Culture denotes people’s way of life, behaviors, social norms, ideas, and traditions that influence their decision-making and socialization processes. It is transmitted from one person to another through language and behavior-modeling performances. Therefore, it can proclaim or discourage certain behaviors within a society. In this process, culture determines the detrimental and desirable behaviors among different people within a society. An important aspect of culture is its determination of the role of different people in the society. Most of these roles are gender based. The question of whether gender inequality is a cultural issue is vital considering that women’s role in the society has been evolving with time. In the late 19th century, many nations had imbalanced demographics with respect to social structures.
Many roles were a reserve of men. However, in the modern society, such dominance has changed. Women are currently acquiring strategic roles in the society. The question of how gender has evolved attracts a large scholarly research, which is often open to criticism. Ideas by Mary Wollstonecraft, John Stuart Mill, and other writers during the Victorian Era and early 20th century reveal that apart from being conceived, gender can be performed. Such performance is manifested in the form of gender inequality and gender discrimination. This paper addresses the question of whether gender inequality is a cultural issue or it is problem that is psychologically created by people such that it influences their personality and view of one another.
In the US, the 1963 Equal Pay Act ended the conduct of giving men a higher pay than women for similar jobs. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 took the task a notch higher by offering similar protection to various minority groups. However, despite such efforts, some women still feel that they face inequalities. In Australia, research conducted by the Australian Human Rights Commission indicates that about 50 percent of women claim they are discriminated in terms of pregnancy periods and parental day-offs upon returning to work from breaks (Waters, 2014). Much of this discrimination (35%) is likely when they return to work (Waters, 2014).
Common inequalities include denial of flexible working schedule to take care of familial responsibilities and inequitable treatment after resuming work from parental leaves. Such inequalities reflect the manner in which gender is performed in social institutions so that differences in the manner in which an organization regards the roles and functions of men and women translates into much focus on men in terms of enhancing organizational success. The worst situation occurs when such discrimination and inequalities become part of an organizational culture.
A traditional perception entails allocating roles within social institutions, including workplaces, based on one’s physical effort that is required to complete a given task successfully (Velez & Moradi, 2012). This case results in the recruitment of men to take jobs that require a higher physical ability. In turn, women are discriminated due to the perception that they may not possess such ability. For instance, female workers in warehouses may remain in one job position since higher level jobs demand the possession of the physical ability to execute strenuous labor.
Different genders may hold similar job titles, execute exactly analogous responsibilities within an organization, and yet receive different salaries or wages. Indeed, a study by the US Department of Labor confirms that women only earn an aggregate of 80% of men’s total earnings (Velez & Moradi, 2012). Apart from breaching the provisions of the 1963 Act on equal pay, this evidence of the existence of discriminatory salaries and wage policies implies that gender discrimination still prevails in organizations. Even though organizational policies prohibit gender discrimination when it comes to hiring, the persistence of gender stereotypes may still result in gender discrimination and inequalities in recruitment and selection processes. Does this observation mean that gender inequality can transform into a cultural phenomenon, which may shape people’s personality?
The behavioral, trait, socio-cognitive, psychoanalytic, and humanistic theories explain different personalities that individuals demonstrate. In the theories, the term personality implies “a dynamic and organized set of characteristics possessed by a person that uniquely influences his or her cognitions, emotions, motivations, and behaviors in various situations” (Ng & Ang, 2008, p.738). This definition forms the basis of the classification of various theories of personality. For instance, emotion and motivation give rise to the psychoanalytic theories of personality while the behavioral aspect in the definition gives rise to the behavioral personality presumptions. In their daily interaction, people’s cognitions may lead to profiling of certain roles as best suited to a given gender. To this extent, this perception may translate into the propagation of gender inequality.
People are diverse in many respects due to their personality differences and behavioral and cognitive development processes. As a psychologist, it is crucial for an individual to be fully conversant with the way people develop various behaviors, emotions, and thinking processes. A psychologist can only work on programs that can help in shaping certain negative behaviors. This case raises the question of whether gender performance, which may lead to gender disparity, is a way of thinking that is influenced by people’s phenotypic behavior.
Sigmund Freud proposes three structures that constitute the personality of individuals. They include the self-worth, the superego, and the id. The id is depictive of people’s needs desires, wants, and instant gratification among other things. Even though many people may not be aware of this significant element, the id is one of the crucial driving forces for determining individual behavior. The innermost root of the id is affiliated to people’s desire for pleasure. However, based on the above expositions, one realizes how Freud considers the id element as absolutely insensible and/or one that does not interact with certainty. The implication is that people have no control of some of the behaviors they develop. Could gender stereotyping be one of such behaviors?
As opposed to the id, the ego is a personality aspect that develops when children grow. It occurs due to their contact with the reality. In psychology, this aspect is normally termed as a managerial division of individuality because it comes in handy decision analysis. In terms of gender performance, such reality can only be experienced through contact with people who perform it as part of their culture. Hence, gender inequality may be performed as a psychological aspect of people based on their cultural environment. It comprises an important aspect of the ego component of personality that is transmitted from one person to another during socialization processes.
Gender Inequality, Culture, and Personality
Equality refers to a situation in which people in society or even isolated groups of people possess a status that is similar in some certain respects. Social equality means the possession of equal rights as stipulated by the law on assets civil liberties, freedom of communication, equal access to civic collective goods and services, gathering rights, and voting privileges. Equality also means health impartiality, collective sanctuary fairness, and financial justice (Thorvaldur & Zoega, 2011). Therefore, gender inequality implies a situation in which people’s accessibility to these rights and fundamental freedoms are curtailed based on their gender.
In the same manner in which cultural norms influence people’s personality, gender-based norms such as behaviors that either males or females need to uphold influence personality. The impact is evident through the cultural emphasis on various conducts among people of different genders. Since the conducts are culturally developed and transmitted across generations or within a society where the norms promote gender disparity, gender variation becomes a cultural issue that is marked by a desired personality for a various members of the society.
The perception of the preferred or ideal characteristics or behaviors of a given gender varies depending on the culture of a particular society and/or with respect to values that people hold within a certain period. For instance, forcefulness and antagonism have been considered central masculine traits since time immemorial, especially in the US. On the other hand, passivity and caretaking are regarded as essential feminine personality traits. Nevertheless, certain gender roles change with time. For example, by 1938, only 20% of the US population believed that women were eligible to earn income in the form of wages or salaries. This proportion has now changed significantly. Emphasis is being put to end gender disparities in the workplace. This observation suggests the likelihood of gender inequality being a cultural issue. Changes of women roles in the US from caretakers at home to supplementing family budgets suggest a changing culture.
In the work titled The Gender Trouble, Butler (1990) consolidates the idea of gender inequalities by discussing the manner in which gender can be acted. The work deconstructs the naturalness of various categories of sex and gender by establishing a family tree. In the lineage, it becomes clear that the categories of gender are not naturally constructed. They evolve. They are brought into the limelight via specific cultural power formations. Based on Butler’s (1990) expositions, gender is mapped into life through, “productive aspect of power-sex categories, which are produced and maintained through social practices” (McLaren, 2001, p.99). Through the socio-cultural construction of gender, people develop a perception regarding a particular gender profiling in terms of the performance of responsibilities. In Butler‘s (1990) world, the establishment of gender categories is based on gender doings or gender performance. This claim means that people perform their genders. In this perspective, it is evident that gender has changed from being a description of people’s natural sex to the association of sex with their capacity to perform various tasks.
Butler’s (1990) arguments challenge the dominant perception that has been developed by various studies on the evolution of women roles in the society. The perception maintains that gender is culturally developed and reinforced through the prescription of particular norms to the female gender. Based on this school of thought, such norms are again transmitted from one generation to another. In fact, from Butler’s (1990) focal point, gender categories reinforce one another (McLaren, 2001). Hence, each of the two categories is constructed in binary. Such construction results in the normalization of the distinction of different people as fitting into particular membership groups that are described by the gender hegemonies. In the socio-cultural context, gender hegemonies translate into the stereotyping of gender capability to perform optimally some specified tasks.
Women have the right to receive maternity leave as part of the terms and conditions of employment in many organizations. However, in some situations, women may fail to disclose their pregnancy status, especially during job opening interviews in fear of the potential employer developing the perception that they may fail to perform according to the expectations due to the added role of taking care of their children. Where a company employs a man who has few children and fails to hire a woman who has a similar number of children, gender inequality is said to occur based on parental responsibilities. Since women in many conservative societies are considered the best caretakers of children as a cultural responsibility, issues that lead to gender inequalities have a cultural function ingrained in them.
Women may face gender-related inequalities due to their care giving roles, especially where traditional stereotypes of gender roles are prevalent (Waters, 2014). For instance, a supervisor may learn that a woman is taking care of a sick person. Consequently, he or she may develop the perception that such a role, including the work she is employed to perform, diverts some of her attention from work so that she underperforms in her organizational roles and responsibilities. This observation suggests that the association of certain personalities such as caretaking with gender may cause inequalities. Since culture and perception of certain preferred roles and capabilities of people based on gender cannot be isolated from people’s way of thinking, gender inequality constitutes an essential cultural issue.
In some situations, gender inequalities may occur due to physical appearance or even dressing styles. For instance, an organization may be compelled by the perception that a more attractive woman can make more sales. Consequently, it can hire its sales representatives based on appearance as opposed to qualifications. In such a case, although women may be a major beneficiary of such policies, it still amounts to gender inequality, which is unlawful in many nations. This claim implies that gender inequality is more associated with people’s way of thinking, which is in turn influenced by culture.
People are always subjected to the dynamics of environmental forces. Under normal circumstances, people choose situations that are consistent with their aspirations, attachment, and psychosomatic needs. Therefore, the tendency involves choosing situations and/or performing in situations that are largely compatible with them. Hence, people cannot be satisfied when they work under situations that involve gender inequalities.
Gender inequality occurs when some people take advantage of their gender to access rewards, resources, and work opportunities. To mitigate gender inequalities, women and men need to be treated equally based on their socio-cultural environments. Unfortunately, different societies have different perceptions about the role of different gender. Consequently, gender is played and passed on across humanity from one age group to another. This process occurs through sharing norms, values, behaviors, and other different ways of thinking, which are collectively defined as culture. To this extent, gender equality and inequality become a cultural issue.
Butler, J. (1990). Gender Trouble: Judith Butler Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York, NY: Routledge.
McLaren, M. (2001). Feminism Foucault and Embodied Subject. New York, NY: Sunny Press.
Ng, K., & Ang, C. (2008). Personality and leader effectiveness: A moderated mediation model of leadership self-efficacy, job demands, and job autonomy. Journal of Applied Psychology, 93(4), 733-743.
Thorvaldur, G., & Zoega, G. (2011). Educational. Social Equity and Economic Growth: A View of the Landscape. CESifo Economic Studies, 49(4), 557–579.
Velez, B., & Moradi, B. (2012). Workplace Support, Discrimination, and Person–Organization Fit: Tests of the Theory of Work Adjustment with LGB Individuals. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 59(3) 399–407.
Waters, C. (2014). One in Two Australian women Experience Discrimination in the Workplace during Pregnancy. Web.