural mechanism to insure its continuity. The family performs varied functions, among them the sex and parental function, socialization and social control, biological maintenance, status placement, and economic, religious, educational, recreational, and political functions.


1. Chodorow, N.J. (1999). The reproduction of mothering: Psychoanalysis and the sociology of gender. Berkeley , CA: University of California Press.

2. Kohlberg, Lawrence (1999). The Psychology of moral development: The Nature    and Validity of Moral Stages. New York: Harper & Row, pp. 234-236.

3. Wolf, Naomi (2002). The Beauty Myth: How images of beauty are used against women. New York: William Morrow, pp. 121-122.

4. Bernard, Jessie (2001). The Female World. New York: Free Press, pp.67-68.

5. Lengermann, Patricia Madoo & Wallace, Ruth A. (2003). Gender in America: social control and social change. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 675-682.

6. United Nations Development Programme, (2001). Human development Report 2000.  New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

7. Witkin-Lanoil, Georgia (2003). The Female stress syndrome: How to recognize and live with it. New York: Newmarket Press: pp. 345-351.

8. Bonner, Jane (2000). Research Presented in “The Two Brains.” Public Broadcasting System telecast, 1999.

9. Hacker, Helen Mayer (2001). “Women as a minority group.” Social Forces. Vol. 30, pp. 60-69.

10. Leacock, Eleanor (1999). “Women’s status in Egalitarian Societies: Implications for social evolution.” Current Anthropology. Vol. 19, No. 2: 247-75.

11. Eisenstein, Zillah (2000). Capitalist Patriarchy and the case for socialist feminism. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1999. pp. 231-245.

12. Moore, Dahlia (2002). “Structural Determinants of Men’s and women’s Personal Networks.” American Sociological review. Vol. 55, No. 5: pp. 726-735.

13. Kant, Immanuel: The Critique of practical Reason, Transl. by Thomas Kingsmill Abott, Britannica Great Books, no. 42, Chicago, Encyclopedia  Britannica, Inc., 2001

14. Goodpaster, K.E. & K.M. Sayre (eds.) Ethics and Problems of the 21st Century, London, University of Notre Dame Press, 2001.

15. Brennan, Robert Edward: Thomistic Psychology, New York Macmillan Co., 1999.

17. Disch, Robert (ed.): The Ecological Conscience, Values for Survival, Spectrum Books, New York, prentice-hall, Inc., 2000.


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