Gender basically refers to the social construction of biological differences between men and women. These differences bring about sex division of labor which makes gender scholars claim that division of labor on a sex basis brings about inequality between men and women. Since we are living in patriarchal society women tend to occupy the reproductive job category while their male counterpart occupies the productive job category. These two job categories invite different remuneration packages as will be shown in the discussion. This essay will examine the conflict perspective as one way of interpreting gender stratification in society and how the job category noted above affects occupational prestige.
The conflict perspective assumes that sexual division of labor is a means through which men ensure that they retain their privilege, prestige, and power in society. Since culture defines who sits where in the social structure women are forced to occupy the lower ranks in the social hierarchy. As a result, they find themselves in a very disadvantaged position when it comes to formal employment. First of all the girl child is not given a chance to acquire formal education with its knowledge and skills that are needed in the workplace meaning that they are locked out from the formal jobs bracket. Boys and men receive more education opportunities and in the jobs, they have more chances of training therefore when it comes to hiring there is no even playing ground and men obviously have an advantage.
Devaluation theory on the other hand posits that culture devalues women’s work and thus they receive less pay compared to the work that men do. Since culture devalues women’s work Magnusson (2007) suggests that ‘as a consequence, female occupations and tasks are assumed to be less valued than are male tasks.’ Therefore reproductive work which places a huge burden on women and limits their chances of advancing their education and careers is less paid making men have power in society because they have more resources compared to women. This, in turn, puts a glass ceiling in the workplace, and women’s advancement is totally curtailed. In addition, women receive very low wages than men do to any attained occupational prestige.
Although feminism movements have challenged this perspective much more needs to be done because the wage gap still exists in our society. (“Gender inequality” p.1 ) notes that ‘ in 2001, the wage gap decreased for the fifth consecutive year but it remains substantial: a woman who worked full time, year-round earned 76 cents compared to a dollar that a man earned.’ The most shocking thing is that even when men work in female-dominated fields such as elementary school teachers men in these fields earn a little more than females. This earning bracket affects women’s entire working life.
Apart from gender differences, the sex composition in a job affects the earning gap. Reskin et al (1995, p. 77) suggest that ‘if we concentrate one sex in a job the earnings for that job rises.’ Therefore if we have women working along with men their earnings will increase. He goes on to argue that unequal payment for a job is directly linked with occupations’ sex composition on how much incumbents earn. Therefore if an occupation has more women their earnings will be very low. This makes us understand why we have more women in low-priced restaurants while men are found in large numbers in very expensive restaurants. In addition, men will often earn less in female-dominated jobs. This is directly attributed to the stratification perspective which assumes that culture generally devalues female activities.
Although women’s discrimination in the workplace continues to exist we have a rise in the number of women occupying CEOs’ positions in different companies although this does not represent all women. These are women who hail from the middle and upper class meaning that they have access to a good education and training opportunities. Women are also opening businesses in large numbers today. These present facts bring us to another dimension of looking at inequality in society. It is evident that women from the upper class do not face the same problem as those from the lower class. At the same time, women from the upper class more often than not do not address the plight of their colleagues who are at the lowest ranks in society.
On the same note, Roth (2008) suggests that ‘fewer female executives in the workforce have to do more with the choices that women make regarding their careers, rather than blaming it on the glass ceiling.’ Therefore it is obvious that if a woman wants to raise a family she has to look for a job that is not very demanding. This is because for one to become a CEO a work experience of over 25 years is needed and up to forty working hours a week and many women raising a family will find this difficult. Therefore this argument puts us in a position to understand why more women occupy less demanding jobs.
In conclusion, culture brings about gender division of labor which puts women on the receiving end. Since their work is less valued, it is underpaid meaning that even in a formal institution there is inequality in terms of earnings granted to the female workers. In order to deal with this problem, we have to recognize that gender inequality is a very complex, multifaceted issue and cannot be tackled using one theory. This is because inequality also exists among women making the problem more complex. Thus feminist movements should be very open-minded when addressing women’s issues.
- Froth, F. Gender inequality in the work place.
- Gender inequality at work.
- Magnusson, C. Gender, occupational prestige, and wages: A test of devaluation theory. Oxford: Oxford university press, 2008
- Reskin, B. F. and Bielby, D. D. A sociological perspective on gender and career outcomes. Journal of Economic perspectives. Vol. 19, No. 1, 2005. pp. 71-86