Females In The Canadian Workplace

Date: Thursday February 8, 2001 Work Place Roles Of Men and Women Compared in Today’s Society “Rosy cheeked and bright eyed, she would know how to darn a stocking and mend her own dress… command a regiment of pots and kettles and be a lady when required. ” This statement raises an interesting view on how women have been socially constructed with regard to their place in the work force. Does this also mean that men have been constructed toward a different position in the workplace? Although women have progressed, as far as occupational status is concerned, patriarchy still persists in our modern society.

The subject area that will be focussed upon in this paper is the social construction of gender. The purpose of my paper is to explore how the social construction of gender has produced inequalities among men and women at work. The direction this paper will take is to discuss the differences of status, wealth and power between men and women in the work place. The sociological theory that I will apply is gender as a sociological construction. The key element of this theory is sex dimorphism where traits are conceptualized as typically male and typically female normative patterns and these as cultural norms (Hale, 1995).

Reskin (1993) stated that employers’ preferences for male workers, economic pressures, size of labour supply, gender-role socialization and workers’ values were some of the reasons why women and men are segregated in the workplace. Reskin concluded that there are many social and economic forces that increase and decrease sex segregation in the work force (Reskin,1993). The only way to decrease, better yet, to vanquish sex segregation in the workplace is for society to become “gender blind”. If society became “gender blind” differences in the workplace such as status, wealth and power would disappear .

As long as society continues to construct gender into either, a) male, or b) female, the problem at hand will never go away. The problem begins back in early childhood. Children are so innocently blind that they do not realize that occupational sex segregation appears in their every day life. An example of this is shown in Nemerowicz’s book, Children’s Perception of Gender and Work Roles. Nemerowicz asked fourth grade children to draw a man at work and a woman at work. Eighty-six percent of the pictures showed men in jobs associated with power and labour of some kind (Mackie, 1990).

Men were drawn as construction workers, policemen, firemen, doctors and businessmen. On the other hand, women were shown as housekeepers, nurses, cashiers and secretaries. Using Nemerowicz’s results it is safe to say that children had to have learned occupational sex segregation somewhere. Was it their parents, their teachers or their toys that had this stereotypical affect on them? Since early sex segregation like this occurs, differences between men and women in a child’s future work environment are imminent.

From early childhood, children are taught traits that are conceptualized as typically male and female normative patterns through toys. They don’t know it but sex dimorphism is actually happening while they are playing with their toys. Toys such as building sets, trucks, cars, sports equipment and war toys (guns and soldiers) are usually bought for and played with by young boys. What these boys don’t realize is that they are learning to be engineers, truck drivers, mechanics, professional athletes and soldiers, which are all male-dominated professions.

Little girls usually play with dolls, such as Barbie, make-up and home-making items (Richardson & Simpson, 1990). This teaches girls to want to become tall, skinny, beautiful homemakers. This portrayal of a woman is a cultural norm worldwide. After viewing a slide-show of toys, a group of university students were asked which toys they would buy for girls and which they would buy for boys. Their responses included guns, soldiers, jeeps, carpentry tools and a red bike for the boys. They chose baby dolls, dishes, sewing kits, jewellery boxes and a pink bike for the girls.

Their choices of toys shows that there is a gender “standard” for toys for boys and toys for girls (Fisher-Tompson, 1990). If sex segregation occurs with children’s toys, who is to say that sex segregation will not appear in the workplace, as well. There are sociological norms that appear in the workplace, as well. If you were to ask yourself what you considered as women’s jobs and what you considered as men’s jobs, how would you respond? For a man, most people would say a policeman, fireman, businessman, engineer.

In 1996, men over-represented in the natural sciences, engineering and mathematics, making up 80% of the professionals in these fields (Kendall, 1998). For a woman, people might list occupations such as teachers, secretaries and housewives. Since women began to learn how to read and write, they have shown a natural aptitude for developing writing and grammatical skills. This is one of the reasons why women occupy 79. 7% of clerical jobs in the world today. Not only do women occupy such a high percentage of clerical jobs, 25% of working women have a clerical related job (Statistics Canada, 1999a).

The obvious conclusion from statistics like these is that men must occupy more of the jobs with status than women do. Clerical jobs usually fall underneath some sort of management position. The CEO of a large company would be seem as the manager, while his secretary would occupy the clerical position. As stated earlier, 79. 7% of clerical jobs are held by women. The clerical job is seen as a lower status job in comparison to the management position. This means that on a corporate ladder, the CEO would be on top rung while the secretary would be closer to the bottom.

Fifty-five percent of management jobs are currently occupied by men (Statistics Canada, 1999a). Not only are men in higher status jobs, these jobs pay more money than the lower status jobs so men end up with a greater proportion of wealth and power in the work place. In a specific line of work, males and females do the same thing, but they may be assigned different job titles. Even though it may sound extreme, a good example of this would be a man and woman who are both custodians in a local school. What do you think their job titles would be?

If the woman was labelled as a janitor and the man a sanitary engineer who would you pick as having more status? (Baron & Bilby, 1991) Not only are men and women titled and perceived differently, they seem to be paid according to their gender as well. Men do not only make more money because they occupy higher status jobs, they reel in a higher income because they are men as well. Sociologists and statisticians have created a mathematical way of proving this, wage gap. Wage-gap is a term used to describe the disparity between a woman’s and a man’s annual income. To find wage gap you divide a woman’s annual income by a man’s annual income.

This will give you a percentage also known as an earning’s ratio (Lowe, 1999). In 1996, women who worked full time earned only 73% of what a men earned. This means for every dollar a man made a woman would make 73 cents. (Statistics Canada 1999a). Another major factor is marital status. If a woman is single, she makes 93 cents for each dollar earned by a single or married man. Even worse a married woman makes 69 cents for every dollar earned by a single or married man. Women’s pay relative to men’s has increased approximately a penny a year for the past ten years (Kendall, 2000).

The “women’s movement” is not the sole reason for the increase. Men’s earnings since the 70’s have slowly declined while a woman’s has decreased (Kendall, 2000). In the 1980’s, a number of private companies, some provincial governments, and our federal government have implemented pay equity. Pay equity is a policy that promotes equal pay for an equal amount of work and does not depend on gender or race (Kemp. 1994). Therefore, what Kemp (1994) is trying to say is, theoretically a man and woman should be payed the same for the same job. Even with such a strong policy, sex segregated income still persists today.

In most occupations that require specialized educational credentials, pay equity does not hold true. According to Statistics Canada (1998c), female dentist only earn 66 cents, female lawyers only earn 68 cents and female university professors earn 77 cents for every male earned dollar in these specific professions. (Statistics Canada, 1998c). Another form of sex discrimination in the workplace is power. Why are men still more powerful in the workplace? As described in above paragraphs, a greater proportion of management jobs are occupied by men which gives them power over their subordinates, both men and women.

Throughout history women have been deemed as submissive to men and this ancient social construction has carried over into the workplace. Historically, men have always been more powerful than women and that is why men occupy more powerful jobs within a company (Brym, 1998). Society’s message is that men have been the shapers and thinkers of the world and this is natural (Rich, 1992). If this is the case, it simply perpetuates the idea that men have the right to gain and control the power of industries and nations. Men are seen as natural born leaders who are able to overcome problems through sheer logic and intelligence.

For example, throughout Canada’s political history, our country has been lead primarily by men. There was only one female Prime Minister, Kim Campbell, but she was not voted’ in. She became Prime Minister by default, after Brian Mulroney resigned. Canadians quickly voted Kim Campbell out in the next election, which occurred after only a few months in office. Society has deemed women incapable of such responsibilities due to the belief that women’s “natural” abilities include social and emotional connections; something society believes interferes with power.

Since positions of status, power and wealth are primarily held by men, men are seen as belonging to the world of business, more so than women are. Women, even when working outside of the home, in addition to occupying less valued jobs, usually have the added roles of housewife and mother, and often perform the majority of household duties. Even though you may see some men functioning in the role of “house-husband” or “Mr. Mom”, the numbers must be insignificant enough since they do not seem to impact greatly on the way men and women are perceived by society.

Shopping, for example, is seen as a role most frequently occupied by women, while men are seen as the producers of the products women are buying. Therefore, consuming the goods would not be seen as valuable as the manufacturing or producing of those goods. Women and their roles in society are often undervalued because these roles usually produce intangible, or almost intangible, products such as a meal which is consumed and becomes an invisible product, or performing nursing duties under’ the supervision of doctors, who are predominantly male, and the nurse’s role then becomes less visible than that of the doctor.

Women, and women’s jobs, are often viewed as menial and, of no or little value, depending on the context in which that job exists. Some societies or cultures value certain jobs more than others which is true of jobs held by men, as well. Males most often occupy the jobs of creators and builders, and, therefore produce tangible products, such as bridges and buildings. Therefore, the contributions of men to the economy and to society are more visible and subsequently more valued than the contributions of women.

Society still perceives men as the breadwinners or providers because their earning potential is greater than that of women, although more and more women are breaking into the non-traditional types of work, such as construction, high level management and medicine. Societal expectations, which seem to be perpetuated from generation to generation, often expect women to be feminine and be behave ladylike, and therefore to occupy acceptable roles in the workplace (Bradbury, 1993). A woman in the armed services, for example, is often labelled as a “butch”.

Men are also expected to behave in a manly or masculine way by society. Men who occupy a non-traditional type of job, for example an esthetician, might be called a “whim” or “sissy”. When men or women deviate from the norm, they are often labelled and perceived in a negative way by society. Career women are often viewed in a negative way by society because there is still an expectation that women, who are wives and mothers, should be at home looking after their children and preparing a nice home for husbands and families.

Women who choose to work often work harder than their male counterparts because they are working in a male-dominated field and have to constantly prove that they are capable and deserving of that role. The perceptions and roles of men and women may also differ from culture to culture. Even those from a different culture, who have been living in the Western world for long periods of time, still have preconceived and often rigid expectations of their female family members and other women, in general. Therefore, cultural traditions also have an impact on the roles, acceptable occupations and behaviours of women, inside and outside the home.

Consequently, these cultural expectations impact on the distribution of status, wealth and power between men and women. In conclusion occupational sex segregation is proven to be evident in all levels of the workplace. Examining this fact through differences in status, wealth and power and discussing Gender as a Social Construction we can say that society has successfully separated man and women in the workplace. Measures taken, such as pay equity and publically exposing sex segregation statistically, have not motivated society to recognize and need to change today’s sex segregated workplace.


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