GENDER INEQUALITY IN THE WORKPLACE

The Impact of Gender on Individuals’ Experiences of the World of Work

Most people spend their days in workplaces, which are mostly male-dominated. Although women hold positions in the labor force, it is worth noting that men occupy the most powerful positions in many companies (Nicolson, 2015). Power is evident at the local, national, and global levels in all-male enclaves at the core of all organizational settings. The issues have persisted for most of human history, although feminists brought them to light as the problematic nature of society in the 20th century (Cha & Weeden, 2014). Scholars in organizational theory consider the role of gender in the workplace, especially the part it plays in allocating power between male and female employees. The corporate gender nuanced theorization plays a vital role in understanding the creation and legitimization of dominant gendered identities. Although companies are considered gender neutral, the construct is impossible given that gendered notions are a part of society while the organizations are mini-cultures created out of that larger culture.

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Evidence of Persistence of Gender Inequality and Gender-Based Advantage

Labor market contribution of women increased in the 20th century, with feminist efforts to eradicate some of the barriers to their involvement. According to Williams (2013), upper material, social and psychological factors that hindered female participation in the workplace were eradicated, giving them a chance to participate actively in paid labor. Regardless of the achievement made by women outside of the domestic space, occupational segregation and gender inequality are still evident, both vertical and horizontal. The glass ceiling metaphor explains the reality of some workplaces in which women are underrepresented in various occupations, including technical jobs such as engineering. Therefore, female presence declines with the increase in the level of responsibility and prestige, including managerial positions (Cha & Weeden, 2014). Women continue to be disadvantaged in many workplaces regardless of the creation of policies meant to resolve the problem.

Feminist movements played a crucial role in addressing the problem of gender inequality and gender-based advantage in society, especially in the workplaces. However, England (2010) reveals that after the considerable achievements in the 19th century in addressing gender equality, the progress of women in the workplace has been slowing. Regardless of the continued breaking of the gender barriers, including entry of women in the male-dominated professions, many gender-segregated roles and tasks exist today just like in the 1950s (England, 2010). The employment pyramid’s top and bottom are evident of women remaining behind men concerning authority and compensation. The theory of gendered organizations by Joan Acker (1990) helps in demystifying gender inequality in organizations since it is constructed upon the organizational structure of work.

Various studies have provided concrete evidence of gender inequality in the modern-day workplaces that continue to disadvantage the female worker. According to Williams (2013), organizations maintain equality policies, but they are not useful in practice to address the persistent problem in society. Furthermore, they have revealed huge gaps between legislation or programmatic declarations and their practical implications in improving the position of the female worker. Hence, local recruitments and other managerial decisions continue to restrict the input of women in organizations (McDowell, 2018). Cha and Weeden (2014) add that the very definition of a “job” suggests implied preferences for male employees. As a result, even organizations considered gender-neutral and maintained gender equality policies practice inequality in their everyday decision-making. Therefore, gender equality has remained an elusive idea in the modern-day workplace.

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The evidence of gender inequality and gender-based advantage emanates from the structure of society and traditional gendered roles. Most societies are patriarchal, limiting the opportunities of women, which is reflected in organizations (Nicolson, 2015). For example, according to Avent-Holt and Tomaskovic-Devey (2014), employers prefer employees with minimal destructions outside the workplace, making the male worker the most preferred candidate.  As a result, the preference has left out many women since society has given them an important role in primary care for families. The “ideal worker” for many employers is a male who will devote his time and energy to the work. Acker (1990) suggested five processes responsible for producing gender inequality in organizations: cultural symbols, the division of labor, individual identities, workplace interactions, and organizational logic. The procedures, especially corporate philosophy creates the hierarchies that rationalize and legitimize the inequality in organizations.

Dissemination of Cultural Images of Gender

Organizational work is the stable form of the systematic efforts of society to achieve its different goals and objectives. Organizations are fashioned by society in its image using prototypical characteristics of its culture. Consequently, they are mini-cultures existing within the dominant culture (Ridgeway, 2014). However, while forming, they require extra properties that enable them to achieve their goals and objectives. They have physical artifacts, including structures and technologies; procedures and systems; work and social relations; behavior patterns between workers; and values, beliefs, and assumptions (McDowell, 2018). For instance, the idea of a man, male bodies, sexuality, and relations are presumed within the worker image at the workplace. Since workers spend most of the time in the workplace, they can propagate the image to become an essential part of society.

The organization is a social space that invents, nurtures, and reproduces cultural images of gender. As cultural production system, the organization has various forms of cultural images of gender that emanate from the notions of masculinity and femininity. The models encompass the work rules and logical systems, pay scales, job descriptions, and job evaluations governing bureaucratic workplaces (Ridgeway, 2014). They are the mostly taken-for-granted principles and policies used by the management to legitimate control and which workers comply with since they are considered “natural” or standard business practices. The ambivalence of gender models is evident in organizational cultures, especially as created by the male gender. McDowell (2018) suggests the evidence of a gender dance in which females enter the male space deciding to assume the position of authority created by the organization. In this case, the males in the gendered society produce the dance to protect their position of power.

The glass ceiling is commonly used in depicting the gender segregation phenomenon in organizations. The image portrays differences in career opportunities for the male and female gender as well as the asymmetrical distribution of responsibilities at the workplace based on the idea that women are the minority gender (Moser, 2012). However, the reality could be different since the increase in women in the labor force has not adequately addressed the gender gap in organizations. Through the symbolic-interpretative lens, Williams, Muller, and Kilanski (2012) analyze the discourses and narratives viewed as “artifacts” that provide a practical understanding and interpretation of cultures, including the dominant norms and values. The members of the organization construct and legitimize the discursive artifacts, revealing the way the gendered symbolic order is created by men and women in the workplace (Ridgeway, 2014). They further establish implicit and explicit rules regulating behavior and attitudes in the organization.

Gender Segregation Partly Created Through Organizational Practices

Gender segregation is commonplace in the organization, including those assumed to be gender neutral. Ridgeway (2014) argues that gender neutrality in workplaces is impossible to achieve because, in their very nature, organizations are an essential part of the society in which they operate. Hence, images of masculinity and men’s bodies permeate organizational processes resulting in the marginalization of women and the continued gender segregation in the workplaces. According to Williams, Muller, and Kilanski (2012), scholars posit gender-neutral and disembodied structures of the workplace partly as an important strategy to manage the industrial capitalist society, which is based on fundamental gender differences. As a result, Nicolson (2015) adds that hierarchies are created in organizations to develop an organized theory of gendered-workplaces. Therefore, in such organizations, it is unlikely to address gender segregation adequately.

The gendered view of the organization plays a role in demystifying gender segregation in the workplace such as division of labor constructed through organizational processes. Similar procedures create gender segregation relating to income inequality and status between the male and the female (McDowell, 2018). The organizations are founded on bureaucracy and hierarchy that men create and dominate structures to control and oppress the minority gender, female. Efforts to construct non-hierarchical and egalitarian organizations have failed because the organizations maintain the male dominance. Furthermore, feminist efforts did not create alternative models because they lacked the power and the opportunity in the primarily patriarchal society (Ridgeway, 2014). Hence, organizational processes have ignored women and continue to be insensitive to their needs and interests. Conventional approaches to organizational studies focus on the male and male-dominated general intellectual area that is considered the norm in society. Consequently, men in the workplaces consider their perspectives and behaviors as representing the reality of humanity. They create organizational structures and processes hypothesized as gender neutral, but in essence, are more favorable to men.

Income and Status Inequality Partly Created Through Organizational Processes

The social literature on organizations directs attention to the implications of employers and workplaces in the construction of income gender inequality. Williams, Muller, and Kilanski (2012) argue that as social environments, the actors, managers, and supervisors play an essential role in various cultural outcomes, including procedures and policies. The gender inequality further influences wage differentials in organizations since they become entrenched into their cultures. The male-dominated culture hinders the potential of women to climb up the organizational ladder (McDowell, 2018). As a result, women lack the position of power to influence organizational power structures, which further prevents them from making decisions that could favor them. Policies and procedures created by men are most likely to favor the male at the expense of the best interests of the female gender. As a result, women continue to receive lower wages and other benefits than men.

The male-dominated social structures play a role in creating inequality in the workplace. According to Williams, Muller, and Kilanski (2012), they award greater decision-making power to men rather than to both genders. Hence, members of the male gender gain the authority to create and sustain gender wage inequality. The role of organizational processes in shaping the wage gap is established in studies that control other individual factors such as educational achievement. Ridgeway (2014) confirms that in many organizations, men with the same qualification as women earn higher wages even though they hold the same position. Ridgeway (2014) supported the findings by revealing that women working in organizations with predominantly male managers and supervisors tend to pay women lower wages than men regardless of similar job requirements and qualifications. Thus, organizational processes rather than individual characteristics determine the level of compensation for both genders.

Gender Identity as the Product of Organizational Processes

Patterns of interactions in society create organizational social structures to accomplish the corporate purpose. The repetition of social integrations defines relationships that structure organizations. In turn, the relations are the source of stability that helps them to attain stability. Hence, organizational design emerges from the need to create structures for the maximization of workplace performance to meet its purpose efficiently and effectively (Williams, Muller, & Kilanski, 2012). They have social structures that define corporate power distribution, including the mandate to distribute roles and responsibilities and establish promotion and other reward systems. Consequently, the desire to control others affects even the most conscious intentions in organizational design. Max Weber (1864-1920), posited that the social structure of organizations includes division of labor, hierarchy, and departmentalization. Hence, feminists argue that it is not possible to consider organizations as neutral of authority and power since they are “gendered constructs” (Williams, Muller, & Kilanski, 2012). Hence, they have an essential role in creating gender identity.

Considering organizations as “gendered constructs” helps in understanding the nuances of workplace gendered identity and the resulting hierarchies. Williams, Muller, and Kilanski (2012) reveal that gender neutrality does not exist in organizations as gender underlies the contracts and documents that create the organization, and provides the sense through which to theorize them. Abstract jobs as well as hierarchies, and organizational thinking provide the members with a sense of identity, including that formed around gendered thinking (McDowell, 2018). The gender roles built on personalities play an essential role in the allocation of tasks, functions, and responsibilities in the workplaces. For instance, organizations have established duties allocated to women and those meant for men such as technical responsibilities. As a result, men earn more than females because they perform more technical and better-paid jobs while women hold roles that are more effortless.

Conclusion

Feminist movements played an important role in creating equality in the workplace since the 20th century. They led to the creation of gender-neutral policies and procedures in an organization. Conversely, the reality shows that gender neutrality only exists in theory and not in practice. Indeed, inequality remains evident in the modern-day organizations as it was during the 1950s. The cultural images of gender remain persistence as explained by such phenomena as the glass ceiling. The male gender dominates organizational processes as a reflection of the gender roles in society, which has segregated women in domestic tasks. As a result, the decision-making power in the workplace belongs to men. Therefore, they create policies and procedures that give them an advantage over women regardless of having similar job qualifications and requirements (Ridgeway, 2014). Hence, despite the steps made in creating better opportunities for women in the workplace, gender inequality persists, affecting the chance of women to climb up the career ladder.

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