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SOSC 102U. Lecture Note 4 Sex Inequality in Modern Workplace. Sex Inequality in Modern Workplace. Sex Segregation Sex Differences in Promotions and Authority Sex Differences in Earnings. Explanations for Sex Inequality in the Workplace. Explanation 1: Gender Ideology and Inequality at Work

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SOSC 102U

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Sosc 102u

SOSC 102U

Lecture Note 4

Sex Inequality in Modern Workplace


Sex inequality in modern workplace

Sex Inequality in Modern Workplace

  • Sex Segregation

  • Sex Differences in Promotions and Authority

  • Sex Differences in Earnings


Explanations for sex inequality in the workplace

Explanations for Sex Inequality in the Workplace

  • Explanation 1: Gender Ideology and Inequality at Work

  • Explanation 2: Men’s Efforts to Preserve Their Advantages in the Workplace

  • Explanation 3: Employers’ Actions

  • Explanation 4: Sex Differences in Workers’ Preferences and Productivity


Explanations for sex inequality in the workplace 1 gender ideology

Explanations for Sex Inequality in the Workplace 1: Gender Ideology

  • Gender Ideology: a set of widely shared assumptions about the way the sexes are and what the relations between them are and ought to be

  • Two related concepts: sex norms and sex stereotypes

  • Sex stereotypes: i. e., women are emotional, irrational, moody, sensitive, etc. Men are assertive, rational, determined, etc.

  • Sex norms: the ideas that sexes differ in appearance, talents, interests, etc. People of different sexes should be separated. I. e., Women are caregivers and men are breadwinners.

  • The consequences: Separate women from “men’s fields” (the most extreme cases are construction, mining, railroads, etc.)


Explanation 1 gender ideology

Explanation 1: Gender Ideology

  • Consequences of the ideology of “men as the breadwinners, women the housewives” (men for paid jobs and women for unpaid domestic work)

  • 1. Employers organized jobs on the assumption that workers had a woman at home who took care of them when they were away from home, fed them, washed their clothes, gave them emotional support, helped their careers, and dealt with family problems

  • 2. The assumption implies that employed women are temporary workers who will quit when they are needed at home or can afford to stay home. Hence, employers do not need to accommodate women’s needs as primary family caregivers.

  • 3. It assumes that employed women are not committed to their careers. Hence, employers do not need to provide promotion opportunities for women and should not assign them to positions where turnover might be a problem.


Gender ideology

Gender Ideology

  • An assumption on male superiority : Paternalism (relationship between dominants and subordinates modeled on the father-child relationship in which members of a dominant group treat members of a subordinate group as if they need protection or guidance)

  • Paternalism and gender inequality: the notion that women, like children, are inferior creatures whom men must take care of

  • Example: the protective labor laws; supervision of female workers’ life


Gender ideology1

Gender Ideology

  • Sex Stereotypes: socially shared beliefs that link various traits, attributes, and skills with one sex or the other—are part of gender ideology

  • Where do they come from? “overlearned” images, based on habitual and automatic association between one sex with certain characteristics

  • Explanations of stereotypes: “Race, sex, and the dismal science”


Gender ideology2

Gender Ideology

  • Sex labeling of jobs:

  • Sex labels: link some occupations (e. g., nurse) with women and others (e. g., plumber) with men. The sex labeling influences both employers and workers.

  • Assertive men + assertive car sellers= male car seller

  • Consequences: women might lose some job opportunities because the employers assume that they may not be interested in.


Explanation 2 reservation of the dominant group

Explanation 2: Reservation of the Dominant Group

  • How does the sex inequality in the workplace sustain?

  • The dominant groups vs. subordinate groups (Those who set up the rules vs. those who have to follow the rules)

  • When a occupation with predominant female workers, the prestige of the occupation would decline (the social-wide devaluation of women’s work)—men therefore try to exclude women from certain jobs that are mostly men’s jobs

  • If women could achieve equality at work, men’s privileges in family, community, and national political life would be undermined.

  • Many men-dominated jobs set up entry barriers to prohibit the participation of women


Explanation 3 employers action

Explanation 3: Employers’ Action

  • Reproduction of sex inequality at workplace through the hiring process

  • Some employers choose to rely on workers’ referrals, and this tends to perpetuate inequality. Why? Workers may deliver their sexist bias to influence the recruitment process

  • Employer’s work assignment may also lead to sex inequality: the requirement of certain experiences to certain positions

  • Discrimination at workplace: treat people unequally because of personal characteristics that are not related to their performance

    • Anti-discrimination law in the U. S.: Title 7 of the 1964 Civil Rights At and its amendments; and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) takes in charge of handling grievances

    • Anti-discrimination institution in Hong Kong: the Equal Opportunities Commission (founded in 1996)


Employers action

Employers’ Action

  • Sexual harassment:

    • 1) quid pro quo (supervisors demand sexual acts)

    • 2) hostile work environment such as sexual intimidation, touching, verbal abuse, or displays of offensive literature that make a worker uncomfortable

  • Policy on sexual harassment of the HKUST

  • In most cases, women are victims of sexual harassment (only one of the 7 cases is male’s being harassed).

  • These harassments are more damaging to women than to men: Among those being harassed, women are at nine times more likely to quit a job, five times more likely to transfer, and three times more likely to lose a job.


Employers action1

Employers’ Action

  • Statistical Discrimination: “women are less productive”

  • E. g. the idea that motherhood will cause women to miss more work than men or will lead to higher turnover rates. But to be sure, not all women need maternity leave. Moreover, motherhood contributes to the overall social reproduction but not only “women’s thing”.

  • Customers’ and Male Workers’ Attitudes: employers discriminate against men or women out of deference to the prejudices of their customers or workers. Can customers discriminatory preferences justify sex discrimination? It is illegal but it is still practiced.

  • E. g. Men have fewer chances to be flight attendants (1), (2); Women have fewer chances to serve in the police force or become military officers.


Explanation 4 sex differences in workers preferences and productivity

Explanation 4: Sex Differences in Workers’ Preferences and Productivity

  • Explanations of sex inequality at workplace from women’s motivations

  • Women choose customarily female jobs, do not want promotions, and willing accept lower wages. Women do not pursue career-oriented success as men do.

  • 1. Human-Capital Theory: labor markets operate in a nondiscriminatory fashion, rewarding workers for their productivity. Thus, if women are worse off than men, it is because they are less productive workers. Because women are more family-oriented but not career-oriented, they are less productive than men.

  • Indicators of human-capital: the skills, experience, and job commitment. Men in general receive more career-related schooling, job training, and experiences.


Sex differences in workers preferences and productivity

Sex Differences in Workers’ Preferences and Productivity

  • 2. Gender-role Socialization: the process by which social institutions, including families, peers, schools, workplaces, and the media—inculcate a society’s expectations of acceptable dress, speech, personality, leisure activities, and aspirations for each sex

  • 1) women are socialized into more family-oriented and men more career-oriented

  • 2) socialization may contribute to a tendency for men and women to hold different values that affect their work lives (such as the value on authority, prestige, and money)


Assessment of the above two approaches

Should we take human-capital theory seriously?

In recent decades, women’s education and career-related training increase dramatically, the sex inequality does not change accordingly.

The approach cannot explain why men and women have different motivations.

Should we take gender-role socialization seriously?

Not only because women are family-oriented, but family demands them to be so.

The current trend is that both men and women are family-oriented.

Women also become career-oriented.

Assessment of the above two approaches


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