Gender Inequality and Work

May 27th, 2022

Critical Literature Review

The constitution of the United States of America guarantees equal rights for everyone in all spheres of life; however, the situation is different nowadays. Not only national minorities are oppressed and do not have equal rights with white Americans, but also women have other rights than men at work. This paper is aimed to give brief critical overview on several books and articles that were written about the gender policy in the United States of America. The paper will consider such questions as problems of gender inequality at work and how it is realized in developed countries as the United States of America. The books and articles that were used for this critical literature review are: the book “Race, Gender, and the Labor Market: Inequalities at Work” by Robert Kaufman; the article “Gender Inequality at Work” by David A. Cotter, Joan M. Hermsen, and Reeve Vanneman; the book by J. Hook “Gender inequality in the welfare state: Sex segregation in housework”; and the book written by Christine Williams Inside Toyland: Working, Shopping, and Social Inequality”. Robert Kaufman, American lawyer who is a specialist in fields as business and corporate laws, has written a book “Race, Gender, and the Labor Market: Inequalities at Work, where he tries to understand the nature of policy of inequality. The book begins with explanation of several different social theories about gender inequality in labor market and stating that they all are not perfect. What is more, the author tries to synthesize all these theories and make a new one out of them. Kaufman suggests that such inequality has its origins in religious and economical differences between all people. This book has contributed particular analysis of race and gender inequality (RGT) as world’s sociological study. These RGT tasks are based on gender stereotypes that exist in modern society for a long time already. He looks at this issue from historical point of view: women have always been oppressed; they were not allowed not only to work, but also to study, which resulted that nowadays women are considered not as smart as men and thus, they cannot be paid equally. Kaufman proves this theory with examples from his researches: the research results prove that complex approach is better than examining all theories apart. He proves that “gender segregation is most associated with RGT work tasks, followed by the desirable employment set of indicators measured as sufficient work hours, unemployment rate and self-employment rate, and the interaction of skill and employment growth. With employment growth, less represented groups (women and Blacks) gain greater representation in high-skilled positions, while White men gain greater representation in low-skilled positions” (Kaufman, p54).

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In the next part of the book, the author goes further, trying to find the relation between the gender policy and the situation on the world’s labor market, and finds out that there is a direct relation between those two: the more is the employment pressure, the more women are employed. Thus, the economical situation may either worsen or better the gender inequality situation.

The other issue that is outlined in the book is the stereotype of wages inequality and Kaufman suggests following formula: “female representation in an occupation depresses earnings for everyone, while Black representation in an occupation depresses earnings for White men” (Kaufman, p. 95).

Besides, the power of labor market, as it was explained above, is that companies are intended to employ women and black men, which in turn will make the gap between wages of women and white men smaller. On the other hand, the author explains that there are two women’s skills that may increase their wages among males: dexterity and clerical perception. Another peculiarity of Kaufman’s research is that he tries to study gender inequality in different geographical regions, and to outline main features of each of them. He has found out that stereotypes of gender inequality are almost the same all over the world. Although, race inequality is greater among men in the South; besides, he has found out that within the South, there are jobs for black and white men, whereas outside the south such jobs are proposed only to black men. Moreover, his research has shown that black women get the least wages in the South, no matter how hard their work is. To conclude, the author of the book highlights that in future, the gender and race inequality problems may disappear because the labor market is growing and new employees are needed.

The article “Gender Inequality at Work”, written by David A. Cotter, Joan M. Hermsen, and Reeve Vanneman was published in 2009, has become one of the most important sociological researches in the field of gender inequality. This article was aimed to study the reasons of gender segregation in well-developed industrial countries of the world. The authors state that there are not only economical, but also social and cultural reasons for such inequality. The article contains the reasons for such inequality and different types of such segregation as well:

  • Vertical dimension;
  • Horizontal dimension.

The main reasons for such inequality are the following: Conservative Values; Laissez-Faire Capitalist Values; Being wealthy; Mastery, which refers to the intend of being successful and admired for personal achievements; Intellectual Autonomy, which means person ability of being creative and finding extraordinary solutions; and Egalitarianism.

To my mind, these all are more psychological reasons and not economical ones; that is why it is important to understand that, perhaps, such inequality is only the consequence of the development of human civilization and it should exist. It has been a common practice all over the world since ages that women stayed at home and men were breadwinners; nowadays, the situation has changed because of the development of the feminist movement; although, gender inequality in wages remained.

The book “Gender inequality in the welfare state: Sex segregation in housework” was written in 2003 by a researcher Jennifer Hook. The book is aimed to show that gender inequality exists not only in the labor market, but also at home, when a woman does household. This research has been conducting since 1965 and contains thirty six time use surveys from nineteen different countries. The author’s studies has shown that men and women spend more time for their own household duties in those countries where the parental leave is long and women are less involved in the labor market. She has proved that the amount of the household done by men depends on the amount of working hours he has: the more he works, the less household he does. On the other hand, when they have children the amount of the housework done increases. Another concept that is studied by the author is how long a perfect working day or week should be. Jennifer Hook suggests that a man should not have more than forty hours of work per week, and should not stay till late night for finishing what was not finished before and provides this with examples: “There is substantial variation across Europe in employed men’s work hours, which does not reflect workers’ preferences. Fifty percent of employed men in Denmark, for example, work less than 40 hours per week compared to only 17 percent of men in Austria; even though, across countries, men report that they would prefer to work fewer hours, ideally between 34 and 38 hours, even at reduced income” (Hook, p. 9).

To my mind, this paper cannot become essential in sociology because it does not contain influential research. Though, it may be considered as a good base of examples and statistics. This article does not make any contribution in solving the issue of gender equality at work; in turn, it proves that women should sit at home and do household and raise children.

The other book that is to be reviewed in this paper is the book by Christine Williams “Inside Toyland: Working, Shopping, and Social Inequality”. This book does not contain the explanation of main reasons of gender inequality in labor market, but it provides its readers with the main ways to implement this inequality, which was not outlined in previous works that were examined. She states that international companies try to show that their policy is not aimed for inequality and employ women, they do everything possible to show that women are not as good as men. There are three ways to show that:

  • Teamwork. The author states that teamwork is aimed to hide the work of each employee and to show the result; thus, there is no opportunity for a woman to show her possibilities;
  • Creating career maps that allow workers to set personal goals and try hard to achieve those aims;
  • “Because supervisors are not held to a standard of equality, employees have no way to evaluate the fairness of their career path. Some female geoscientists felt that supervisors were too vague when assigning work, leaving them unsure of their job responsibilities and the resources needed to meet them. Many also expressed confusion over how promotions, raises, and projects were awarded; and they were often left feeling bewildered and frustrated by the lack of transparency in personnel decisions” (n.d.).
  • The development of work-related networks decreases chances of women to be promoted, mostly because men are the first to find everything out.

The author of the article states that these ways of conducting gender policy may seem to be neutral and is not related to the size of wages. It is wrong to think like that because such measures limit the personal development of a woman and her advancement on career. That is why the author suggests that employers should take some measures to “minimize the impact work transformations have on women” (Williams, p. 84).

For example, the author advices to make teams where there will be equal amount of men and women: the studies have proved that women feel more comfortable, and thus work better in groups, where there is equal amount of men and women and not when the amount of working men is dominating. Besides, Williams recommends employers to standardize career maps and make networking events, which will help employees become closer to each other and probably, make friends. Williams thinks that employees should become if not best friends, than at least not foes, and then begin to spoil each other’s life. That is why she states that such networking events should be both formal and informal and there all workers should be present. Besides, supervisors should be also responsible for the situation inside the company and they should observe the way personal goals are achieved and help other employees to achieve the aims that a career map contains. Williams states that such changes will “enhance future female scientists’ careers, ensuring that these women are no longer undermined by the transformation of work” (Williams, p. 207).

The last research article to be reviewed is “The Gender Division of Labor. “Keeping House” and Occupational Segregation in the United States” written by Philip Cohen. This article was aimed to provide readers and researchers with full information about the situation of gender policy in the United States of America and the reasons of it. The author states that housekeeping has become an occupation for women, which are not paid; however, in the seventieth of the last century, women began to occupy the labor market. This is the main reason of why such gender problem occurred. The author states that one can compare housework and what a woman does for a company and her place in the labor market to: “The sexual division of labor reappears in the labor market, where women work at women’s jobs, often the very jobs they used to do only at home… As these jobs are low-status and low-paying, patriarchal relations remain intact; though, their material base shifts somewhat from the family to the wage differential, from family-based to industrially-based patriarchy” (Cohen, p. 241).

Thus, Cohen shows that gender inequality does not mean that women are humiliated or their job is not paid as it should be; the point is that their work is not as important as men’s work. Although, nowadays, there are women who perform men’s job even better than men do. Besides, many researchers agree that gender inequality is not about feminist movement or other social factors, it is about that women’s job is not valued as much as men’s.

This literature review was aimed to outline the main and the most important research papers that deal with the issue of gender inequality at work. Nowadays, this problem may be considered as an urgent one because women are not protected from economic crisis: the research conducted in this paper shows that employers are tend to give job to men and thus, women will be the first to be fired. The aims that were set in the beginning were achieved: the literature review was given to all the books and scientific articles that were mention in the beginning and it was shown that sociologists try to find not only reasons of such situation in the world’s labor market, but also they try to provide employers with tips and suggestions of how to create friendly atmosphere at the working place so nobody feels humiliated. In my opinion, the best work that outlines main ideas and main reasons for gender inequality is the book by Robert Kaufman “Race, Gender, and the Labor Market: Inequalities at Work”, where the author explains theories of appearing of such inequality in modern society and provides readers with his own theory that was based on theories and suggestions made before. Besides, Kaufman is not speaking only about gender inequality, he provides a reader with supporting facts and ideas. To conclude, the gender policy and inequality at work is a sharp question which sociologists try to solve and understand its nature. On the other hand, government does nothing to provide equal rights and work conditions both for men and women, no matter what skin color they have. I believe that if such inequality at the working place is not stopped, modern civilization will become medieval again because women will stay home, do household and raise children, while men will earn money.

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