Social Inequality in the Work Force
“What is the difference between sex and gender? “ is an inquiry which some individuals seem confused upon because both concepts are often misunderstood. Sex is a biological distinction between males and females, while gender is a socially constructed definition that relates to characteristics defining masculinity and femininity (Kilic). The latter is a structural feature of society, as the public maintains the dominant belief in preserving male advantages. This ideology that the public has learned to accept has led to unfair treatment against women especially in employment opportunities.
Women specifically experience deprivation in the work force as they face discrimination based on their sex. Many women in the employment industries have the least authority, and are confide to lower-ranking positions than men. In “Difference and Dominance: On Sex Discrimination” by Catharine MacKinnon, the author offers a variety of concepts as to how a particular gender (male) is constructed as being dominant in society. MacKinnon introduces the theory of the dominance approach, which she believes parallel society’s practice of social inequality.
The ideology of gender identity has created injustice for women as they have become subordinate to men in terms of power and status. Similarly in the article, “An Overview of Sex Inequality at Work” by Irene Padavic and Barbara Reskin, the authors also claim that gender is socially constructed based on the dominance approach. MacKinnon’s interpretation of the dominance approach is behind the construction of society’s ideology on gender identity; Padavic and Reskin’s article also provides an enactment of this approach, particularly on the issue of sex inequality for women in the workplace.
Women experience sex segregation of jobs, sex differences in promotion/authority, and also differences in their earnings. The discrimination that women endure is a result of society’s ideology of the dominance approach. This is a concept where, “sex inequality questions are questions of systemic dominance, of male supremacy” (MacKinnon 414). MacKinnon states that society has constructed an ideology where men are believed to have more power over women as a sex. The unequal distribution of power leads to men being at the top of the hierarchy while women are at the bottom.
As a result, the oppression that women experience is reflected from subordination to men in society. MacKinnon argues that, “the dominance approach centers on the most sex-differential abuses of women as a gender, abuses that sex equality law in its difference garb could not confront” (413). Women are typically the ones who face abuse in terms of rape, sexual harassment, and battery. As a result, females are usually seen as inferior because men do not face these types of abuse (MacKinnon 413). The pornography industry is another example of how women are seen as being powerless against men.
By exploiting females for the sexual entertainment of men, the power differential is maintained in society. Similar to MacKinnon’s theory of the dominance approach, Padavic and Reskin’s article provide examples of how this is evident in today’s society. “An Overview of Sex Inequality at Work” focuses on women being discriminated on their jobs because of their gender. Padavic and Reskin claim that sex inequality occur in workplaces because it is embedded in the ideology of many societies (341). Like MacKinnon’s assertions, society focuses on a belief that gives preference for males to benefit.
Padavic and Reskin argue that gender ideology is, “a set of widely shared assumptions about the way the sexes are and what the relations between them are and ought to be” (342). This is one of the factors that explain why there is sex inequality in the workplace. In this patriarchal society, men are seen as being the real “breadwinners” who deserve higher-paying jobs. On the other hand, women are seen as being homemakers who do not need real jobs that pay enough money to support their family (Padavic and Reskin 343). The depiction of the dominance approach is evident as employers also play a part in upholding this ideology.
Employers discriminate women against professions that are seen as being typically male jobs. In the work force, sex segregation of jobs play an important role that prevent women from having equal opportunities as men. According to Padavic and Reskin, sex segregation emphasizes on, “the concentration of men and women in different kinds of work” (340). This philosophy expresses that males should typically work in industries that are defined as being male jobs, such as construction or mining. There is an assumption that blue-collar or physical labor are nontraditional jobs for women.
Women are seen as being physically less strong than men, so they should be excluded from the occupations of hard labor such as construction. There are also sex differences in the promotion and authority of a woman in the work force. Based on one’s gender, certain groups of people have sex advantages with his/her jobs. As a sex, men still dominate in having the highest ranks in most occupations and professions (Padavic and Reskin 341). Under the dominant approach, men are still seen as being the gender with more power, while women are given disadvantages because they are seen as inferior to the opposite sex.
Women also have less authority; as seen in the example of the Wal-Mart company, “although more than two thirds (2/3) of its hourly employees are female, they hold only one third (1/3) of store management jobs, and less than 15% of store manager positions” (Schwartz 274). These statistics prove that there is an imbalance of how much power one has based on their gender. If an employee is a male, he has the higher chance of gaining a store management position. However, if an employee is a female, she has the chance of being passed over for a promotion option.
It is unfair for women be left out of the same opportunities to advance as men. Without these authorities, many women also do not have a chance to voice their opinions on what matters. Finally, sex inequality for women at the workplace is evident in the difference of earnings based on a person’s sex. Statistics show that women on average have lower incomes than men. As Padavic and Reskin claim, “elderly unmarried women had average incomes of $11,161 a year compared to $14,769 for elderly unmarried men” (341).
One explanation for the staggering difference in earnings between men and women is because of the ideological assumption that only males have jobs that are “real work. ” As mentioned before, society has constructed the gender of males as the breadwinners of the group who also deserve priority in higher-paying jobs. On the other hand, women are assumed to be domestic workers; the work they perform is not real, therefore they do not need to be paid enough to support themselves (Padavic and Reskin 342-43). The points that Padavic and Reskin draw attention to prove that MacKinnon’s dominance approach is in effect within society.
Males as a gender have more power when compared to females; as a result, the public still upholds the dominant belief in preserving advantages for men. This philosophy that society endorses has created unequal opportunities for women in sex segregation on jobs, sex differences in promotion opportunities, and the difference in incomes. The ideology of gender that society has constructed is making women face deprivation in the workface. Gender discrimination is one example that shows why society needs to change their beliefs.
If the public still upholds the philosophy of the dominance approach, they risk the consequences that will happen in the future. Men will continue to have supremacy over women. This will limit females from advancing in terms of social opportunities. Women will not be able to be promoted in their careers, such as being managers or supervisors. It will not seem fair for women if they do not receive equal pay when compared to men. Today there are many women who are single mothers in America, which makes them the breadwinners of the household.