Dr. Write's Sample Research Papers


Gender Inequality in The Workplace
By Shawn Irish
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
                 Margaret Mead

This paper documents the history and current status of women in the workplace and provides recommendations for improvements in the workplace. History shows that women have not always been defined as property and thought of as second class citizens. Among the ancient Celts women rulers and warriors were so common that when a group of Brigantian captives was brought to Rome in the reign of Claudius they automatically assumed his wife, Agrippina the Younger, was the ruler and ignored the Emperor while making their obeisance to her. There were also woman warriors, called the Amazons who were as real as the Greeks who wrote of them. They governed large areas of Europe, Asia Minor and Africa and were actually two different matriarchal empires founded, governed and defended by women.

The advent of Christianity is believed to be the ending of matriarchal societies. The absence of feminine symbolism for God marks Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in striking contrast to the world's other religious traditions, which abound in feminine symbolism. Contradictory attitudes toward women, in those times, reflected a time of social transition, as well as the diversity of cultural influences on churches. Despite the previous public activity of Christian women, the majority of Christian churches in the second century went with the majority of the middle class in opposing the move toward equality, which found its support primarily in the rich or bohemian circles (Pagels, 63).

Gnostic Christians correlate their description of God in both masculine and feminine terms with a complementary description of human nature. Most often they refer to the creation account of Genesis, which suggests an equal or androgynous human creation. Gnostic Christians often take the principle of equality between men and women into the social and political structures of their communities. The orthodox pattern is strikingly different: it describes God in exclusively masculine terms, and like the gnostic view, this translates into social practice: by the late second century, the orthodox community came to accept the domination of men over women as divinely ordained order, not only for social and family life, but also for the Christian churches (Pagels, 66).

Men saw in the Christian dogma a patriarchal society where women were once more restricted, and as the "mother Goddess" religion gave way to the "one God" religion of the Christians many of the women's rights were confiscated. The reason for these changes was suggested by the scholar Johannes Leipoldt as the influx of many Hellenized Jews into the Christian movement may have influenced the church in the direction of Jewish traditions. Patriarchy, Gerda Lerner writes, is the "manifestation and institutionalization of male dominance over women and children in the family and the extension of male dominance over women in society in general. It implies that men hold power in all important institutions of society and that women are deprived of access to such power. It does not imply that women are either totally powerless or totally deprived of rights, influence, and resources." Over the past 150 years the women's movement has contributed much to our understanding of patriarchy, and it has equated gender oppression with the lack of equal opportunity with men.

The Women's Rights Movement, a movement by women to achieve full civil rights in this country, marks July 13, 1848 as its beginning and celebrates its 150th Anniversary this year. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and four female friends shared the ideal of improving the new republic. They saw their mission as helping the republic keep its promise of better, more egalitarian lives for its citizens. The "Declaration of Sentiments" was born of this group and used the Declaration of Independence as its framework. In this Declaration of Sentiments, Stanton carefully enumerated areas of life where women were treated unjustly. Stanton's version read, "The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her . . . Now, in view of this entire disenfranchisement of one-half the people of this country, their social and religious degradation, in view of the unjust laws above mentioned, and because women do feel themselves aggrieved, oppressed, and fraudulently deprived of their most sacred rights, we insist that they have immediate admission to all the rights and privileges which belong to them as citizens of these United States."

From this movement women ultimately gained the right to vote, the American Equal Rights Association was founded, the Working Women's Protective Union in New York was established, the National Labor Union supported equal pay for equal work, the Association for the Advancement of Women was formed, along with the National Consumers League and the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor, to advocate for and keep statistics on women in the workforce.

Before World War II, the division of workers into different jobs on the basis of gender was universally accepted. A few unions championed the "equal pay for equal work standard" in order to protect the wage rates of traditionally male jobs. If employers were allowed to substitute women for men and pay the women less for the previously "male jobs," the substitution would threaten the wage rates of male employees. The equal pay for equal work standard, therefore, enforced occupational segregation on the basis of sex and did nothing to raise wage rates for traditionally female jobs.

During World War II, women entered the labor market in unprecedented numbers. The demands of wartime production and scarcity of male labor drove women into new kinds of jobs. Management continued to segregate workers on the basis of gender and pay the women's jobs less. Then for the first time, women and their unions challenged the low wage rates for women's jobs, rather than simply demanding equal pay for equal work. In unionized workplace, workers can take advantage of a variety of labor relations tools which non-union workers simply lack. For example, workers in unionized workplaces have the right to bargain collectively over wages through representatives of their own choosing and to demand information from the employer for purposes of collective bargaining. Union workers can also strike, file grievances and take other collective action (Newell 1996).

Contemporary scholars have argued that women's subordination rested in the legal and economic systems and thus advocated changes in laws so that women and men would be treated "equally." Others argued that the problem lay in capitalism itself and claimed that for women to be free, the capitalist system must be overthrown. A different group of scholars and activists focused their attention on women's personal lives. Some argued that the subordination of women was a result of gender. For women to be free, they claimed, all people must become androgynous ("Lilith's Manifesto," 1970). Still others claimed that the problem lay with biology itself. Indeed, it was through these efforts to discover and correct what was at the "root" of women's subordination that many of the diverse feminist branches were born.

From this brief review of history it is possible to see a progression from equality between the sexes to a dominance of man over woman. Harlan has concluded that there are invisible barriers that limit women's progress toward employment equity and that these barriers extend all the way form the "glass ceiling" at the top of the nation's largest corporations to the "sticky floor" of low-paying, low-mobility jobs at the bottom of the labor market (Harlan, 1994).

It seems that women still are battling employers over equal pay for equal work, despite mandates of recent decades, according to Victoria L. Rayner, author of The Survival Guide for Today's Career Woman. "As women strive to achieve equality in the workplace, the wages that measure their progress move slowly. There is still a gap between men's and women's earnings and this is only one area where women's rights are being jeopardized." (Rayner 1996) "Women with equal or better education earn less than men and there are proportionally fewer women in top management positions. Advancement in the workplace is often times hindered by artificial barriers. Women must take personal responsibility for their own career progress."

Equal pay has been the law since 1963. But today, 36 years later, women are still paid less than men even when we do similar work and have similar education, skills, and experience. The pay gap has narrowed since 1963 to less than half but research by the Institute for Women's Policy Research (IWPR) finds that most of the recent change is because men's real wages have been falling not because women's have risen. The law bars employers from lowering men's pay to correct discrimination against women. Two federal laws, an executive order and some state and local laws prohibit pay discrimination against women.

"The "traditional" approach to the examination of compensation differences in male- female earnings has been that of "human-capital" theory. This perspective argues that an individuals earnings are a function of his/her training and experience. In recent years, this approach has yielded a considerable unexplained residual in earning differences. The residual is typically attributed to discrimination. Given the quantitative and qualitative achievements in minority formal education, the passage of anti-discrimination and affirmative action legislation, the movement of minorities into occupations characterized by lower turnover rates, and the reduction of the social acceptability of bigotry, it would be expected that discrimination of minority employment and wage equality would converge, but this has not occurred." (Thomas 7) Other facets of gender inequality in the workplace are evaluation ratings, promotions, and upper management hirings. Long held traditional perceptions of sex roles, particularly job related sex roles, bias the evaluation ratings of women's job performance. Women's performance in typically male-oriented job positions are often subject to being discounted severely; due to no other reasons than their sex (Koretz 1990, Rigdon 1993, Schwartz 1988, Pennar 1991). The presence of minorities and women in any type of management position is low; and even lower to non-existent in upper-level management positions. "Homosocial reproduction continues to surface and reinforce the stereotype that women and minorities are less qualified for management positions." (Thomas 5)

The U.S. and Korea are the only industrialized nations that have not signed a 1951 international resolution the Equal Remuneration Convention of the International Labor Organization of the United Nations endorsing the principle of equal pay for work of equal value. The U.S. also has not signed the 1979, "United Nations Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women."

One agency that believes in the idea of "a fair day's pay for a fair day's work" is the National Partnership. The Partnership works with federal enforcement agencies, like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, for improved enforcement of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII. It also supports enactment of legislation like the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would improve enforcement of the Equal Pay Act through tougher penalties and increased resources for key enforcement agencies; and the Fair Pay Act, which would prohibit employers from sex or race based pay discrimination between employees performing work of equal value. I developed a survey that I had intended to send to the Judicial Department of the State of Oregon and to the employees of Teledyne/Wah Chang, in Albany. I believed that the results from the private sector and from a public sector would be an interesting comparison as to gender fairness issues. But before I sent my survey to the state I was apprized that the Supreme Court, under the direction of Chief Justice Wallace Carson, had already taken up the issue and a committee called, "The Task Force on Gender Fairness" had been formed. This committee developed an extensive survey that was sent to all arenas in the state that dealt with state laws and courts.

The findings of the survey dealing with the Judicial Department were as follows: In respect to courthouse personnel, the task force studied whether the Oregon Judicial Department ("OJD") treats court personnel differently on the basis of gender with respect to; hiring; promotion; compensation, or; other aspects of employment. Data was compiled from answers to survey questions, testimony at public hearings, written submissions to the Task Force, and other anecdotal information. The survey was sent to 1,547 court personnel. A total of 597 employees returned the survey for an overall return rate of about 39%. Surveys were completed by 463 women and 98 men; 36 respondents did not tell their gender. Of all respondents who told their gender, 82.5% were women and 17.5% were men. The Oregon courts, through OJD, employ a total of 1,547 employees in various non-judicial positions, making it one of Oregon's largest employers. Of those employees, 79.4% are women and 20.6% are men, closely matching the proportions of women and men responding to the survey. "The high rate of return and the proportional responses suggest that confidence in the results of the survey are appropriate.

After studying the Task Force survey report I was interested to learn that one of the members of the task force worked in the office next to us and was a woman with very strong views on gender and race inequality in the workplace and in society. I called her up and asked if we could get together to talk about gender issues. Over lunch we discussed the survey and I asked her about her personal history with gender bias. Lee refers to herself as a "woman of color" and she said that she was unsure if the biases that she had run into during her life were based on gender, race or gender and race. She is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan where she helped run a very large YWCA complex and was responsible for teaching classes, evaluating programs, project analysis and the management of the office. All of the issues that the YWCA dealt with involved women in some fashion.

Lee stated that when she came to work for the Oregon Judicial Department that she felt as though she was undergoing culture shock, coming from an environment that dealt with gender issues daily, to an environment that would rather ignore those same issues. When I asked her for a recommendation as to how she thinks gender bias might be resolved she stated, "Both women and men need to be aware and keeping a watch out for inequality of any kind, whether in the workplace, society, or at home. If we are aware and if we see or hear any inequality then we need to speak up, act, do something about it right at that moment in time." I also asked her what she thought was the most critical aspect of gender inequality in the OJD and her reply was that she thought that most employees were unaware of the channels available to them to report problems and to receive help. When I asked how she felt about the survey and the results her statement was that she was disappointed that results in several areas were diluted when made public and felt that the dilution projected a different impact than the factual result would have. Since their survey covered the areas that I had intended researching and much more extensively and the fact that their survey was sent out in December of 1997 and the results just published this May I decided that I would use their information for my public sector and still send my survey to Wah Chang. Teledyne/Wah Chang in Albany, Oregon employs approximately 1100 workers. The percent of workers that are employed that are women is less than 5% and there are only 2 women managers in the corporation. The clerical staff is comprised of all women employees and only women with degrees in metallurgy are employed in management positions. The survey was e-mailed to all employees and I received a return of approximately 18% (198). Of the surveys that I received back 75 were from female employees and 123 from male employees. 84% of the women listed themselves as clerical workers, 13% as Sales, 1% as Executive, 2% as Technical and 30% of the men listed themselves as operators, 28% as Sales, 2% as Technical, and 30% as Executive/Manager.

The results found that 97% of the men were happy with their jobs, benefits, hours but uncertain about the future of their jobs, compared to 22% of the women who were happy with their jobs, benefits and hours. 1% of the men felt that they had been discriminated against in some manner, compared to 73% of the women who felt that they had been discriminated based on their sex. 87% of the women felt that the work load is unevenly distributed in their workplace with the women carrying a heavier load. Only 11% of the men felt that they carried a heavier work load than the women. 86% of the women said that they were unhappy with their pay and 23% of the men said that pay was a concern to them (Survey 1998).

My conclusion was that the women employees at Wah Chang felt that their company discriminated against them because of their gender; on pay issues, promotions, benefits, and hours. While the majority of the men felt very comfortable with how the company treated them. The Department of Labor just recently issued its fact-finding report on the existence of the "glass ceiling" --- those invisible, yet very real barriers that continue to confront women and minorities as they attempt to participate in the workforce. The Glass Ceiling Report reviews in great detail the barriers to participation that fall short of overt exclusion but which still operate to limit the full participation of women in our economy (Braun 210). The Glass Ceiling Commission's report makes it clear what the problem is. It is not a "woman's problem." It is not a problem related to any lack of ability on the part of women. It is a problem going to the heart of the American dream --- whether the workforce is for some Americans, or for all Americans. The report concluded, after years of research, that there are two major impediments to full participation by women and minorities. First, the prejudices and stereotypes of many white male middle managers. Second, the need for greater efforts by many corporate CEO's --- who have made an initial commitment to diversity and expanded economic opportunity --- to fully translate those words into realities (Braun 212).

"The glass ceiling is not only a setback that affects two-thirds of the population, but a serious economic problem that takes a huge financial toll on American business. Equity demands that we destroy the glass ceiling. Smart business demands it as well," said Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich, chair of the commission. The term the "glass ceiling" first came into use in 1986 when two Wall Street Journal reporters coined the phrase to describe the invisible barrier that blocks women from the top jobs in corporate America. Among the reasons cited for the existence of the glass ceiling were the belief that women are too easily diverted from their careers by family considerations;stereotypes about women's ability to function in the tough, competitive world of business; and a caste system that relegates women to roles peripheral to core business activity. However, "the biggest obstacle women face is also the most intangible: Men at the top feel uncomfortable beside them." (Hymowitz & Schellhardt, 1986)

What role will women play in the labor force of the 21st century? Of the 26 million net increase in the civilian labor force between 1990 and 2005, women will account for 15 million or 62 percent of net growth. In 1990 women were 45 percent of the labor force and will become 47 percent of the civilian labor force in 2005. In 1970 and 1980, women's share of the labor force was only 38 percent and 42 percent, respectively. Projections for the period 1990-2005 indicate that men will leave the labor force in greater numbers than women--by more than 4 million. Men will, however, continue to remain the major segment of the labor force participants. Women planning their careers, anticipating career changes, or aspiring to keep up with labor market changes should pay close attention to jobs that offer employment opportunities, good pay, and promotion potential. Job opportunities are usually more favorable in growing occupations, but occupations with the fastest growth do not necessarily provide the most new jobs (Facts, 4).

Since World War II the Federal Government has experimented with a variety of different enforcement techniques in its efforts to reduce employment barriers faced by women and minorities. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the backbone of efforts to eliminate employment discrimination. By allowing private litigation, this act made every potential victim a monitor and put enforcement potential in the hands of those with intimate knowledge of the work place. Affirmative action programs have opened up new job opportunities to qualified women, leading to higher wages, more advancement opportunities, and improved financial security for themselves and their families. A recent Department of Labor study estimated that 5 million minority workers and 6 million women are in higher occupational classifications today than they would have been without the affirmative action policies of the 1960's and 1970's. In 1963, women earned 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. Today, women earn 74 cents for every dollar earned by men. Women have also moved into professional jobs previously occupied by men by 1995, women accounted for 24% of lawyers, up from 5% in 1970, 19.4% of doctors, up from 7.6% in 1970, and 8.3% of engineers, up from 1.3% in 1973. (Working Women's) A number of possible alternative policies, mechanisms and institutions for removing glass ceilings have been proposed that extend beyond current programs.

Despite the failure of the ERA at the federal level, seventeen states have adopted ERAs and the most active legislatures of these states have instituted special commissions to review current laws and institute reforms with a goal towards more gender neutral language that is the language of the laws would be such that gender should not be at issue (Stetson 35). But there is a price to pay for such reforms, says Martha Minow, ". . .embracing the theory of sameness means that any sign of differences between women and men could be used to justify treating women differently form men." (Mezey 27) There seems to be some validity to that statement because women are being forced to conform to the male ideal if they want to succeed professionally and any deviation from the male norm is seen as a sign of weakness, indicative that women are not able to handle power, and power seems to be at the root of the struggle for women's rights power to determine one's own destiny. The laws that have been passed for women's rights, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, the Wage Discrimination Act, the Education Amendment of 1972, and the Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 (Rhoodie 281) have tipped the scales slightly in our favor but Joan Hoff warns "that such concessions are often made when the restrictions they redress are no longer important to those in power and that many have resulted in unintended negative consequences. (Hoff 7,3)

The workforce of the United States is among the most gender and racioethnically diverse in the world. This diversity presents both challenges and opportunities as organizations compete for advantage in a global marketplace. One of the most critical challenges posed by diversity in the workplace is to eliminate barriers to entry and success in middle and senior manager jobs which may be related to group identity factors such as gender and race. We are convinced that a major obstacle to establishing managing diversity and glass ceiling initiatives as top priorities for industry and government is the failure to recognize that the capacity to manage diversity has major implications for the economic performance of organizations. Organizations which excel at leveraging diversity, (including the hiring and advancement of women and non-White men into senior management jobs, and providing a climate conducive to contributions from people of diverse backgrounds) will experience better financial performance in the long run than organizations which are not effective in managing diversity.

In addition to the recommendations noted above, another avenue is in place to help define and address problems and work towards solutions. This system can be used in the corporate world, in interpersonal situations, and conceivably, on an international level. This framework is "Systems Theory", which offers a broadly based perspective on all social systems (Wilmot, Hocker 157). Systems thinking is a powerful approach for addressing stubborn problems in the workplace, especially when its concepts and tools are used for group and team learning. The process included three major components: identifying the core issue, diagraming the problem, and designing the actual intervention. Designing a systems thinking intervention is by its very nature iterative, challenging, and decidedly nonlinear. As part of this process, the tools encourage us to construct and examine models; in particular, our "mental models," or the deeply held assumptions that influence the way we think and act. By exploring our mental models, we deepen our understanding of a problem and, through an iterative process, can conduct experiments to discover high-leverage solutions.

This system helps shed light on the root causes of a problem and by letting you anticipate the multiple consequences of your solutions, it can help you avoid solutions that only spawn more difficulties. One of the most important benefits of the system thinking perspective is that it can help you learn to ask the right questions and can inspire the group members' confidence in a potential intervention.

Before we would decide to apply this system to the problem of gender inequality in the workplace we would need to ask ourselves the following questions:

After deciding that the systems approach is appropriate, the next step is to start thinkingabout the problem instead of just acting on it. All stakeholders need to get involved as early in the process as possible: that way, all viewpoints are considered, and everyone will be more likely to support the intervention that the group eventually designs. Focus just on telling the story, and hold back on discussing potential solutions. The purpose of the storytelling stage is to bring out multiple theories about the problem before closing in on one that seems to offer the highest leverage for change.

Next, draw "behavior over time" diagrams. This allows us to begin to connect the present to the past and see beyond event to patterns of behavior over time. We can then create a question that will help focus discussion during the rest of the process. Creating a focusing question may involve fleshing out a picture of what people want, or determining why certain problems are occurring. This process is valuable because it encourages groups to emphasize inquire rather than advocacy. We will need to keep in mind that the question may shift later in the process as new information encourages the group to revisit and revise the question.

Diagraming a core problem enables the group to deepen its understanding of the dynamics behind an issue. This stage involves drawing causal links between the problem's key variables and depicting the group's understanding of the feedback loops that are causing the problem. As the diagram takes shape, participant's may discover that they don't understand another participant's interpretation of the problem. Conflicting opinions may rise to the surface during this stage simply because the diagraming process is a creative one in which there is no one right answer, it is simply a reflection of the mental models held by the various group members. It is also important to remember that this stage is to promote inquiry and challenge preconceived ideas, not to blame or imply that there is only one correct representation of the problem. A major purpose of diagraming is to create a usable theory about the cause of a problem and a possible solution, and then to test the theory. We would diagram each theory separately, using links to show causal connections between the different variables in the theory. These will help us understand and evaluate a new point by engaging the verbal and spatial capacities of our brains. Make sure to consider all the suggestions or ideas that are offered on the diagrams. The goal is to collect as many theories as possible. The next step is to explore the thinking behind each theory and focus on clarifying the links between variables. Make sure the variables and their relationships are clear. Once we have clarified our theories and outlined the important causal links, the next step is to describe in greater detail the systemic structures that are creating the behavior patterns identified. We will be attempting to depict the flow of feedback through the structure by integrating the theories into an agreed-upon systems diagram. Start with a central loop or process, then add loops to fill in detail but don't feel compelled to close the causal paths.

Each systems thinking diagram represents a theory of how the system works. Theories by their very nature are not truth; they represent our best understanding. Therefore, in order to test the theory, we will need to clarify under what conditions, or assumptions, our diagram will be valid and helpful. Before we begin testing the theories, we will need to double-check that the variables are clear to everyone in the group and make sure the group agrees on what each variable means, and add variables if needed.

The following questions represent four levels of testing for the soundness of the diagram:

The most valuable thing about testing the diagram is that it can lead the group to redefine its core problem. Once we have a working theory and causal loop representation of what we think is happening, it is time to take a deeper look at several underlying issues in order to move from understanding to action. The Going Deeper (TM) process is a four-step model for deepening our understanding in order to begin to create an intervention strategy. This is valuable because it seeks to bring together aspects of all the organizational learning disciplines in order to move a team forward to designing an intervention that endures.

Once we have a working model of the problem we can step back and take a hard look at how we want things to be. Starting with the causal loop diagram we will need to look at where effective interventions can break vicious cycles, connect parts of the system, or reduce delays. Then we will use our knowledge of the system to design a solution that will change the system structure to produce the results we want. The most powerful interventions often involve changing the thinking of the people involved in the system. So we will need to make sure that the intervention is specific, measurable, and verifiable.

The next step is to try to evaluate the impact those actions might have on the system, and then we will need to run small, self-contained experiments and use them as learning opportunities. A key to successfully implementing intervention efforts is getting the full support and commitment of critical stakeholders (Goodman 1997). When we have the knowledge in hand to de-escalate a spiraling conflict pattern and, through the system thinking approach, come up with viable and demonstrable interventions, we will have tools that we can use to bring equality to the workplace, perhaps a step at a time.

"Anything may happen when womanhood [ceases] to be a protected occupation. . ."
                (Woolf 70)

Works Cited