Discrimination is nothing, but an unfair treatment against a person or group of people based on prejudice (Oxford Concise Dictionary). This would imply discriminating people on the basis of their gender, race, religion, caste, class, age, disability, migration, genetic disposition, physical appearance, etc etc. Discrimination at workplaces among gender is a matter of serious concern for organizations all over India.
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Talking about gender biases, women in India still remain the largest group that faces discrimination in workplaces. Even in today’s world, women comprise of only 2 per cent of the total managerial strength in the Indian corporate sector. While more and more women are joining the corporate, with better salaries and even at senior levels, their pay equity compared with their male counterparts is still a disappointment.
Discrimination at workplaces can come from any of the sides, whether be from the employer’s or the employee itself. When we talk about the employee itself, we take into consideration the way new employees are treated or welcomed by the existing ones. The effect of this may last for a long time, if not amongst them, but in the organization, as this could be seen in the form of negative feedback one may get in return of his work. Discrimination leads to psychological and emotional disturbances leading to demoralization which further affects the performance and the standard of work output. It is so truly said that discrimination results in the wastage of human resources and their talent. This is mostly seen with women.
Man and woman play an important and equal role in the society. In India from centuries it has been noticed that women are and considered an oppressed class and are neglected. “During the national struggle for independence, Gandhi gave a call of emancipation of women. He wrote -: I am uncompromising in the matter of women’s rights. The difference in sex and physical form denotes no difference in status. Woman is the complement of man, and not inferior”. The constitution of India declares that all are equal in front of the law.
Gender inequality can also be termed as gender bias, which refers to the differences made among individuals based on their gender, that is, male and female or girl and boy. Initially this problem was seen in rural India as people considered a girl child a burden on them, but now this is also seen in urban India in areas such as offices, organizations, institutions, society etc etc.
The gender inequality in the workplace is one of the high rated issues that have been publicly ringing through society for years. It refers to the hidden disparities among individual based on gender performance which is seen towards women. In order to identify this situation we must try to get to the root of the problem and must understand sociological factors that cause women to have much more difficult times getting the same wages, profits and job opportunities as their male complements. The society in which we live right now have been shaped patriarchal for centuries.
Before the industrial revolution most people worked in and near their homes, whether they were involved in farming or making clothes or pottery. In certain situations one would notice men going to far off places like towns or cities for work and a better wage, but women on the other hand have always continued to be there at home and carry on the work of her and her husband’s share ( when he is not around ). But this situation changed when modern industry appeared in the late 19th century, which saw a drastic separation between home and workplace.
In terms of employment as well as promotion in work and occupation, women often face greater handicap than men.
Women are, and have been, entering the workplace in rapid numbers. Evidence shows that middle and upper class women are prospering even though discrimination is prevailing in the society.
When talking about the women in the workplace, often the term “glass-ceiling” is used referring to the imaginary career barrier that seemingly impedes a woman’s ability to rise to the top ranks.
Even though there has been a diminishing gender gap in labour forces as women are entering work, literature shows that gender discrimination still persists in Indian workplaces. As anthropologist Gayle Rubin (1975:178) said, “a taboo against the sameness of men and women (divides) the sexes into two mutually exclusive categories (and) thereby creates gender.” It has been seen that men usually enjoy certain benefits without having worked for them, which a women doesn’t just because they are males. The word gender in itself signifies the advantage males have over females (Acker 1990:146; 1999; Britton 2000; Risman 1998). It is the societies who create and maintain the gender differences and these can be seen in a number of ways. Division of work according to sexes is a fundamental concept of work which is brought about by organizational practices ( Acker 1999; Ely and Meyerson 2000; Ridgeway and Smith Lovin 1999)
Initially it was seen in India that women were not treated equally and fairly in comparison to their male counterparts. They were deprived of a lot of facilities and were not given the privilege of education, work, owe property or even vote. It was believed that women were meant to stay at home, raise the children, serve the family and carry out all the domestic household work. But during the 1800s efforts were made for the first time to bring about equality amongst gender. In the early part of this century coeducation started at least at the university level and laws were made to bring about equality. From then things have improved but still discrimination and unequal treatment against women persists
The fundamental explanatory theories for gender inequality are as follows:
Human capital theory
The dual labour market
HUMAN CAPITAL THEORY
Human capital theories attribute gender inequality and occupational segregation to lower education and skill levels found among women” ( Estevez-Abe 2005: 184). In other words, it means that, people with more skills, knowledge, experience etc etc are more likely to get better jobs. It has been noticed that women normally end up in part time jobs or less desirable jobs as compared to men, meaning jobs that demand less skills. According to this theory, women invest less in education and formal training in comparison to men because of traditional family role (Ibid, 351) which are to raise the children, serve the family and carry out the household work (Becker 1982 cited in Estevez-Abe 2005:184). Also, this theory suggests, that women avoid fields where there are rapid changes such as technological, innovative changes. Literature shows that those occupations requiring less investment of time, money and training are now the ones with lower returns and female based (Marini 1989: 352; Rosenfeld 1984:57). Human capital theory also says that the extent to which an individual will differ in the variables such as prior experience, hours of working, education, knowledge, marital status, etc etc, their worth in the labour market will be affected in return. No matter even if a woman has same qualifications, experience and are at the same position to that of a man in opposite still she earns less in comparison to him (Padavic and Reskin 2002).
Socialization also helps in explaining gender inequality. Theories based on socialization say that it is through childhood and the way they socially interact that the individual’s place is determined in the society or workplace (Tomaskovic – Devey 1993: 8). According to this theory, it is the society who sets out the appropriate roles and occupations for an individual (Rosenfeld 1984:57). In other words, men and women accept the roles based on gender laid out by the society for them. They also value them as that’s what they learn through socialization over a period of time. These roles are mostly the rules, norms and regulations of a society (Konrad, Corrigal, Lieb & Ritchie 2000: 109). This also affects the way one conducts himself or herself and his or her ambitions leading to division of labour where women specialize in household and family activities and men in occupation and market. They way one socializes as a child plays a very important role in shaping his future and career life. Socialization has a very important and predominant role in an individual’s life. It is the socially constructed norms and values of the society that brings about gender inequality in workplaces as well. No matter how modern one may be, he still has to stay in a society and follow its rules and regulations. If he tries to change or go against them consequences that follow are not desirable and of choice
Progression has been of no good to women when it comes to the way they are treated at workplaces. Overt and covert discrimination continues to affect them in workplaces. Much of the treatment is covert but then one cannot deny the fact that overt also continues. Here (overt discriminating treatment) one sees how the men especially the White men are dominant in the society making the rules and regulations. They have an upper hand and advantage in the labour market. Women pose a treat to these White men (Reskin 1988). Evidence show that how historically White men used labour unions to exclude women from well paying jobs
THE DUAL LABOUR MARKET
According to the dual labour market theory, men and women earn different incomes because they work in different segments of the labour market. Women are mostly found working in the areas which comprise of low incomes and benefits. Therefore, “equal pay for equal work” is just a principle which only applies to a very handful of people as women are never engaged in “equal work”.
According to the dual labour market theory the market is divided into two markets namely the primary market and the secondary market.
In the primary labour market, jobs are relatively stable, wages are also good and opportunities for advancement exist. Basically primary jobs are found in large organizations as they comprise of more stable jobs, better working environment and benefits. Example of this would mean working in a MNC under the management head.
On the other hand, secondary markets are the ones having few turnovers, small profits, not many stable jobs and also poor working environment. Example of this would be working a serving person in a fast food restaurant. These are short time or part time jobs.
Under this theory one sees that most of the women would be employed in the secondary labour market and not the primary labour market.
The primary labour market itself is divided into two tiers – the first tier and the second tier.
The first tier consists of high status professional and organizational jobs with more autonomy whereas on the other hand second tier consists of the working class with less autonomy such as semi skilled blue collar jobs. Women are found in large percentages under the informal sector of the labour market where there is a wide wage gap and low or no benefits. People or companies would hire such people in an under the table manner which would have no records of them and also not pay them their profit share.
Under this theory it is also said that men and women are employed in different occupations and if they were in the same occupation then they would be doing different jobs. This is called occupation segregation
According to Joanne Naiman, “men are considered breadwinners and women’s place is at home” (Joanne Naiman 1997: 250-51). This viewpoint is not surprising as history shows how it is the men who have been the policy makers and shape the society as they perceive and want it. They have always been dominating the society. For example in Joanne Naiman’s book, there is an excerpt from Gustave Le Bonne, a Parisian in 1879, in which he openly compared most of the female brains with that of gorillas and stated ” the inferiority (of women) is so obvious that no one can contest it for the moment; only its degree is worth discussing.” (Quoted in Joanne Naiman 1997: 250).
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Another instance can be traced from Carol Travis’ book titled “The Mismeasurement Of Woman” where she states that left hemisphere of the brain deals with intelligence and reasoning and right on the other hand with passion, sex and other such similar concepts. It was said that men were considered to have an advanced or better left brain in comparison to women. But later some where in the 1960s and 70s scientists found out that it was the right hemisphere of the brain that was source of intelligence, imagination, reasoning, creativity etc etc and men had more of this brain now (Carol Tavris 1992:48).
Both the above citations clearly show that how society would see women to be inferior to men and not smart enough to carry out jobs which would deal with thinking and reasoning and these were the main causes as why women were not treated equally at workplaces. It was because of these mindsets that women were not given the freedom to work and if they were to work, they had to always prove themselves worthy in comparison to men at every step and were not treated equally. This could be in the form of them not getting the equal pay as her male colleague or not promoted or anything for that matter.
Ergo, puts the viewpoint across and says that all those jobs which need supervision are female jobs such as a nurse, secretary, receptionists etc etc. To show this point he uses the “case story” (Mustapha Koc 1999) where Mary, the wife, was given the responsibility and job of a secretary and accountant of the family business and her husband was the boss. Even though they husband and wife, still they did not share the responsibilities that they could have of the family business in the office. This was because the society had outlined the role and position for Mary. Because of the norms and rules of the society Mary had to quit her job from the bank as she had children now and had to become a housewife. This is another example as to how women are not treated equally in workplace and society.
Theodore Caplow (“The Sociology of Work”, 1954) identifies the reasons as to what make it difficult for women to compete with men in the general labour markets. The reasons mentioned are –
“Women’s primary role and social status as housewife and mother, the secondary economic role of women as “family breadwinners / providers”, the large number of women in society for whom paid employment was as option, rather than a necessity and the historical (cultural) domination of the workplace by men.”
Walby in the similar lines of that of Caplow but in greater emphasis argues that “male domination in workplace has created a cultural setting in which women play a largely peripheral role”.
It is clearly seen in our everyday lives how women are asked to take care of the households, family and children. How she has to quit from her job when her children are born and how it is all her duty to bring up the children along with taking care of the others at home. How as a child they asked to play with dolls and some sort of indoor games called house house or teacher teacher. While playing these games how they would treat their dolls as if they were her children and take care of them. At school asked to take extra curricular activities involving subjects like home science, stitching, nursing. It is very clearly visible how women are not treated equality to men and this brings about gender inequality.
As Haralambos (“Themes and Perspectives”) notes a point:
“Women face a number of disadvantages in paid work. Firstly, they tend to be lower paid than men. Secondly, they are more-likely to be in part-time work. Thirdly, they tend to concentrated in the lower reaches of the occupations in which they work. Fourthly, women tend to do particular types of jobs, usually those with low status”.
Media also has a major role in this. It also lets subjects or categorises women’s role to household. Most of the household advertisements are also accounted towards women and any with power, authority, position, strength toward men. This also shapes the role of men and women.
Societies have shaped the role of a women to such a limitation that even if she gets a job by going against the norms of the society, she would not be able to go far in her career. The reason for this would be that the society will not be able to see a women doing better and at a better position that men. “About 75 percent of the jobs in the well paying professions are held by men and even if women are able to get equal jobs as men they still get paid considerably less” (David Bender and Bruno Leone 1989: 75). For that matter one sees that certain jobs of women are such manipulated and are of a certain standard of measurement when they do not get maternal leaves from companies they are employed in (David Bender and Bruno Leone 1989: 74). Once they have left their job it becomes very hard for them to get back to the professional ladder.
But when we talk about inequality amongst gender in workplace, this could also be for the fact that there are certain job positions that could only be filled by certain genders, such as army officers. Even though there has been a number of movements that are trying to get rid of this inequality and some have also been successful but this has also shown a downfall in the society by the number of rape, sexual harassment, verbal violence, etc cases at workplaces which puts a doubt in the minds of women and are made to think twice if they should even take up that job and position.
Religion and culture also say that the roles of men are different from that of women. “Mankind has taught that men are superior to women” ( Babara Kantowitz 1986). This notion is taught to all from a very early age normally which have lead people to think and believe that males are better than women, therefore, should get better job opportunities and no compromise should be made in this aspect. This gender inequality ahs always been there and still continues to exists.
THE CONCEPT OF A “DUAL ROEL” OR “DOUBLE SHIFT”
Barron and Norris argue that men can work in both the sectors, be it primary or secondary, but they are most likely to be found in the primary sector in contrast to women, who are found mostly in the secondary sector. This is because women are more likely to take up jobs where you are paid less and that are flexible in nature. This observation relates to the idea that women tend to have a “dual role”. Dual role can be expressed in the way that bringing up the child is primary and supplementing family income is secondary. It based on the primary role for women as to where and when can they work. This further affects the market situation for men. It is for this reason and fact that women work in secondary sectors.
It is because of the reason mentioned above that women are not generally able to commit themselves in a long term careers. “The general structure of women’s lives is less well adapted to the demands of professional employment”.
In history it has been seen as an evidence that how for a variety of reasons women had been less organized than men in the workplace (especially in relation to Trade Union organization and membership) and how, therefore, more-easily dismissed or made redundant than men.
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