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Psychology of Gender in Business
Traditional gender roles have defined the business lives as well as the home lives of families and breadwinners for numerous generations. Certain expectations were put in place at what seems to be the dawn of time. The evolution of these decided obligations went on to shape the traditional family and the roster of the traditional workplace. Expansions and millenniums of progression in this historical framework then gave way to what the modern world still often considers gender specific job roles. Though, without question, this segregative and selective approach to the business world is surely archaic. Nevertheless, over the last decade or so there has been a revolution that is gaining steam in the business community. The idea of equality is becoming more and more popular among businesses and government agencies. Such powerful and influential entities have finally realized that the furthering and promotion of gender specific job roles is discriminatory and wrong. Thus, with massive amounts of legislation like Affirmative Action being passed to help ensure gender equality in all firms, it certainly seems like the tides are shifting (Inglehart & Norris, Rising Tide: Gender Equality and Cultural Change Around the World, 2003). However, being that some of these legislative equalizers were actually initiated in the 1960's, it does not seem like they provide an immediate solution. While these legal precedents have helped to begin reversing the historical trend, more needs to be done to bring genuine equality into the business world. For, even in the modern landscape of globalized business and commerce, there are still great discrepancies in gender equality. Without question, women have increased their participation in this arena by leaps and bounds, though it is still an unquestionably male-dominated environment. Even with the equality laws in action, labor statistics still indicate the prevalence of gender specific job roles in contemporary business (Croson & Gneezy, 2009). And while women seem to be suffering the most at the hands of this archaic business ideology, men have also had a difficult time transcending gender specific barriers in the workplace.
From a woman's perspective, there is certainly a wealth of age-old hurdles to success in the global business economy. As far back as the Roman Empire, women were tasked with childcare and other household duties and expected to be contented in these menial roles . Accordingly, they were forbidden to engage in any business or political matters. Or in other words, they had virtually no rights outside of the home. This direct exclusion occurred during the time that the foundations of business, politics and philosophy were being created. Thus, it could be argued that because of the gender configuration of the time, these fields were actually originated for men. In any event, the segregative and prejudicial attitudes of this highly influential civilization stood the test of time and continued to show themselves in numerous world cultures. Even some of the most highly developed and powerful nations in the world held very discriminatory positions towards women for centuries. Almost all of the same gender-based prohibitions that existed in Ancient Greece and Rome existed all the way into the 20th Century. In fact, the United States did not give women the right to vote until 1920 . Without question, this most basic right was one of the first steps in granting women the freedom to excel in endeavors outside of the home. Many believe that this revolutionary (yet far overdue) shift was spurred on by the rising feminist movement that gained power during the late 19th Century in America . This group of activist women (along with their several male supporters) organized several rallies and protests for the purpose of securing more rights for women . And once their influence was realized on a national scale with the passage of 19th Amendment (women's right to vote), this movement gained even more support and encouraged women to participate in society in various ways.
One such way in which women began to embrace the outside world was in the workplace. After the women's suffrage movement, the female population seemed to collectively gain an unprecedented sense of autonomy and independence . In fact, statistics show that after this gain in the arena of women's right, the average age of marriage for a woman increased by four years . This is indicative of the fact that women began to explore their career and educational options before immediately settling down and accepting the role of housewife. In fact, other studies have shown that beginning shortly after this feminist revolution and throughout the remainder of the 19th Century; women's education rates have been steadily increasing as opposed to the more sluggish educational growth rates of their male counterparts . Each of these valuable indicators points to this gender's ever-increasing potential for success in the workplace. Nevertheless, despite this unarguable potential, the male business world has not been extremely welcoming to these qualified newcomers over the majority of the last century. Many of these powerful male breadwinners felt (and continue to feel) threatened by the idea of a woman applicant or coworker.
Though with increasing amounts of anti-discriminatory material being signed into law, this regrettably large group of influential and very stubborn businessmen was forced to make room for women in the office. Even though women did have employment opportunities during the industrial revolution and wartimes, these positions were not comparable for their primary motivation was the lack of available men. Additionally, these initial job roles seemed to subjugate women to an even greater extent then in the case of a housewife . For, while the women slaved away on dangerous machinery for long grueling shifts, the men that were present were up in the coolness of the office signing papers, barking orders and making business deals. Thus, there was little to no gender interaction in these early employment environments. Conversely, as women began to invest more and more in their own educations and independence, they moved closer and closer to equality with men in the working world. Not long after being given the right to vote, were women making their way into the same offices as men. However, while the shared workspace gave the illusion of equality to many women on their initial excursions outside the home, the majority of office employment positions for women were still very menial in nature. Similar to the nature of their household duties, women were given service-oriented positions, like secretaries, nurses, assistants, housekeepers and barmaids. Therefore, while these independent and often highly educated young ladies found themselves in the same room as their male counterparts, they almost always ranked well below them in the chain of command. Consequently, women were often treated in the same subjugating manner as they were in the home or wartime factory .
Furthermore, being that the female sex was new to the world of business, they often suffered at the hands of greedy and discriminatory employers. One of the most notable ways in which this suffering occurred was in the payroll department. Women were paid far less then their male counterparts in numerous fields . Though being that men often held much more prestigious positions then women there seemed to always be a certifiable excuse for this massive pay gap. However, as women began to work their way up the corporate ladder and found themselves rubbing elbows with men, the pay differential problem persisted. Women were utilizing the fruits of their educations and contributing much more to the working world, yet they were still being paid a fraction of their masculine peers. It was not until 1963 that the United States passed The Equal Pay Act, which aimed to abolish lingering pay differentials based upon gender . This legislation certainly had a significant affect on the real wages of women workers, though it also created a much more gender-competitive job market and working environment. As a result of The Equal Pay Act, men began to genuinely view women as competitors for job positions and increasing amounts of peer-to-peer discrimination began to occur .
This tension begat yet another source of work-related suffering women were forced to endure at the hands of men: harassment. This discriminatory practice was amplified when the insecurities of threatened males in the workforce began to show themselves in the form of sexual, verbal and psychological persecution of their new female peers . For, with the laws in place to protect women from discrimination in the hiring and payroll arenas, these more subtle outlets of scorn were they only feasible ways for men to maintain their internal supremacy . While this practice created countless hostile work environments around the world, women continued to bite the collective bullet and make substantial contributions to the labor force. It was the significance of this contribution and the emergence of harassment claims as legitimate barriers to productivity, that prompted many firms to create policies regarding harassment in order to establish strict penalties for such abusive behavior . Such policies invited even greater amounts of…[continue]
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