Gender inequality

Jump to: navigation, search

Gender inequality refers to the obvious or hidden disparities among individuals based on performance of gender (gender can separate from biological sex, see Sex/gender distinction). Gender has been construed as socially constructed through social interactions as well as biologically constructed through chromosomes, brain structure, and hormonal differences [1]. The dichotomous nature of gender lends to the creation of inequality that manifests in numerous dimensions of daily life.

In the workplace

Income disparities linked to job stratification

Income disparity between genders stems from processes that determine the quality of jobs and earnings associated with jobs. Earnings associated with jobs will cause income inequality to take form in the placement of individuals into particular jobs through individual qualifications or stereotypical norms. Placement of men or women into particular job categories can be supported through the human capital theories of qualifications of individuals or abilities associated with biological differences in men and women. Conversely, the placement of men or women into separate job categories is argued to be caused by social status groups who desire to keep their position through the placement of those in lower statuses to lower paying positions [2].

The gender earnings ratio suggests that there has been an increase in women’s earnings comparative to men. Men’s plateau in earnings began after the 1970s, allowing for the increase in women’s wages to close the ratio between incomes. Despite the smaller ratio between men and women’s wages, disparity still exists. Census data suggests that women’s earnings are 71 percent of men’s earnings in 1999 [3].

As women entered the workforce in larger numbers since the 1960s, occupations have become segregated based on the amount femininity or masculinity presupposed to be associated with each occupation. Census data suggests that while some occupations have become more gender integrated (mail carriers, bartenders, bus drivers, and real estate agents), occupations including teachers, nurses, secretaries, and librarians have become female-dominated while occupations including architects, electrical engineers, and airplane pilots remain predominately male in composition [4]. Based on the census data, women occupy the service sector jobs at higher rates then men. Women’s overrepresentation in service sector jobs as opposed to jobs that require managerial work acts as a reinforcement of women and men into traditional gender roles that causes gender inequality [5].

In the home

Gender roles in parenting and marriage

Gender roles develop through internalization and identification during childhood. Sigmund Freud suggested that biology (based around the penis) determines gender identity through identification with either the mother or father. While some people agree with Freud, others argue that the development of the gendered self is not completely determined by biology based around one's relationship to the penis, but rather the interactions that one has with the primary caregiver(s). From birth, parents interact differently with children depending on their sex, and through this interaction parents can instill different values or traits in their children on the basis of what is normative for their sex. This internalization of gender norms includes the choice of toys (“feminine” toys often reinforce interaction, nurturing, and closeness, “masculine” toys often reinforce independence and competitiveness) that a parents give to their children [6]. Education also plays an integral role in the creation of gender norms [7].

Gender roles that are created in childhood permeate throughout life and help to structure parenting and marriage, especially in relation to work in and outside the home. Despite the increase in women in the labor force since the mid-1900s, women are still responsible for the majority of the domestic chores and childcare. While women are splitting their time between work and care of the home, men are pressured into being the primary economic supporter of the home [8]. Despite the fact that different households may divide chores more evenly, there is evidence that supports that women have retained the primary caregiver role within familial life despite contributions economically. This evidence suggest that women who work outside the home often put an extra 18 hours a week doing household or childcare related chores as opposed to men who average 12 minutes a day in childcare activities [9].

Gendered media

Media representations of men and women tend to conform to traditional gender norms, reinforcing the aggressive independence of men and the passive dependence of women. While there are exceptions to the traditional gender norms presented in the media, entertainment industries predominantly present men and women in roles that reinforce inequality between the sexes. Men are presented as career oriented, lazy, or incompetent in doing housework, and rarely are they presented as caregivers for their families. Women, conversely, are almost always presented in advertisements for household care products or as the sexy, love-struck female in film. These presentations of gender in the media help to reinforce the gender norms within the home as well as in the public sphere and contributes to gender inequities in society [10].

Perpetuation Through the Generations

As children become integrated into the gendered world, perceptions of the roles that particular gendered individuals embody become integral to their understanding of the world. Studies have been conducted with children to determine whether they perceive a particular occupation or activity to be associated with men or women. Children associated work with males because of the association of males within society as being the breadwinners in families. Not only were children more likely to associate men with paid labor, but they were more likely to think of men in general when asked about work. When women were thought of, they were predominantly pictured in housekeeping activities [11]. This data suggests that traditional gender roles permeate the lives of children, which can contribute to the perpetuation of gender inequality in adult work and family life.

See also


  1. Wood, Julia. Gendered Lives. 6th. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2005.
  2. Jacobs, Jerry. Gender Inequality at Work. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, 1995.
  3. Cotter, David, Joan Hermsen, and Reeve Vanneman. The American People Census 2000: Gender Inequality at Work. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2000.
  4. Cotter, David, Joan Hermsen, and Reeve Vanneman. The American People Census 2000: Gender Inequality at Work. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2000.
  5. Hurst, Charles, E. Social Inequality. 6th. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc., 2007.
  6. Wood, Julia. Gendered Lives. 6th. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2005.
  7. Vianello, Mino, and Renata Siemienska. Gender Inequality: A Comparative Study of Discrimination and Participation. Newbury Park, California: SAGE Publications Ltd., 1990.
  8. Jacobs, Jerry, and Kathleen Gerson. The Time Divide: Work, Family, and Gender Inequality. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2004.
  9. Friedman, Ellen, and Jennifer Marshall. Issues of Gender. New York: Pearson Education, Inc. , 2004.
  10. Wood, Julia. Gendered Lives. 6th. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2005.
  11. Nemerowicz, Gloria Morris. Children's Perceptions of Gender and Work Roles. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1979.