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Alexander Technological Educational Institute of Thessaloniki

Department of Tourism Management

Communication Skills in Business and Organizations

Gender Equality in the Workplace

Rui Miguel Teixeira Gouveia

Portugal

Submission Date: 4th of June 2010

School Year 2009/2010

Lecturer: Ifigeneia Mylona


Abstract

The term “Gender Equality” refers to the parity between men and women, both in
rights and duties. Through times women have been considered the “weak gender” and their
struggle for equality in all aspects of daily life and society has been on for years.
Although the society of the current world has suffered severe changes and women
have achieved several victories and earned rights, issues like gender equality still remain,
despite all the efforts. One example of where nowadays gender inequality can still be found is
the workplace.
The female gender may be rising and being able to take job positions that used to be
exclusive to men, but the disparity between genders inside the workplace environment still
exist.
Thus, arises the importance of addressing and evaluating this issue, its evolution and
changes through time, in order to conclude what aspects have to be corrected and what
attitudes have to change in order to the gender equality in the workplace prevail, and
consequently, change the society behavior towards the female gender.
Index

1 - Introduction ...................................................................................................................... 1

2 - Gender: A Sociological Approach ..................................................................................... 2

3 - Movements and Organizations .......................................................................................... 4

4 - Gender Inequality in the Workplace .................................................................................. 5

4.1 - Statistics and Facts ..................................................................................................... 6

5 - Conclusion ........................................................................................................................ 9

6 - Bibliography ................................................................................................................... 10

6.1 - Books and Publications ............................................................................................ 10

6.2 - Webpages ................................................................................................................ 11

Tables

Table 1 - Differences Between Masculine and Feminine Cultures……..…….……………….2

Table 2 - Parson´s Model………………...…………………………………………….………3

Table 3 - Global Unemployment Trends and Economic Growth…..………………………….6

Table 4 - Distribution of Female Status in Employment………………...…………………….7


Acronyms

Economic and Social Council - ECOSOC


European Union - EU
International Labour Organization – ILO
United Nations – UN
United Nations Development Programme - UNDP
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization – UNESCO
United Nations Children´s Fund – UNICEF
United States of America – USA
Introduction

The term “Gender Equality” refers to the parity between men and women, both in
rights and duties. Through times women have been considered the “weak gender” and their
struggle for equality in all aspects of daily life and society has been on for years.
Although the society of the current world has suffered severe changes and women
have achieved several victories and earned rights, issues like gender inequality still remain,
despite all the efforts. One example of where nowadays gender inequality can still be found is
the workplace. The female gender may be rising and being able to take job positions that used
to be exclusive to men, but the disparity between genders inside the workplace environment
still exist.
Thus, arises the importance of addressing and evaluating this issue, its evolution and
changes through time, in order to conclude what aspects have to be corrected and what
attitudes have to change in order to the gender equality in the workplace prevail, and
consequently, change the society behavior towards the female gender.
In the first chapter of this paper it is presented a sociological approach to the term
gender, as well a definition and some differences between masculine and feminine cultures.
Regarding the second chapter, this one addresses some examples of gender
segregation in History, but also some exceptions of women who occupied positions that were
exclusive to men, followed by the definition and the division of the so-called feminist theory
and some examples of organizations that strive to promote gender equality.
Subsequently, the last chapter addresses the gender inequality in the workplace,
through the identification of the biases between genders and what are believed to be the
underlying issues. These are followed by statistical data and facts about the evolution and
blockages that gender equality still faces, specifically regarding work – related matters.
Concluding this paper, a final discussion by the author is presented, as well as some
suggestions on how to approach the issue of gender inequality emphasizing its importance for
the labour market.

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Gender: A Sociological Approach

The word gender: “…refers to the social differences and relations between man and
women which are learned, vary widely among societies and cultures, and change over time.” ,
which must not be confused with the term sex: “…which refers exclusively to biological
differences between men and women.” (UNESCO;2000:6).
According to Ferraro: “In some cultures, masculinity is defined in terms of self-
assertion and task orientation, and femininity is associated with such qualities as nurturing, an
inherent interest in interpersonal relationships, and the enhancement of the quality of life.”
and in some cases “… with little or no possibility for role reversals.” (1998:108).

Table 1 – Differences between masculine and feminin cultures


Source: Ferraro (1998:108) (adapted)

In 1955, Talcott Parsons developed a model that represented the strictly traditional
division of labor inside a family. In this model, Parsons divides the functions of both genders
inside the same household as internal and external. The functions of women were to
strengthen ties between members of the family, meaning “internal”, whereas men represent
family towards the outside environment, for example by means of work to provide for the
family survival, which is “external”. But this model only depicts extreme positions and ideals
although, it is possible to observe some of the topics inside the models in some cultures and
societies.1

1
http://www.economicexpert.com/a/Gender:role.htm

2
Table 2 – Parson´s Model (adapted)

Not only a few years ago, but still today in some societies and people´s minds, women
are supposed to stay home and raise the children and men are supposed to work to support his
family. Of course, things have changed a little, and now family and household responsibilities
are equally shared as well as working in fields that used to be considered jobs for men or
women only.2
This concept of inequality between genders is a set of social - constructed roles
determined by the cultures and systems which we live in. This means that inequality is not a
“natural” consequence of biological differences between men and women. As it was
mentioned before, women and girls still face discrimination in some cultures and societies and
that discrimination can take different forms, such as human rights, assets or even at work.3
In an attempt to measure the masculine-feminine dimension, it was found that Japan,
Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Venezuela and Mexico had a high position in the rank of
Masculinity Index. Opposite to these were Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and the
Netherlands. Although considered opposite, in these countries both sexes had concerns
regarding quality of life, old age security and the environment. (Hofstede cit in
Ferraro;1998:108)
According to Ferraro, this means that: “The status of women and the relationships
between both sexes vary appreciably from one society to another.” (1998:109)

2
http://www.ualberta.ca/dept/health/web_docs/healthinfo/Decisions/roles.htm
3
http://www.unicef.org/gender/index_bigpicture.html
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Movements and Organizations

It is possible to see throughout History the discrimination of women. For example: “


In ancient Athens, the acropolis, (…) was closed to respectable women except during certain
public festivals.”, an ancient Germanic law said: “… a man was not legally capable of
committing adultery against his wife. He could only be punished for violating the property of
another man, but his wife could be put to death for the same offense.” or even a medieval
Spanish law: “Adultery is exclusively a female crime.” (LeGates;2001:13-17)
But of course, there are always exceptions. Of women who fought in wars, led military
campaigns, inherited or seized office, issued and enforced edicts, such as Boudicca,
Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, Mary Tudor, Joan of Arc or Catherine the Great. Although these
women were exceptions of their time, they served as inspiration for women who have been
considered the first feminists, such as Eleanor Roosevelt, Simone de Beauvoir, Christine de
Pizan or Mary Wollstonecraft.
According to Bennett: “In 1405, Christine de Pizan, an Italian humanist who spent
most of her life in France, set out to rebut the misogynistic literature of her time. Crafting
what was to become the first major feminist tract in the Western tradition…” (2006:6)
The term “feminism” “… is the theory of the political, economic, and social equality
of the sexes, and organized activity on behalf of women´s rights and common interests.”.
Although “There are many “feminists” and many different theories.”, the feminist movement
can be divided in three different waves:
- First wave, from the 19th century until the early 20th century;
- Second wave, from the early 1960´s until the late 1980´s;
- Third wave, from the 1990´s and continues until nowadays4.
Along the way, organizations demanding from society not only women´s rights but
also gender equality were created. Among some of them we can find ILO, UNICEF,
UNESCO, OECD, UN Women Watch and many others.
These organizations and movements strive for gender equality, in which: “…all human
beings, both men and women, are free to develop their personal abilities and make choices
without limitations set by stereotypes, rigid gender roles and prejudices.” and gender equity or

4
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/392800/feminism_in_waves_a_brief_overwiew.html?cat=75

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:”… fairness of treatment for women and men, according to their respective needs and
interests.” (ILO cit in Unit for Women and Gender Equality;2000:5)

Gender Inequality in the Workplace

According to Greig et alii “Gender biases at the institutional level are deeply
embedded in organizational cultures and practices, management systems and bureaucratic
structures.” (2000:16). These inequality trends inside the organizations that prevent them from
changing into a more gender equitable one were identified:
- “The organizational culture. There are barriers embedded in the organizations
such as sexism, male/female staff ratios, hierarchical structures in decision-making and
prevailing attitudes that hold gender to be a ´women´s issue´”;
- “The lack of ample opportunity and/or spaces for men to discuss gender
equality with other men and women”;
- “The limited number of men participating in mainstreaming efforts. For
example, the mainstreaming workshop had a six-to-one-female-to-male participation ratio.”.
Such barriers exist, not only because it is a part of the cultural acknowledgments that people
assimilate, but also because of some other underlying issues, identified in the statement
“Gender Mainstreaming: A Men´s Perspective” by the UN Men´s Group for Gender Equality:
- Fear: the thought that advancement of women or being an advocate of
women´s equality can be a threat to a men´s personal and professional status, as well to his
masculinity;
- Lack of Experience: “Men recruited by UNDP (…) do not have experience –
whether academic or professional – on related gender issues. Concurrently, it is frequently
women who are recruited or appointed to handle gender concerns, regardless of their
expertise. Therefore, any meaningful dialogue on gender equality and the role of men and
women in gender mainstreaming could be viewed as disunited from a common agenda.”:
- Organizational culture: There is no reason or incentive why gender equality
should be looked as something important inside the organization. (idem)
These biases and underlying issues prevent women from fulfilling their full potential
in the workplace, despite their level of qualification, performance and employability. This
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phenomena inside organizations is called “glass ceiling effect”, a terminology used to
describe “Invisible and artificial barriers that militate against women´s access to top decision-
making and managerial positions, arising chiefly from a persistent masculine bias in
organizational culture…”. Such metaphor was also used to apply in vertical and horizontal
segregation. In horizontal segregation it is called “glass walls” where women cannot move to
different departments, and in vertical segregation, the “sticky floor” symbolizes the
entrapment in the lowest paid jobs or in the lowest level of the hierarchy. (ILO;2007:94)
Such barriers inside the organizations can be overcome by one method named “Gender
Mainstreaming”, which was adopted as the main global strategy for promoting gender
equality in 1995, at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. As a mean to achieve
gender equality, “Gender Mainstreaming” was defined as:
“the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action,
including legislation, policies or programmes in any area and at all levels (…) so that women
and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated.” (ECOSOC cit in ILO;2007:92)

Statistics and Facts

Table 3 – Global Unemployment Trends and Economic Growth, by sex, 1998-


2008
Source: ILO (2009:8)

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- Although women´s unemployment rate (6.3%) in 2008 was higher than men´s
(5,9%), between the year 2007 and 2008 the unemployment rate increased for both of them,
reducing lightly the gender gap in unemployment rates in the last decade;
- Regarding numbers of unemployed in 193 million, 112 million were men and 81
million women;
- Women composed more than 40.5% of global force labour in 2008, increasing
39.9% since 1998. (ILO;2009:9)

Table 4 – Distribution of female status in employment, 2007


(percentage point change from 1997 in parentheses)
Source: ILO (2009:12)

According to ILO, the share of women in wage and salaried work grew from 41.8% to
45.5% in a range of ten years, although there was a stronger growth of female own-account
workers. (2009:11)

Regarding some general overviews of the women in the EU, it is possible to see the
evolutions but also blockages. In a first instant, here follows some evolutions:
- Apparently women are the main beneficiaries of the employment created in 1999,
having shrunk the gender gap to 19%, comparing to the 24,5% at the beginning of the 80´s;

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- The average educational level of women tends to increase faster than men´s. In
1999, only 22,5% of men had a university degree or equivalent, opposite the women that were
around 26%;
But in spite of these evolutions, blockages around the issue of gender inequality
still remain, such as:
- Countries that have attained high female employment rates like Finland or
Sweden still face gender segregation;
- When women have children their employment rate starts to decrease;
- Female employment still remains concentrated in only a few sectors, and although
women appear to be occupying higher-skilled positions in a larger number than men, these
still remain in higher number when it comes to supervisory activities;
- Women tend to be occupying less senior positions than men, and that prevents
them from progressing in their careers, achieving higher responsibilities positions and earning
more income;
- Women are still behind men 15% when it comes to average earnings, meaning
that they are less paid than men. (European Comission cit in Olgiati and Shapiro;2002:5)

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Conclusion

Upon research and elaboration of this paper, it is safe to say that despite the fact that
the feminist movement and international organizations have struggled and still struggle today
for gender equality, this ideal is far from reality.
Gender issues still remain a constraint within the specific case of work and labour
market, but also in a general way. Ranging from disadvantages in terms of access to work,
wages or working conditions, these biases faced by women are most likely the result of
discrimination and in a ultimate instant can be the cause for poverty and social instability.
Access to full, productive, secure and decent employment is crucial for both genders, in order
to prevent the previous mentioned issues.
In order to continue the struggle to change this segregation reality and finally
someday, achieve the ultimate goal, gender equality, it is necessary to change first of all the
mentality of people and society. So that one may do this and stop viewing this issue as a
taboo, it is necessary to promote gender equality through social dialogue.
Afterwards, there should be involvement from both genders in the development of
legislation, policies and strategies not only applied to the labour market, but to every aspect of
everyday life and human rights. These can and should follow the example of the “Gender
Mainstreaming” in order to achieve such goal.
Following the creation of such policies and legislations it is necessary to promote
these at a worldwide, national, local and more specifically, company levels.
As long as the mentalities remain the same, if we keep constructing social differences
based on biological traits and human feelings and the societies apply none of the previous
suggestions in order to finish once and for all gender inequality, this issue will be perpetuated
and there will never be stability in people´s lifestyles and in societies, preventing us from
achieving a productive and almost flawless labour market.

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Bibliography

Books and Publications

Bennett, Judith M. (2006) History Matters: Patriarchy and the Challenge of


Feminism. Pennsylvania, University of Pennsylvania Press

Ferraro, Gary P. (1998) “Contrasting Cultural Values” in The Cultural Dimension of


International Business, 3rd ed., New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, Inc., pages 108-109

Greig, Alan et alii (2000) Men, Masculinities & Development: Broadening our work
towards gender equality, s.l., Gender in Development Monograph Series #10

International Labour Office (2007) ABC of Women Worker´s Rights and Gender
Equality, 2nd edition, Geneva, International Labour Organization

International Labour Office (2009) Global Employment Trends for Women, Geneva,
International Labour Organization

LeGates. Marlene (2001) In Their Time: A History of Feminism in Western Society.


New York, Routledge

Olgiati, Etta and Shapiro, Gillian (2002) Promoting Gender Equality in the
Workplace, Luxembourg, European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working
Conditions

Unit for the Promotion of the Status of Women and Gender Equality (2000) Gender
Equality and Equity – A Summary Review of UNESCO´s accomplishments since the Fourth
World Conference on Women (Beijing 1995)

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Webpages

Associated Content (accessed in 29.04.2010) Feminism in Waves: A Brief Overview


of the First, Second and Third Wave, available at:
http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/392800/feminism_in_waves_a_brief_overwiew.ht
ml?cat=75

Economic Expert (accessed in 29.04.2010) Gender Role, available at:


http://www.economicexpert.com/a/Gender:role.htm

UNICEF (accessed in 29.04.2010) The Big Picture, available at:


http://www.unicef.org/gender/index_bigpicture.html

University of Alberta Health Center (accessed in 29.04.2010) Gender Roles, available


at: http://www.ualberta.ca/dept/health/web_docs/healthinfo/Decisions/roles.htm

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