Prior to addressing the question in detail, which is fundamentally debatable, we must define and understand the differences of the following concepts; gender, class and ethnicity and then attempt identifying whether the differences between them in determining work experiences and outcomes are no longer relevant factors though remain significant. The idea of gender as a separate methodological category of analysis has recently become a more controversial or rather important one, due to increased feminist research into the role of women both in America and globally.
The issue of women’s role in employment has long been debated, however, patriarchal ideas blur the distinction between sex and gender and assume that all social distinctions between men and women are based in biology or anatomy. Scientists argued in the 19th century that women worked to obtain economic independence were initiating a ‘struggle against Nature. ‘ Additionally, we must understand why sociologists distinguish between ‘sex’ and ‘gender,’ it is important to look at their separate definitions. ‘Sex’ refers to the biological factors that distinguish ‘males’ and ‘females’ that is their anatomic differences.
Gender’ on the other hand, refers to the cultural identity or role that is ascribed to a person according to their sex. The term can also be used to define relationships between people, and sometimes used as a negative form of classification in the same way as race and ethnicity can also be used to dress privilege barriers. For example, in 19th century America, blacks and women were denied their right to citizenship, most noticeably by the denial of their right to suffrage. The use of gender to ‘control’ women in general and especially in employment is central to the feminist debate, which will be discussed later.
According to Macionis and Plummer (1998), ‘ethnicity is a shared cultural heritage. ‘ Members of an ethnic category have common ancestors, a religion or language that, together, confers a distinctive social identity. For instance, Gypsies, Pakistani, Caribbean or Chinese European are just some of a few examples, which indicate cultural patterns rooted in particular areas of the world.
In relation, Coleman and Cressey (1980) point out although a ‘racial group’ is often an ‘ethnic group,’ the two are not necessarily alike: A race is said to be based on some common set of characteristics, but the members of a race may not share a sense of unity and identity which holds an ethnic group together. ‘ (p. 179) Karl Marx defined the third concept ‘class,’ in terms of those who own the means of production and those who do not. To be more precise “a group of people sharing common relations to labor and a means of production. ” (www. marxists. com) The idea of class, as used by Marxists, differs from the notion of class as used in ‘bourgeois’ social theory.
According to modern capitalist thinking, class is ‘abstract universal’ defined by the common characteristics of its members (i. e. , all who make less than $20,000 a year constitute a “lower” class); categories and conceptions that possess an existence former to and independent of the people who determine the class. In terms of ‘Dialectical materialism’ however, “class includes the development of collective consciousness in a class – arising from the material basis of having in common relations to the labor process and the means of production. ” (www. marxists. com)
Although class was defined earlier, in reality we still encounter problems with measuring and identifying class. Until the 1970’s the majority of social science workers assumed men were the dominant figure of the household, and it is there income, which determines a woman’s class. Generally, the income, prestige and wealth of the ‘breadwinner’ then assess class. Despite the fact men continue holding this stereotypical position, in today’s society an increasing number of women, who are single parents are becoming primary earners, enabling them to become more independent, and not reliant on someone else.
Looking back to World War II in comparison with today’s society, in relation to the role of women in employment, clearly there have been some remarkable changes. Approximately fifty years ago, less than one fourth of all adult women worked outside the home and currently, about one half is workers and the percentage are still progressing steadily. However, one major factor, which concerned the ‘Hansard Society Commision; (1990) in Britain, was the small percentage of all adult women in top positions in corporate management, public service and specific areas influencing universities, the media and trade unions.
During the year 1991, the public campaign ‘Opportunity 2000’ enticed a lot of media attention for its goals to increase the quantity and proportion of women’s participation in greater levels of management in public and private work organizations. The fact women have been entering the professions and careered occupations in vast amounts since the 1960’s; the fundamental question that needs addressing is what happens to women who do venture careers in professions and in occupations with promotional ladders?
Interestingly, many women with strong academic backgrounds develop occupational careers, which might include lengthened periods of practitioner levels, perhaps during part-time employment. Evidently, part-time work is not strongly favored or preferred to the ‘linear’ careers that are produced in organizational and professional context. Consequently, women’s careers are at a disadvantage compared with men in terms of linear promotion: “Men predominate at the higher levels of organizations and professions, and ‘organizational hierarchies are not sympathetic to women. (Evetts, J 1994, p. 2).
For instance, in teaching, the majority of primary and nursery teachers, 81 per cent are women, despite the fact that 51 per cent of primary head teachers are men. In universities, only 3 per cent of women are professors and even then are paid less then men. In banking, career progress is clearly differentiated by gender. Although about 60 per cent of employees are women in UK banks, in 1986 a disappointingly 2. 5 percent of Lloyds managers were women, 1. 8 per cent at the National Westminister and 2. per cent for Midlands Bank. (Grint, K. 1998, ch6).
Statistically speaking, women’s position in terms of career seems to be the same in nearly every professional job industry, despite equal opportunity and years of women’s movements; women remain almost completely invisible in hierarchal positions in both public and private organisations. Although, women are now entering job sectors, which they never would have been accepted in several decades ago it’s traditional ‘women’s jobs’ which noticeably offer unlikeness of promotion.
For instance, the nurse cannot become a doctor neither can a secretary become an executive, they cannot be promoted regardless of how experience is gained in that position. Generally, why is it then women are discriminated? One obvious point is many companies are reluctant to promote young women, because they believe they will become pregnant, consequently, quitting their jobs. Alternatively, if a woman waits until her children are finally in school, she is then considered too old to seek employment, which may gain opportunities in being promoted to the top professional positions.
However, with the ‘The Employment Protection Act being introduced in the mid-seventies, in today’s society this has proven to be useful, yet has not improved the condition of women’s position in the workforce drastically. Despite the increase in women entering employment, they continue to receive considerably low wages in comparison with men. Supposedly, there have been improvements in the workforce in terms of sexual equality, however, Coleman and Cressey (p. 275;1980) state the gap between both genders has surprisingly increased in the last twenty years.
The average full time women worker received 67 per cent of the amount received by men in 1957. This figure decreased by 5 per cent in 1970, and by 1974 it dropped another 2 per cent. This continuous dropped could be due to the fact that the steadily increasing number of women are entering the workforce for the first time therefore leaving them with no alternative, but to ‘start at the bottom. ‘ As a result it is unlikely that occupational discrimination against women has decreased entirely. Another factor for the wide gap is due to women entering lower-paid jobs and hold lower ranking jobs within their occupation.
However, there are even wage differences when men and women do the same type of work, in relation Grint argues this point: “One of the most persistent aspects of paid labor is that relating to gender-related inequality of rewards. Ignoring all the many problems involved in wage calculations, which blur issues of skill, qualifications, and hours etc, it is a sobering experience to consider the gendered wage differential” (Grint, K, ch6 ;1998) Employers say men are paid more, because they have families to support although women in today’s society are more independent.
Because women commonly get paid lower, employers are aware of the fact that they are unlikely to find higher wages anywhere else. Finally, there is a higher rate of unemployment for women then men; implying men are more reliable and consistent, which the employer will find an advantage and desirable. In general, Weber, Marx and Durkheim assumed that “gender inequalities were omnipresent of gender relations at work are less then useful in the main. ” (Grint, K, ch6 ;1998).
Engels, Marx’s collaborator did tackle the initial of existence of matriarchal society: Since patriarchy was derived from private property, and since working men’s exploitation of their female partners was a reflection of their own exploited position within capitalism, the elimination of capitaliam and private property would reintroduce sexual inequality. ” (Grint K 1998, ch6) In terms of class, Goldthorpe and Parkin argued that women’s position in society was determined by the class situation of the family, which is dictated by the dominant figure in the family, which is more then likely to be the man.
Consequently, a women’s’ class position is all dependant upon the class position of the husband, despite whether there class position was actually higher then their partners: “The determination of women’s class position by their partners (obviously single women have their own class) is a manifestation of sexism not within sociology but within society. ” (Grint K 1998, ch6) However, this idea of the husbands class position can be argued in relation to today’s society, due to the fact that, many women don’t get married till a later age and do not fall pregnant until later in life.
Women are becoming more and more independent, allowing them to have their own class position. Although women are married and are categorized in the same class as their husbands, more women are becoming primary earners today and hold a percentage of the annual income brought into the house, so there is a sense of equality in that perspective. Obviously, this does not apply to all women. Finally, the class category and level of skill of the male determines the level of motivation for the female.
For instance, homogonous marriages are actually better then cross-families, due to the fact that all wives were economically active in 1981 compared to 42 per cent in 1971. There is a high rate of unemployment within ethnic minority groups as well as low status and low paid jobs. “Anglos” (native English speaking whites) are more likely then blacks and Latinos to have ‘white collar jobs. ‘ Inequality within ethnic minority groups in employment is due primarily to educational differences. With significantly less education they have a smaller number of people that qualify for high paying jobs.
In 1977 the average Anglo had 12. 3 years of education, whereas the average black had 11. 3 years and the average Spanish origin had 10. 4 years. The cause of this educational inequality are originated in the history of domination, which still exists in today’s society and will continue to stay that way for a long period of time, in fact it may never change. However, education is not the only factor, which restricts ethnic minorities from gaining valuable work experience.
Racial discrimination is another element involved, given the fact that in America blacks have more education than Chicano’s have lower average incomes: Because blacks are physically the most distinct ethnic group, they most often the victims of job discrimination. Such racism is common in labor unions as well as businesses, resulting in the exclusion of blacks from union apprenticeship programs that have pave the way to good jobs. ” (Coleman and Cressey, 1980, p. 195) Another related problem arises from cultural discrimination with employment. Although job equality among people with equal ability is spoken about, in reality, a vast amount of people are employed and promoted because of their personal relationship with an employer or manager within the organization.
If the personal manager and boss are Anglos (which is most likely), the members of a minority group may be at a distinct disadvantage, regardless of whether the company policy disallows job discrimination. The most crucial factor that members of minority groups must encounter is knowing that most come from low-income families and unfortunately the majority of poor families are inclined to remaining poor regardless of their ethnic background. Additionally, Marx was convinced dispute originates from economic causes.
Whether you agree with this theory or not, there is strong evidence indicating economic competition lies beneath prejudice and discrimination. If blacks, Chinese or any other ethnic groups are unable to enter prestigious colleges and professional schools, how is one to expect ethnic minorities to compete against members of the dominant group in occupations which request a high degree of training? “It has long been noted that antiblack prejudice is high among white working class men who compete with blacks for low paying skilled jobs. (Coleman and Cressey, 1980, p. 186)
Consequently, when unemployment becomes a problem, members of the dominant group can protect their current positions and force out subordinate groups first guaranteeing and securing their positions. In conclusion, with the information gathered and tackled in relation to the question, it can be argued that differences in all three concepts; gender, ethnicity and class all have significant factors in determining work experiences and outcomes individually. This is due primarily to inequality within gender and ethnicity.
Firstly, although women have shown they have the ability to do just as well academically in comparison with males, yet better in some areas, they still end up in the lower half of there professional occupations, and if accepted in a high position, there still remains a small percentage, although the ‘Sex Discrimination Act’ was introduced in 1975. More importantly, if given the position of a ‘man’s role’ in a company they still receive lower paychecks, despite of the ‘Equal Opportunity Act,’ which was introduced in the 1970’s.
One question which must be taken into consideration is ‘How well is equal opportunities used in employment. ‘ Although women’s right exist, they do not seem to be used to their full potential, if anything patriarchal society does not want this gender equality within the workforce to exist. Personally speaking, women have been through pain and struggle to achieve what there rights today, as a result, equality has improved dramatically, as women are now accepted in more jobs then ever, and women are becoming much more independent but this sense of equality may not be evident globally, but definitely in western society.
Ethnic minority groups are now entering better jobs, and education is literally available for everybody, however, the fact remains, that many members of ethnic groups are categorized in very low class positions, and although more members are entering high occupations and gaining valuable experience more then ever, the existence of discrimination will always exist, whether we like it or not, due to either stereotypical ideologies as well as members of the dominant group substantiating and protecting their position in class regardless of what measures are taken.
Overall, in my opinion inequality will always exist within the workforce in relation to all three concepts; this is one factor, which must be accepted. However, there has been a vast improvement in all three elements within employment, and hopefully this will continue progressing for a more equal society, not just in the Western society, but globally.