This report discusses the role played by social institutions such as schools, workplaces and policy making institutions in the shaping of gender roles and norms in society. These institutions hold control over desired resources such as information, wealth and social progress. They control the distribution of these resources by making it contingent on the performance of certain behaviours. It is found that these behaviours vary according to gender with boys expected to excel at certain subjects at school and girls at other regardless of differences in intelligence and cognition. Similarly, women in the workplace are expected to show a preference and aptitude for certain jobs whereas men are encouraged to aim for top management positions because they are perceived to be more intelligent, aggressive and rational. Similarly, in the public sphere, laws and policies also grant rights on the extent to which gender norms are conformed to in society. The case of Baker vs. Canada illustrates the bias against women that prevents them from entering the country as economic migrants.
Gender role analysis
Gender is a social construct and is shaped by the members of society as they work to create institutions for social and economic progress. The concept of division of labour is implicit here as the power dynamics that make one group want to seek dominance over another perceived to be different. This has led to the establishment of gender norms within society that ascribe certain roles to women and some to men. The more active and imitative-taking roles are ascribed to men while women are relegated to the background as passive recipients and homemakers.
The social institutions and structures propagate and reinforce these norms in order to maintain the balance of power in favour of men by awarding them the greater control over resources of society. In this report, the role played by major social institutions such as the educational institutions and the workplace in shaping and propagating gender norms putting women at a disadvantage is explored in the light of research. The role played by public policy and lawmakers in considering gender differences in the distribution of economic and social resources is also explored. Addressing the issues is necessary to achieve a harmonious balance in society between men and women and to achieve social progress.
How Gender is Shaped by Education
Gender norms and attitudes are shaped by education during the earliest phase of a student's life. These attitudes and gender norms become part of the child's socialization process and ultimately affect the decisions and preferences of the child in later stages of life, including higher education and career decisions. The question is how the gender norms are shaped at the level of school education. Starting from the preschool age, young children are encouraged to read fictions written for preschoolers. These stories are attractively presented and encourage the development of reading skills but they also carry an undercurrent of gender roles that children absorb unintentionally. Taylor (2009) carried out a study of some of the most popular children's books such as those written by Dr. Seuss. The results of the study disclosed that within those stories boys were presented as active and intelligent individuals who were active in the outdoors and displayed initiative and curiosity. On the other hand, girls were stereotyped as being homely, passive, prissy and with no ambition. Assertive girls or women were mostly portrayed negatively.
In another study by Keller (2007) the effect of stereotype threat on the performance of boys and girls in math tests was studied. The results showed that when test applicants are told that a certain test is designed to show differences in the math ability of boys and girls along gender lines, the girls performed worse than boys. This has been attributed to the raise levels of anxiety among girls who believe that boys are better suited at performing on math and science subjects. In another study, test applicants in one group were asked questions about their academic aspirations before taking a spatial intelligence test on which boys typically perform better. In another group, applicants giving the same test were asked questions that highlighted gender differences. The performance gap between boys and girls was wider in the second group than in the first, showing that consciousness of gender stereotypes affects academic performance among students.
Good, Woodzicka & Wingfield (2010) have conducted a study on how gender stereotypes are created among middle school students through educational material. They conducted a study by exposing one group chemistry students to educational material that had images featuring male scientists. Another group was presented with the same educational material but with the difference that photographs of male scientists were replaced by those of women scientists and male scientists working in equally active roles. The results of the study showed that when boys and girls were shown images that confirmed in-group stereotypes, i.e. that boys are better than girls at science, boys performed well on comprehension but girls performed poorly. However, on exposure to counter-stereotypical images, i.e. women can be equally competent as scientists, girls performed much better than in the previous group. This shows that the illustration, diagram and photographs used in textbooks can affect gender-based socialization among school children.
It is therefore recommended that educational material and curricula be designed to incorporate gender neutral content to avoid building negative and counterproductive gender-based stereotypes among young children.
How Gender is Shaped by Public Policy
Public policy is shaped according to the preferences of the people it aims to affect. As opposed to economic models of policy making, competing attitudes and interests of stakeholders affect the outcome of a public policy. The public policy thus reflects the attitudes and interests of the various stakeholders and power groups in society. To the extent that gender stereotypes and norms exist in society, they can be said to be reflected in public policy as well. Governments also function according to the norms and expectation of their constituencies and devise laws accordingly. In turn, these laws and public policies shape the expectations of people in society and reinforce gender norms.
Among various norms, gender norms are also reinforced and perpetuated through laws and public policies. Policies that make contingent the provision of certain benefits and services on certain specified behaviors reinforce stereotypical gender norms and behaviours. One case in point is discussed by Hallock (2009). In her paper, Hallock (2009) discusses how the Canadian immigration policy shapes gender stereotypes that make it difficult for women seeking immigration to the country as economic migrants. This effect was revealed in the case of Baker vs. Canada in 199, where a Jamaican woman was found to have overstayed her visitor's visa and was subsequently diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Hallock (2009) then exposes some of the loopholes in Canada's immigration policy that encourages women to engage in behaviours such as overstaying their visas in order to support their families financially.
According to the Canadian immigration policy, economic immigrants are welcomed into the country on the basis of whether they are skilled workers, have a certain level of funds to invest in the country, are entrepreneurs or are capable of being self-employed. These conditions make the immigration policy biased in favour of men because women from economically backwards parts of the world are highly unlikely to possess a high level of skills, education or financial resources to qualify as economic immigrants.
Another part of the immigration policy under which women can seek permission to enter the country is in the capacity of live-in caregivers. However, Hallock (2009) also criticizes this as a gender biased policy that puts women in a position of being easily exploited. The policy only grants temporary immigration status to these women and makes it necessary for caregivers to seek residence with their employers. This places women in a dangerous position with regard to their safety and well-being.
The European Union has embarked on a project of improving its policies, which have generally regarded as being less gender -- biased than the policies of North American countries. According to a report published by the New York University (2012), the EU is initiating a program of gender mainstreaming of its public policies since 1996 that go beyond the tradition equal pay standard for maintaining gender equality. The program aims at bringing about changes in educational and employment policies to reduce gender discrimination and stereotyping.
How Gender is Shaped in the Workplace
Gender stereotypes and norms are clearly reflected in the workplace and serve to reinforce gender-based behaviour. The career paths open to employees are also determined by the gender biases of managers and these biases in turn shape gender norms in the workplace as employees try to make themselves eligible for the rewards that the organization has to offer.
Certain industries and jobs are typically characterized as being more suited for certain people on the basis…