Since the 19th Century, women have been agitating for equality in all life aspects. Apparently, women have made huge developments in education, workplace, and within the family setup, but they are yet to achieve equality. Therefore, on wonders why this trend persists. The pertinent question is whether there is a way that women can navigate through the challenges and become men equals in aspects of life and work.
What promotes sexism? Equality sought by women is not a new phenomenon because it started back in the 19th Century. Parcheta, Kaifi, and Khanfar (2013) show that even with the feminist movement of 1848, the American women had few rights and limited access to opportunities. Following the enactment of the 20th Amendment in 1920, women gained the right to vote. This move orchestrated several changes, which improved the place of woman in society and particularly access to education.
Currently, women have made great advances since the labor force is estimated to comprise 52% male and 48% female in the developed countries, but discrimination persists at the top-level management jobs and earnings (Parcheta et al., 2013).
This inequality promotes a social environment that enables the perpetration of gender violence and gender imbalance in decision-making. Based on this information, this paper will show that despite the fact that women are gradually catching up with men in all aspects of life and work, men still dominate all influential aspects of life. Male dominance in the influential sectors promotes negative stereotypes and hostility toward women (Walter, 2010).
Economic independence for women
Equal economic independence for men and women is a fundamental principle towards a sustainable economy. The current workforce environment suggests that women are relatively starting to enjoy equality in the labor force, but this trend is only evident in the low and mid level positions. When it comes to top management positions, men are still dominant and in terms of earnings, they continue to earn more as compared to women for the same posts and responsibilities.
According to Parcheta et al. (2013), women seem to have hit the transparent ceiling while trying to compete for the top-level management positions. Failure to reach upper-level management means that women have no chance to influence decision-making and make recommendations that can alleviate the artificial barriers to their development towards economic independence. Even in the developed countries like the United States, men are aware that they should recognize women as equals, yet they act differently. It is difficult to change the attitude, and thus men treat women as wives, mothers, and secretaries.
Before and during the 2008 economic crisis, most European countries embarked on fiscal consolidation that entailed personnel retrenchment in the public sector and women were the most affected lot. This aspect crippled the efforts and shut the optimism of a rapid economic independence for women. Women still appear as buffers of the workforce only to be recalled when demand is at the peak, but dropped immediately the demand diminishes.
According to Berg (2009), sexism has proved hard to eradicate; instead, it is adapting to the changing culture. Berg (2009) speaks of recent aspects of culture such as advertising using women to ape media darlings instead of working towards breaking the jinx hindering their economic independence. Women are yet to gain economic independence, since they seem reluctant to break the glass ceilings through academics, business, and governance. These articles support the current thesis since they offer a wake-up call for women in the workforce by showing them how to fix the situation towards achieving equality.
Women inequality to men is not carried explicitly via differential access to material goods or power differences. Stereotypes and cultural norms promote gendered roles, behavior, and identities whilst limiting men and women in conditions that cause inequality. The stereotyping process entails judgments regarding what women and men should do. In the process, women end up receiving less challenging assignments such as being a secretary, tea girls, or in advertising.
Vescio, Gervais, Snyder, and Hoover (2005) support such ideas by suggesting that from a masculine perspective, women and men are compared to determine each individual’s capabilities. When assessed, women are stereotyped and seen to lack essential masculine aspects like priority and agency. The distribution of valued resources favors those perceived to have agency, and thus women end up receiving fewer opportunities as compared to men.
Consequently, women become victims of the patronizing behavior whereby they receive fewer resources, but they are made to believe that they are getting what they deserve (Blau, Gielen & Zimmermann, 2012). In this regard, the patronizing stereotypes, which amount to discrimination, undermine the women’s performance in all aspects of life.
This aspect makes it hard to compete adequately with men because when in power, men cunningly praise women workers, but fail to offer them tangible rewards. Men will tend to avoid hostile sexism and act benevolently to avoid perceiving such acts as discriminatory. This behavior sabotages women gradually by declining their performances because when faced with challenging tasks, they turn to the benevolent men counterparts for assistance.
While trying to establish why women continue to earn less and why women solutions do not materialize, Hu (2014) shares similar sentiments that gendered identities and stereotyping play the major role. Hu (2014) argues that women are cultured in a way that make them believe that nice girls do not speak up because their situations are fixed and less negotiable as opposed to that of men. This aspect leads to the assumption amongst women that someone else is in control. Even when they have the capacity and education to take control, they lack the courage to negotiate their salaries unlike men who keep pushing to improve their salaries.
It is unfortunate that even today, fathers take control of their daughters until when they get married, upon which the control is shifted to the husband. Various implications of this aspect have changed, but much of it persists and predetermines some of the gender-related disparities like pay gap and preferential treatment of men, who are believed to bear the burden of their wives, sisters, and mothers.
In addition, men are expected to be ambitious, aggressive, dominant, and independent. On the other hand, women are perceived to be courteous, passive, nurturing, and respectful. These gender stereotypes compel women to pursue studies in the field of interest rather than the area that will lead to a competitive and high rewarding career.
Reconciling work and family
The possibility of creating equality in all aspects of life depends on the women and men’s ability to reconcile their public and private lives. Currently, in a bid to ensure that women have more time in professional life as compared to private life, most developed states like the UK have come up with formal childcare services to help parents enter and stay in employment. Nevertheless, some of these childcare facilities are not affordable and parents might find it better focusing on taking the responsibility.
Women are most affected since they have to stay home and take care of the children while men go out to work. While the research by Ziegler (2012) shows some positive trends in the emerging desire by men to contribute to family life, the women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care for activities like domestic chores and child rearing compounds gender inequality. This aspect undermines the women’s ability to participate adequately in paid labor. Even though many countries have introduced flexible work arrangements that include paid leave and smooth return to work, men take advantage of the women’s absence to address their concerns such as promotions and pay rise.
The issue of equal pay for equal work highly advocated by women comes to haunt them when they are faced with challenging tasks that may require men guidance. In addition, there is a perception that when women take maternity leave they are not contributing to the workforce. In this regard, women receive minimal value resources and pay, thus leading to sector segregation. This aspect implies that women are subsidizing the economy with free services that directly benefit men.
Cohen and Broschak (2013) support this claim by suggesting that even when women are earning equal or higher pay than men, their income is directed to domestic expenditures and they rarely have the chance to start own businesses like men do with their savings. Apparently, women are trying to demonstrate independence and this aspect is hitting them harder than they expect. This assertion holds as the women’s earnings are being used to cater for family expenditures, while men use their money to acquire power and influence.
The cost of inequality against the women’s role is devastating, but irresistible. Without the subsidy that the women’s work offers, the world economy would collapse. Arguably, gender gaps have declined and women are competing equally with men in all aspects of life (Kris & Andi, 2014). However, this claim is disputable because gender gaps are slowly closing, but the move is yet to realize equality. Furthermore, such gap closures are only in various domains such as education and the proportion of women employed.
This aspect means that normally, but not always, women can now take the chance to relate with men as equals. Fleming et al. (2015) posit that this decline has not occurred because the women’s conditions have improved, but due to the swift deterioration of the condition of men. Based on the previous situation of the women, in every aspect, they are shifting upwards in all aspects. Women have learned how to reconcile work and family life, hence getting a better position to compete with men.
On the other hand, the men’s condition has been always on the top. This aspect means that with the competition coming from women, their situation is ought to deteriorate since it is difficult to maintain. However, women still lag behind since significant challenges persist like gender violence and unequal pay even when working in similar capacities.
Iversen and Rosenbluth (2010) argue that women have not been in a position to break the barriers that put them in an inferior position, not because the system favors men, but because women have for a long time been unwilling to come out of the comfort zones. The authors show that women are not victims, but voluntary accomplices. They argue that several women use family duties, such as childcare, as an excuse to evade other responsibilities in life. Largely, this claim is consistent with real life events, but one should first examine the factors that made women get into a situation of collaborators and later victims.
Currently, women have publicly declared an attack on the patriarchal system. Despite noticeable efforts, very little change is evident. Women still experience gender violence and quickly use the system as an excuse to fall back into their comfort zones. Blank (2011) advances this argument by indicating that women will have to break the stereotypes against them before they can break the glass ceiling that is preventing them from accessing the top management jobs and possibly become men equals.
Huge numbers of women are now joining the workforce due to the huge progress in education. Women are gaining economic independence in bits, thus elevating their ability to reconcile work and family life amicably. This move has improved the place of women for better, but the mainstream society still views women as subordinates to men.
Despite noticeable progress, there is still much to do in almost all aspects of life to end women inequality. As the employment sector seeks to find the potential in women and use it to improve their organizations, women should focus on reversing the stereotypes and gender-based identities aiming to suppress them. As this paper suggests, gender inequality will persist since men have no reason to relent on their roles. Therefore, it is upon the women to work against this backdrop of gender inequality and stereotypes.
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