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gender inequality and education

gender inequality and education

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Published by: Jessica Ruar Napoles on Mar 16, 2011
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Institutional Discrimination:Gender StratificationAugust 18, 2008by Russ Long Economic independence is a primary goal for many of the oppressed in the United States. In American society work is thepreferred avenue people follow in pursuit of economic independence. Often, however, those most in need in society havethe greatest difficulty finding work (or at least work that offers adequate compensation). The material presented in thisarticle specifically targets women. Much of it, however, applies to economically disadvantaged minorities overall.An overarching theme in this article calls attention to a concept of institutional discrimination. Legal discrimination is,after all, illegal. Presumably, if one can document legal discrimination, one can remove such discrimination through thecourts or legislatures. Institutional discrimination, on the other hand, is much more insidious and, therefore, moredifficult to rectify. Institutional discrimination resides within the fabric of society. Harrington (1984) poetically calledinstitutional discrimination "structures of misery." Eitzen and Baca-Zinn (1994:174) describe institutional discrimination as"the customary ways of doing things, prevailing attitudes and expectations, and accepted structural arrangements [that]works to the disadvantage [of the poor]." Institutional discrimination explains much inequality in gender (and race andethnicity) found in the workplace.The specifics of this article explore earnings discrimination, occupational distribution, the organization of work, and thecharacter of relationships within the family where, according to many, the essence of gender inequality resides.II. Earning DiscriminationA. Equal Pay for Equal Work?In 1980 women earned approximately 59 percent of every dollar earned by men (Eitzen and Baca-Zinn, 1994:253). This ratioimproves slightly during economic growth periods in the national economy. In 1990 the figure was 71 percent of every dollarearned by men (Eitzen and Baca-Zinn, 1994:253). Recessionary periods, on the other hand, are characterized by growing disparity in wages earned by men and women.Many, like Esping-Andersen (1990), argue that as the economy becomes more internationalized, the gender bias in earningsbegins to disappear. The logic here is that advanced capitalism requires the best person for the job despite gender (orrace and ethnicity). There is some evidence to support Esping-Andersen's claim. Women who work in internationallycompetitive industrial sectors do appear to earn salaries that are closer to those earned by men (see Long, 1993).Long (1995), however, disputes the claim that all women are experiencing greater parity with their male counterparts. Hugesalaries earned by women who have skills demanded by corporations that produce in the international arena maskcontinued (and perhaps growing) inequality experienced between men and women in the United States in the lower socialstrata.B. Differential AccessDifferential access means that men have greater access to the labor market than do women. Differential access does notexplain the entire problem, however. Women earn less than men even on jobs where all other qualifications are heldconstant.1. Women Enter the Labor Market with Lower Paying JobsThree issues are dealt with regarding institutional discrimination. The first item notes that women enter the labor marketat different and lower paying levels than do men. Historically, men were doctors while women were nurses; men taught incollege while women taught in primary schools; men worked construction while women were secretaries; men worked in
 
the automobile and steel industries while women worked in apparels and textiles. In each of the above comparisons menare employed in sectors that pay higher wages and than women in the respective sectors.2. Women Enter the Labor Market Later than Men and Periodically Have to Leave.A second observation notes that women enter the labor market later than men and periodically have to leave. Theexplanation is obvious. Women enter the labor market later than men and periodically leave to have children. Childbearing is obviously a necessary social endeavor. The labor market and society overall would cease to function if women did notleave the labor market to have children. Unfortunately society does not compensate women for this activity (and otherdomestic concerns) and it penalizes them in the labor market.One has difficulty arguing that an employee who has longevity on a job deserves raises while one who has a "spotty" workrecord does not. On the other hand, it is not especially difficult to see the inherent inequity in a system that penalizeswomen for essentially doing a good job (domestically) in an activity that is absolutely indispensable socially.3. Women Earn Less Overtime Than MenA final observation revolves around the fact that women earn less overtime than do men. Overtime pay represents thedifference between having a good life and a marginal life for skilled and semiskilled workers. Industry and manufacturing provide overtime pay. These sectors hire primarily males. Service sector work, such as clerical work, does not pay overtimenearly as much as manufacturing. These sectors rely heavily on a female workforce.Differential access highlights the institution character of gender inequality. One can easily see the dynamics thatgenerate inequality. Solutions are difficult to pinpoint within the institution of work. One might argue that Americansplace too much emphasis on WORK as an avenue to prosperity. An analysis of Scandinavian social arrangements might bein order.III. Occupational DistributionThe kind of work an individual does often determines whether that individual (and his or her family) is wealthy or poor.The previous section, in part, explored inequities in wage-compensation associated with various kinds of work. Wages, of course, are only one benefit gained from employment. Other benefits include time-off (Gorz, 1984 argues that leisure is afundamental issue regarding work), health and retirement benefits, and longevity (to mention a few).At this point exploring the general structure of work is beneficial. Often minorities are tracked into jobs that do notprovide compensation at a level that allows economic independence. An observation that one might draw is that there areentire categories of jobs that have similar characteristics.A. The Split-labor marketWorker's finds themselves employed in one of two great segments in the capitalist economy. These segments havedifferent characteristics, fulfill different roles in the economy, and provide different rewards for the laborer (Eitzen andBaca-Zinn, 1994:441-443).1. The Primary SectorThe primary sector is composed of large, bureaucratic organizations with relatively stable production and sales. Jobswithin this sector require advanced skills, provide relatively high levels of wage compensation, include good working conditions, and are characterized by stable employment.a. Upper TierWomen are moving into professional areas, but their proportion in professional areas is still quite low. There has alsodeveloped a split in the professional circles that see some professional jobs becoming routinized. Much of the employee'sautonomy is taken out of these "professional" jobs. Structural change occurs within the world system also which hasimpact on women.
 
Within the primary sector are two sub tiers. Characteristics of the jobs in the upper-tier are highly educated employeeswho work at jobs that require creativity and initiative. Upward mobility is likely.b. Lower TierIn the lower-tier one finds white-collar clerical or blue-collar skilled and semiskilled people. Limited mobility characterizesemployment in the lower-tier, but jobs are relatively secure and have union advocacy.2. The Secondary SectorThe secondary market is composed of marginal firms where product demand is unstable. Poor working conditionscharacterize the work place. Secondary sector employment provides low wages, few opportunities for advancement, andlittle job security. Secondary sector employment requires little education or skills. People get locked into these positionsbecause they do not have skills. Many account for the low levels of benefits and security found in the secondary marketby blaming the person occupying such positions. Many accuse secondary sector workers of having poor work histories.Often, however, the poor work history is a result of unemployment related to the production of marginal products.Workers in the secondary market are subject to harsh working conditions and oppressive discipline from management.Both conditions are related to the fact that there are no unions.Minorities (ethnic, racial, and gender) tend to work in the secondary sector. This, in part, explains wage and salaryinequities.B. Structural Change in the Job Market: Pink Collar WorEitzen and Baca-Zinn (1994:252) note that in 1940 only 20% of women of working age were in the job market. By 1991 thisfigure had risen to 57 percent. Greater participation in the labor force does not, however, translate into empowerment(Staudt, 1987) because often they are forced into what Eitzen and Baca-Zinn (1994:252) call "pink-collar" professions. Asthe capitalist economy is transformed from a manufacturing economy into an advanced service economy, there is greaterneed for clerical and service sector jobs and women generally fill these jobs.Pink-collar refers to jobs generated in the clerical and service sector. They generally employ women, but many men do thiskind of work as well. "Pink-collar" positions generally offer low wages compared with employment in manufacturing.IV. The Organization of Work and InequalityEconomic independence is ultimately enhanced for some because their job allows them to experience a great deal of upward mobility. Some individuals do not experience UPWARD mobility. Their jobs are dead-end jobs. On the other hand,some jobs have slots that allow some people to experience upward mobility, but the manner in which promotions aregranted is biased. This section addresses blocked opportunities and "old boy" networks.A. The Power of Organizational Position: Blocked OpportunitiesMajority groups always develop justifications to explain the inequalities they impose on minority groups. Often religious orbiological explanations are involved. Biology might be used to explain stereotypical perceptions that "men are moreambitious, task-oriented, and work involved." Perhaps god my even be invoked to explain why women are "seen as lessmotivated, less committed, and more oriented toward work based social relationships than to work itself."Obviously we live in the 1990s and educated people recognize such clichés' as trash. There is, however, the possibility thatthe expected behavior exists at a sufficient level to perpetuate the stereotype -- a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. In thework force, male bosses in secretarial pools might see enough "socializing" to fulfill their expectations that womensocialize too much. While that boss might conjure up religion or biology, the behavior he is seeing might be related to"pressures" which emanate from the organizational position his secretaries occupy.Blocked opportunities refer to structural barriers that minorities encounter that prevent their advancement in anorganization. People who have their opportunities blocked(despite their demographic characteristics) limit theiraspirations. Instead of defining themselves through the work they perform, they seek satisfaction in activities outside

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