Gender equality is also known as gender equity, gender egalitarianism, or sexual equality. It is the goal of the equality of the genders. Gender equality is defined by the world bodies as related to human rights, especially women’s rights and economic development. UNICEF defines gender equality as “leveling the playing field for girls and women by ensuring that all children have equal opportunity to develop their talents.” (UNICEF, 2006) While according to the United Nations Population Fund, gender equality is defined as a human right. (http://www.unfpa.org/gender/) Thus, promoting gender equality is viewed as an encouragement to greater economic growth. According to a survey carried out during this investigative study, many people nowadays do understand what gender equality is regardless of their own gender. This is shown in the bar chart below.
Figure 1: Question asked: Do you understand what gender equality is?
Definition of Gender Inequality
Gender inequality refers to the obvious or hidden difference between genders. Gender inequality occurs when men, women, boys and/or girls have limited or no access to services and resources, live in fear of violence, and/or are unable to control their own destinies due to perceived gender differences and discrimination between and amongst males and females. It is also one of the effects of cultural beliefs as well as societal biasness. The world of business particularly in the workplace is a common ground to gender inequality. There are indeed so many issues concerning inequality between co-workers especially women existing in the workplace. (www.genderqualityinbusiness.com/women-and-their-workplace.php, 2010)
Differences between the roles of males and females
In a research carried out regarding the differences between the roles of males and females has shown that girls do have advantages in verbal capabilities (grammar, spelling and writing) while on the other hand, boys appear to be more advanced in their visual-spatial abilities than girls. No sex differences in math concepts have been supported (Bannon, 2004). This appears to affect their career choices as there is a bigger portion of men in jobs such as police-officers, doctors, and more women in nurturing type vocations such as nurses as well as teachers. There are plentiful theories on why sex differences exist but most can be categorized in supporting either a nature or nurture theory. Those who support biological factors claim that people behave as what their biological nature is. On the other hand, those that support the nurture methodology believe that social-environmental factors as influencing behaviour and argue that biological sex does not really affect how people behave.
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2.0 Causes of Gender Equality
2.1 Education System in the Country
Many years ago, girls did not have the chance to have education. As years pass by, the situation has improved slightly. However, most girls still stopped attending school after elementary school. Usually around age ten, a girl would be taken out of school to begin work at her mother’s side while her brothers often continued in school- even going on to college. Take the Americans as an example. Only a century ago, most American women were raised to expect a life geared towards managing a home and family, where a higher education would be useless. Many people of the time argued that it must even be detrimental in encouraging women to abandon hearth and home. (Mass, 1998)
2.2 Sex Discrimination
There are several ways in which gender discrimination takes place in the workplace. First of all, there is the Direct Discrimination. Many people, particularly women, at some stage in their working lives, receive unwelcome sexual attention from colleagues. Sexual harassment covers a whole range of issues, from rude remarks to leering and unwanted physical contact. (TheSite.org, 2009) Direct discrimination also includes acts like difference in salary based on gender although both are doing the same job, or promoting someone because they are single instead of an equally qualified person. Secondly, there is indirect discrimination. For instance, people who are indirectly discriminated against include examples where a certain set of rules or laws are made which indirectly imply that people of a certain gender cannot qualify those laws or rules. Next, there is harassment as work. This type of discrimination is perhaps the worst of the lot since it not only discriminates but causes emotional as well as psychological trauma for the employee who is discriminated against. Sexual or verbal harassment or inferior treatment owing to gender is included under this category. Lastly, there is victimization. This is an unfair or biased treatment based on the employee’s gender translates into victimization at work. This is also a form of employee discrimination based on gender. (Uttara Manohar, 2009)
2.3 Culture Background
Until today, the cycle of gender inequality in the world goes round and round and is never broken. This is mainly due to the culture background of the people in the society nowadays. Women and girls make up 70% percent of the billion people in the world who live in poverty. In much of the world, women are either not allowed to work at all, leaving them at the mercy of husbands or male relatives, or are unable to secure anything other than low-paying jobs. Parents would not allow their daughters to be educated. Their primary concern about their daughters would be to find them a husband. And when they get married, they are expected to manage their home and family. In this case, women will definitely miss out many opportunities for them in the society. (Mass, 2000)
Status of Women in the Workplace Today
Throughout ages women have faced gruesome atrocities. As years pass by, women exploitation has changed from visible to invisible. However, the brutality and extent is unchanged. In the past, women were forbidden from pursuing education. Until today, the condition is still the same as it is in the past as educated women are now being exploited at home and at their workplaces. In rural areas of a country, physical exploitation of women has it’s own standing while in urban areas, women not only face mental torture, but even sometimes to the extend of physical torment. Although modern educated women are now more independent than before, at the same time, their responsibilities have increased. Apart from providing income, a woman has to be responsible in supporting the family too. During marriage, a woman’s family background and possession still play a major role for getting hold of a good agreement. Hence, it is said that women nowadays have become the scapegoats to new kinds of exploitation. It is certainly undeniable that education does alert us of our rights but at the same time, we have to accept that social conditioning makes us believe the unacceptable customs of the society to be our responsibilities. (Diptygharat, 2009)
According to a study by the Commission on the Status of Women, which is created by John F. Kennedy and is chaired by Eleanor Roosevelt, issued a report that showed ever since 1963, women faced discrimination in the workplace in many areas, including unequal pay. Employers did not pay men and women equally for comparable work. For example, white women earned 73.4% of what white men earned in 2001; in the same year, black women earned 84.8% of what black men earned. (Source: US Census Bureau) This is shown in the bar chart below.
The term ‘glass ceiling’ refers to gender discrimination that limits a woman at a lower statues and thus, makes them struggling to survive in the ruthless society today. It is the accepted authority that is usually practiced by a conventional society that causes a woman to be weaker not only physically but mentally as well. Sexism and gender discrimination are concepts that are then classified into glass ceiling. It is a barrier for gender minority groups, specifically working women to further progress and improve themselves. Feminism is the new idea of glass ceiling. It uses the hierarchical distribution of work based on conventional differences between males and females. (Satwase, 2010) According to a survey that is conducted in 1992, even though women today account for nearly half the workforce, they hold only between 3 and 5 percent of the senior management-level positions, and only compose 0.5 percent of the boards of directors of the top US corporations. However, ever since year 1992 till 2009, the number of top female executives in the US largest one thousand companies only increased by 4.5 percent, but female vice presidents rose 9 percent, which shows that women are slowly moving up the ranks. Still, according to the researchers, “If women continue to move into top business ranks at the current rate, the numbers of male and female senior managers will not be equal until the year 2470.” (Mass, 2009)
Figure 3: Source: U.S. Department of Labor, Women’s Bureau
Ways to Achieve Gender Equality
4.11 Sex Education
Sex education, which is also regarded as sexuality education or sex and relationships education, is the process of obtaining information and forming positive way and thinking and beliefs about sex, sexual identity, and also intimate relationships. Everyone should be taught about sex since young. Sex education is also about developing everyone’s skills, not only for young people, so that they are able to make informed choices about their behaviour, feel confident and competent in making the right decisions for themselves. Through this, they will be able to learn to respect the opposite gender. It is widely accepted that young people have a right to sex education. Sex education aims to educate the teens especially the boys to respect and understand the girls, as well as to reduce the risks of potentially negative outcomes from sexual behaviour. Young people can be exposed to a wide range of attitudes and beliefs in relation to sex and sexuality. Effective sex education includes work on attitudes and beliefs, coupled with skills development that enables a positive mindset to be instilled in the young people. In short, sex education is said to be able to allow gender equality in the society today to be achieved. (Avert.org) Therefore, it ought to be implemented in our country, Malaysia’s education syllabus.
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4.1.2 Moral Education
Gender equality through moral education is best to be started at home. In order to bring the issue of gender inequality to an end, moral education about equity should be started at their own homes. If it works at home, then inequality in the workplace and anywhere in society will definitely be able to be prevented. Gender inequality always starts with insensitivity. No one should regard themselves to be better than the others in terms of gender, unless the person is uneducated. Therefore, moral education and cultural consciousness is one of the vital key to promoting gender equality and ending gender inequality in the workplace especially among women. (genderequalityinbusiness.com, 2009)
4.2 Providing Equal Employment Opportunities
Equal employment opportunities means making sure all workplaces are free from all forms of unlawful discrimination and harassment. In the past, many women were actually greatly affected by the disadvantages in employment. They were more likely to be seen as unemployed or working in lower paid jobs. In fact, women should be given equal opportunities as men, as what is obtained from the survey carried out. In the survey, 29 out of 30 participants stated that women ought to be given equal opportunities as men as they claimed that gender differences will not necessary affect one’s work performance. (Refer to Figure 4 and 5) Hence, in order to achieve gender equality in the workplace, fair practices and behaviour are the two most important factors. In this case, the recruitment, selection and promotion practices must be open, competitive as well as based on merit. Merit assessed by clearly defined, job-related criteria, not by considering one’s gender ensures that the best applicant is selected for the job. When this is achieved, women will then be able to work in a fair environment that is free from unlawful discrimination and harassment.
Figure 4: Question asked: Should women be given equal opportunities as men?
Figure 5: Question asked: Do you agree that men are definitely more outstanding than women?
Successful Females in the World Today
In the world today, it is tremendously obvious that women have come a long way as successful professionals. Life in the workplace has been widely broadened that the increase in number of women has made their existence felt in most of the industries and professions. Throughout the years, many women have stood up proudly in the society, showing everyone that the female working squad has expanded with exponential strength, and thus have their dire significance in the professional world. In short, this shows that men are not necessarily more outstanding than women. This can be further proven from the survey carried out during this investigative study in which out of 30 participants, 23 responded that they do not agree that men are definitely more outstanding than women. Apart from that, most of them agree with the statement in which stated that women do play in important role in the society nowadays.
This is now an example of one of the most successful females in today’s world.
Oprah Winfrey, who symbolizes the American dream, is commonly known as a woman with a heart of gold, she was the one who rose from poverty to become the first African-American woman billionaire. She speaks to the world through television, movies, books, and radio. She is even called “the most influential woman in the world” by CNN and Time. The role she has been playing is so dominant that she is able to influence almost every woman around the world through book recommendations, philanthropic activities, human rights awareness, and political activity. However, her career’s journey has not been without controversy. For instance, she did receive criticism for not asking tough questions of guests she seems to like personally. Despite all the criticisms she received, however, it is undeniable that Oprah is one of the most influential women in the world.
According to various researches and surveys, the overwhelming finding was that achieving gender equality in the workplace today is definitely not impossible. Based on the survey distributed out, many actually agreed that males are not necessarily more outstanding than females. Besides, it is also shown in the survey that females should be given the same opportunities as what are given to males, particularly in the workplace where women should be paid the same as men for doing comparable jobs. Apart from that, as years pass by, it is shown in the report that the number of females that are, and are entering the workforce is increasing rapidly. Although some of them may face workplace discrimination, evidence actually shows that the middle and upper-class women are prospering exponentially. Based on all these evidences, the possible result of this Investigative Study would be, it is certainly possible for gender equality in the workplace to be achieved so long as the differences between males and females can be accepted.
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