Thursday, May 19, 2011

Research Paper on Gender Discrimination

Research Paper on Gender Discrimination

In this country, one of the most common types of discrimination is based on gender. Throughout history there has never been a time or place where women enjoyed complete equality with men. As Belle S. Spafford confirms, "Since ancient times women have been considered men's inferiors-physically, morally, and intellectually" (8). Has a woman ever been able to share the same rights or even earn the same wages as men without working twice as hard? Although the current situations concerning this controversy have improved from ancient times, it is still devastatingly imbalanced.

Many often associate the words gender and sex as the same category. In fact, it is much different and it has everything to do with the way society classifies a woman in terms of social order. According to the Random House Webster's College Dictionary, sex is defined as, "the female or male division of a species as differentiated with reference to the reproductive functions," gender is defined as, "the societal or behavioral aspects of sexual identity" (539). Sex and gender may not be the same category, but to some, they are believed to be related in a cause and effect manner in terms of society. As Myra Jehlen points out, "taking masculinity as a given expressed a traditional conviction that the differences between men and women arise from natural causes to organize a cultural order" (264).


The aspect of society in which gender discrimination is most apparent would be in the labor force. Even in the early ages, young girls were sent out to work as domestics while the boys were sent out to be apprentices to learn a trade. Women generally wouldn't work outside the home unless it was ultimately necessary, for example, if her husband got laid off or died. Although some levels of integration have been implemented, "most women and men continue to work in sex-typical jobs with coworkers of the same sex" (Roos, 1).

While women have been characterized by society as the weaker ones who should just stay home as the homemaker, it is an undeniable fact that, "Throughout history, women have been laborers" (Spafford, 48). Even in ancient civilizations, women have worked as laundresses, seamstresses, hairdressers, and midwives. In rural cities, the women were, "involved in all aspects of farming, from raising crops and livestock to spinning yarn and preserving food" (Spafford, 48).

Luis Rodriguez's mother is a great example of a working woman. She worked hard for the family while she knew her husband's dreams were going to fall apart. Rodriguez remembers, "Heavy blue veins streak across [her] legs, some of them bunched up into dark lumps at her ankles. [She] periodically bleeds them to relieve the pain" (23). Women are expected to keep the home together, but in literature, they're often portrayed as the ones that are keeping the family together behind the scenes, spiritually and financially.

It seems that corporate America does discriminate against women, unknowingly. Men have created "glass ceilings" (Knights, 45) for women in the workplace. "A glass ceiling is an artificial barrier that allows women to see the top of the corporate ladder but at the same time denies them access to the higher rungs of that ladder" (Knights, 44). Women keep their eyes on the glass ceiling constantly trying to reach it, but it always seems so close yet it's so far.

The most problematic aspect of working women remains to be the wages that they earn, or rather unable to earn. There are many factors that determine the amount that a woman is able to earn. Some of these factors include their marital status, childbearing status, and educational status.

The probability of a man holding a continuous job is much greater than a woman's because a woman's chances are very much dependant upon the route that her family life takes. Comparisons are often made in studies between ever-married women and never-married women because their obligations to their household lives are different. A never-married woman would have a broad variety of job options to choose from because of their lack of household responsibilities. An ever-married woman, however, may have various other responsibilities such as a husband and children to tend to, which may limit their occupational opportunities. As Patricia A. Roos has noted, "If human-capital theory is correct, never-married women should be more like men in their occupational attainment than ever-married women, that is they should have an occupational advantage over women who do have marriage and childcare obligations" (98). The size of a woman's family may not be a direct variable in her continuous work in a certain field. However, the amount of time that she chooses to spend on her responsibilities as a housewife may lead to shorter work hours and eventually becomes a major reason for her job discontinuity.

Education is also a primary factor in determining the position and wages that a person can receive in any occupation, regardless of gender. It was previously assumed that distributions of occupational positions were direct effects of levels of education acquired, but studies prove that that assumption is generally false. At the same time, the study also shows that "men and women receive similar prestige returns to their educational investments" (Roos, 99). This statement holds true in many situations because many women usually go to school until they come to a point where they pursue a family life more than an educational career. The men in the family usually go further in school while the women are taking care of the family. Hence, the men would receive the amount of prestige according to his level of education, while the woman receives her share of prestige according to her lower level of education.

More women today have higher education with higher grade point averages than men do. "In 1999, women earned 57% of all bachelors degrees. The sad part is that more women today choose to receive degrees in law or medical careers than in corporate business careers. This is due to the lack of female role models in Corporate America. As of March 1999, women only represented 11.9 percent of corporate officers in America's 500 largest corporations" (Thomason, 44).

According to the Glass Ceiling Commission in a report published in 1995, "women are frequently routed into career paths like customer relations and human resources because these jobs usually do not lead to a top corporate job. With the glass ceiling in place, women's hard work and degrees do not pay off. Even with equal education, executive women earn $187,000 average where men, in the same job, earn $289,000 annually (Knights, 50).

Even with the amendments, which were supposed to provide women the same wages as men, they are still being worked twice as hard to earn those wages. As Spafford confirms, "Despite the fact that many countries, particularly in developed regions, have enacted antidiscrimination legislation aimed specifically at protecting working women, these laws are often poorly enforced or too weak to be effective, and blatant discrimination remains rampant."

A woman's marital status not only plays a part in her distribution of wages, it also plays a great role in her distribution of authoritative positions in the workplace. A never-married woman is most likely employed in a "professional or technical employment" (Roos, 123) due to her abilities to maintain and be committed to a continuous profession. A married women and those who are mothers are more likely to be involved in jobs such as "clerical, retail sales, and service employment" (Roos, 123) because they may be "...easier to reenter and/or perhaps more compatible with home and childcare responsibilities" (Roos, 123).

Unlike women, men don't really have to worry about their value of labor depreciating. As the women get married and begins to bear children, she might have to leave the work force for a while before getting back on track to her career. During this time away from her occupation, the value of her labor decreases, or also known as the "depreciation of earning power" (Humphries, 335). According to studies done in Gender and Economics, "During the home-time interval associated with marriage or the birth of the first child, this net depreciation amounts to, on average, 1.5 percent per year" (335). This rate of depreciation depends upon many factors such as level of education, amount of time involved with the market, and also whether or not she has children.

Since the beginning of time, society has placed women on a lower rung on the ladder than men. Over the years, women have fought hard for their equality. Although changes have been made to try to alter the situation, it hasn't helped much. Women have overcome a great deal to be where they are now, and with much more effort up ahead, these issues will improve even more in the future.

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