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Gender Inequality in the Workplace

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 4896 words Published: 6th Jul 2017

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An ultimate matter of social scientists has been why women continue to lag behind in men salary, promotion and authority. Gender inequalities in the labour market have received considerable attention by researchers over the past twenty years. Since the colonial period, Mauritius has been regarded as a patriarchy society with a high rate of marriage. Overwhelming evidence suggests that gender segregation exists in more occupational categories and the number of women segregation is greater than the number of male segregation.

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Gender socialization is one of the factors responsible for the reinforcement of gender inequality since childhood. The society continues to transmit the traditional gender roles to the individual through the various agencies of socialization. The different institutions of socialisation play an integral part in shaping the adulthood of an individual. Since childhood, women learn to be submissive and men authoritarian.

Furthermore, wage gap, organizational power and employment opportunities have narrowed somewhat but disparities remain in the country. According to the gender statistics in 2011, it has been found that a lesser proportion of men in employment and for female activity rate it was 43.7% against 75.5% for men. Even though women are higher than men in terms of population, they are still at the disadvantage of the corporate ladder.

Despite many law Acts against discriminations; many workers are faced with sex discrimination which affects them in the labour market. Studies in Mauritius on the labour market have laid more emphasis on gender equality rather than gender inequality. Therefore, this study will aid to shed light on the other side of the coin where occupational gender segregation is discussed.

Aim of the study: The study aim to analyse gender inequality within the workplace of Mauritius.

Objectives of the study:

  • To find out how gender socialization process reinforces gender inequality.
  • To analyse how sex discrimination affect workers.
  • To discuss the different components of gender segregation.
  • To identify which gender is more prone towards inequality at the workplace.

Gender inequality and occupational segregation

Gender can be identified as set roles, and behaviour patterns that differentiate women from men in socially, culturally and relations of power (Women Information Centre, 2005). However, radical feminism sees patriarchal roots as creating inequality between men and women. Radical feminism views patriarchy as separating rights, privileges and power principally by gender, and as a consequence oppressing women and privileging men.

In general, radical feminist disagree against political and social institutions for the reason that they are closely linked to oppression. As a result, radical feminism is likely to be convinced that political activities support cultural change that promotes patriarchy. Radical feminism is against patriarchy, not men. To compare radical feminism to man-hating is to presume that patriarchy and men are inseparable.

Anker (1997) distinguished two main explanations for why occupational gender segregation should is a continuing concern: first, it is a major foundation of labor market inflexibility and economic incompetency. Second, it is detrimental to women in the sense that segregation brings about harmful views of both men and women as a result, affecting women’s status, income, education, skills (Anker 1997).

The important outcome related with occupational gender segregation is the segregation of the payment methods and the continual sex discrepancy in earnings with women on the inferior edge. The proportion of the gender wage gap is to 5 to 40 percent attached to workplace segregation is seemingly advanced than the amount by career break 15 percent and equivalent worth wage upgrading 5 percent.

Theories of gender inequality

There are two types of segregation: horizontal segregation, which occurs when there is a concentration of women and men in a determined fields and occupations, and produces disparity in terms of career, pension and vertical segregation, which take place when there is a focus of women and men in determined degrees and levels of responsibility or positions, and produces disparity on salaries.

Theories explaining the existence of occupational segregation by gender can be categorized into three broad groups: the neoclassical and human capital theories, institutional and labour market segmentation theories, and non-economic and gender theories.

The neoclassical human capital model

Neoclassical economics believes that workers and employers are normal and that labour markets function efficiently. The neoclassical economic view explains occupational segregation between individuals or groups by different human capital investment, or by different choices in the tradeoff between pecuniary and non pecuniary job rewards. According to the human capital theory, men are paid more than women because men usually have more human capital. The term human capital refers to qualities of individuals that employers consider useful, like level of education and years of experience. Females are considered to have a lesser experience than males due to careers break up in effect of motherhood.

Some economists who support this theory put forward that women’s are not dedicated towards their jobs and hence, they have to undergo through a series of difficulties. For example, they have less chance to have a permanent job, be promoted to superior and better paid occupation. In this model, wage gender inequality is maintained because men collect more human capital in the competitive free market. But opponent of this theory like Witz (1993) contends that even when female work constantly with no professional rupture, they still terminate in inferior and poor-grade employments.

Institutional and labour market segmentation theories

The initial point of Institutional and labour market segmentation theories is the notion that institutions, such as unions and large enterprises, join in determining who is employed, fired and promoted, and how much employees are paid. Institutional theories are also based on the belief that labour markets are divisional in certain ways. The famous institutional theory is the dual labour market approach.

Dual labour market theory consists of two labour markets. The primary labour market consists of high wage, job security and better chance for promotion. The secondary labour market includes lower paid occupation with little job security and poor working condition. According to this theory, women earn less than men because they are disproportionately employed in secondary labour market. Dual labour market is the outcome of the strategies used by company boss to get hold to the varieties of workforce they necessitate. Companies are ready to propose superior rewards to retain primary sector workers.

It is somewhat a short step to become accustomed to the model of dual labour markets to occupational segregation by gender, with one labour market segment consisting in “female” professions and the other in “male” occupations. This segmentation entails moderately low wage rates in “female” occupations because many women workers are “overcrowded” into a small number of “female” occupations. On the other side of the coin, “male” occupations, benefit from reduced competition within a broad set of occupations and, consequently, tend to enjoy relatively high wage rates. If females, but not males, are crowded into low earnings jobs only due to discrimination, then the gender composition of a job becomes an index of labour quality for males and, to a small degree, for females (Hansen and Wahlberg 2000).

On the other hand, Veronica Beechey in 1986, identified some limitations of this theory, firstly, certain women in blue-collar employment are given low salary even if their occupation is alike to primary area males employment. In addition, this model cannot clarify the reasons why women are less promoted than men, even when employment in same occupation.

Gender theories

The central image of the gender theories is that women’s disadvantaged status in the labour market is mainly due and is an evidence of patriarchy as well as females subordinate position in the society and in the family. In many societies, men are regarded as the sole breadwinner and women are accountable for household chores and child care. Anker (1997) explains, this division of responsibilities and male domination are vital for influencing females to accumulate less fewer human capital in contrast with men prior the labour workforce. That is, why girls receive less education than boys, and is less likely to pursue fields of study such as sciences, but is more talented for literature or languages study. The same influences are also instrumental in explaining why women acquire less labour market experience, on average, because many of them withdraw from the labour force earlier, and many others have discontinuous labour experiences.

This theory further show how female occupations mirror common stereotypical roles. For example, women’s caring nature, skill and experience in household work, greater manual dexterity, greater honesty and attractiveness can qualify her for occupations such as nurses, doctors, social worker, teacher, maid, housekeeper, cleaner, etc. while women’s lesser physical strength, lesser ability in math and science, and lesser willingness to face danger can disqualify her for occupations such as engineer, mathematician, driller, miner and construction worker.

Gender socialisation as a medium for encouraging gender inequality

Crespi (2003) see socialisation as a logical route with its objective to construct gender personality. The gender socialization process is a further composition of socialization. It is all about the way children of different sexual categories are socialized into their gender roles and learn what male or female character is. According to many sociologists, there exists difference between sex and gender. Sex is the biological classification and gender is the outcome of social construction of separate roles of males and females.

According to Lorber (2005), masculinity and femininity is not inborn that is children are taught these traits. As soon as a child is identified as being a male or female, everybody start treating him or her as such. Children learn to move in gendered ways through the support of his environment. As the child grows up, he develops his identity, know how to interact with others and learn the role to play in the society. There are many drivers involved in the socialization process which transmits the traditional gender role to the children and henceforth leading to occupational segregation later on.

One set of gender socialization occur between parents and the offspring. Parents are considered to be the primary agency in the process of socialization. They are inclined to interact with boys and girls in discrete styles. For example, a one year old baby is considered to have no sex difference however; parents are likely to act with boys and girls in dissimilar ways. They react to boys, when they seek interest by being aggressive and girls when they use gestures. As such interaction have long term effect on girls and boys communication styles, leading boys to more assertive styles and girls with more emotive styles in adulthood.

This communication styles can aid to inequalities between male and female in the workplace. Male tend to be dominant in terms of authority and women submissive in whatever status they hold in the organisation.

Ann Oakley (1972), studies mention four central avenues in which socialization into femininity and masculinity roles occur. Firstly, apply diverse physical and verbal manipulations to the child. For example, dress up children according to their sex, girls in pink and boys in blue color clothes. Secondly, draw the child concentration towards gender-identified toys. This is known as canalization whereby, boys and girls are given certain toys, clothing and other objects often culturally identified more with one gender than the other.

The games of the boys tend to advance physical interest whereas for the girls it leads to physical closeness and mother-child talk.

Thirdly, employ different verbal explanations to similar behavior. In professional careers, women might find that they might are identified with different standards for the same behavior, being called “assertive,” for example, for behavior at work that in men is admired for being “aggressive.” In childhood it is the same case, a boy is cheered for being “active,” where as a girl is reprimanded for being “too rough.” Or a girl is complimented for being “gentle,” but a boy is criticized for not being “competitive enough.”

Finally, encourage or discourages certain stereotypical gender-identified activities. For example, girls are asked to help mother with sewing, cooking, ironing, and the like. Boys are to help dad to do yard work, shovel snow, takeout the trash, and so on. The classification of girls with indoor domestic chores and boys with outdoor chores becomes training for stereotypical gender roles. According to Oakley (1972), the socialization route aid to the preservation of male domination and female subservience. The roles learn through the above process shape adult behaviour and hence, contribute to the reproduction of differences in behavior of males and females.

School is the agency where conscious socialization happens. The education system is the main part of gender socialisation process. Looking through books from the very beginning gender stereotypes is present and reinforced. The small kids see women being represented in pictures in their books as with babies in their hands or women in domestic chores or at the high end – women nurses, women teachers. At the same moment, men are usually soldiers, playing some prestigious physical games and leaders. These images often direct to further divisions between man and woman.

The hidden curriculum is known for reinforcing the traditional model of how girls and boys look and act through the use of course material. For example, teachers strengthen gender roles by encouraging boys and girls to develop different skills. According to Thorne (1993), children also split themselves along gender lines in the lunch room, declaring different space of the playground and often sanction individuals who go against gender roles.

The school location can be strong context for gender behaviors. For example, the cafeteria is a strong context where boys and girls separate tables if given choice. Likewise, on the playground, boy and girl groups take over spaces. The children of Different World project found that in societies where all the boys and girls go to school together, identical gender interaction was very high during free play, thereby follow-on in more gender segregation than was generally found in homes and neighborhoods.

Generally the mass media are one of the most influential instruments of gender socialization because television, magazines, radio, newspapers, video games, movies, and the Internet are present in almost everywhere around the globe. As a social institution, the mass media reinforce traditional gender roles. Magazines pointing towards females bring light to the importance of physical appearance as well as finding, pleasing, and keeping a man. While boys’ and men’s magazines focus on significance of physical appearance, financial success, competitive hobbies, and attracting women for sexual encounter.

These supposed ”masculine” and ”feminine” characteristics and behaviors are reinforced across the media system, from video games and movies that show athletic heroes rescuing thin and busty damsels in distress, to television programs that depict women as housewives, nurses, and secretaries and men as lawyers, doctors, and corporate tycoons.

Print media also play an important role in socialization. In children’s literature, for example, boys typically are the protagonists, who use strength and intelligence to overcome an obstacle. Girls are included in stories as being naturally passive followers of the male leader or helper’s eager to support the male protagonist in his plan. This state of affairs is undergoing change, however. An increasing number of television shows, movies and books have crafted new visions of masculinity and femininity. It remains to be seen if these images take hold and affect gender socialization processes.

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Gender inequality in the local context

Mauritius is a remote small open island economy. In geological time, it is a very young island, which emerged from waves of volcanic eruptions in the Indian Ocean over the last eight million years. A high degree of concentration and interpenetration of finance, agro industrial and merchant characterizes the economic structure of the country. The structure of formal employment consists of deep gender imbalance against women.

The Economic and Social Indicators (ESI) on gender statistics represents women and men in the Republic of Mauritius. In 2011, Mauritius ranked 63rd out of 146 countries compared to 2008 it was ranked 46th out of 138 countries according to the Gender Inequality Index of the UN. Before 1950’s it has been found that women were in fewer number than men in Mauritius. However, the female population has been growing rapidly such that in the 50’s there were almost equal numbers of men and women. As from 1990, women have been increasingly outnumbering men over the years. The sex ratio in the population, declined from 100.2 in 1972 to 97.3 in 2010 and it is expected to decrease further to reach 95.8 in 2050.

In 2011, it has been found that a lesser proportion of women than men of working age (16 years and above) were active, that is, in employment or looking for work. The economic activity rate for women was 43.7% against 75.5% for men. The active population stood at 582,800 with 363,600 men and 219,200 women compared to 2010, women was 43% compared to 76% for men, the active population stood at 581,300 with 362,400 men and 218,900 women.Men and women have a similar pattern of economic activity during their life that is less active at the younger and older age groups. The activity rates for both are highest in the age group 30 to 45 years.

Some 191,800 women held a job in 2011 and accounted for 35.7% of the Mauritian employed population. It has been found that female employees were more qualified than male, with 22% holding a tertiary qualification against 17% for men. There were an almost equal proportion of working men and women having a School Certificate but 7.4% women had a Higher School Certificate compared to 5% for men.

Both men and women had a high proportion of their working population in the tertiary sector (covering trade, hotels & restaurants, transport and other service industries), 68% for men and 57% for women. The secondary sector (covering manufacturing, electricity & water and construction) accounted for one third of the working men and one quarter of the working women. While women represented some 40% of the employment in the manufacturing sector, they comprised less than 1% of the construction industry.

Women were more likely than men to be employees, with 85% of the employed female in that employment status compared to 78% among the men. They were also much less likely than men to head their own business; while 21% of working men were employers or own accounts workers, only some 11% of women held that status.

On average an employed woman works 38 hours, 6 hours less than a man. However, women heading their own business and those contributing in the family business worked respectively 7.5 hours and 8.2 hours less than their male counterparts.

Both female and male were found spending less hours in the agricultural field than in other areas of the labour market. However, women worked 10 hours less than men in that sector. Women worked 8 hours less in public administration, 5 hours less in hotels & restaurants and 3 hours less in manufacturing, trade & education sectors.

Women as well as men tend to work fewer hours at the older age. The difference in hours worked by women and men varies across ages; it increases with age to reach a peak of 8.3 hours at the age group 45 to 49 years, and decreases thereafter.

In spite of being fewer in the labour force, women are over represented among the unemployed. Unemployed women numbered 27,300 in 2011 compared to 18,800 men. Female unemployment rate stood at 12.5%, much higher than the rate of 5.2% for male.

Unemployment rate is higher among women than men at all ages, except for the elderly. The difference in unemployment rate is more pronounced at the very young age.Among unemployed women with previous work experience, 22% left their last job due to marriage, childbirth and household responsibilities. Another 13% women were unemployed following closure of establishment. The main sectors where the unemployed women worked previously are manufacturing (29%), trade (25%) and hotels and restaurants (10%).

On balance, there has been a dramatic change in the occupational and sectoral distribution of the labour market since, with the rising share in the manufacturing, and a declining share in agricultural and domestic service. Employer’s preference for women because of their natural and culturally defined attributes, as well as their adaptability, productivity and acceptance of lower wages in the past are some of the reasons accounting for the predominance of female labour mostly in the EPZ sector in Mauritius.

Despite increase in employment over the last couple decades, we can still see that there still exists gender disparity in the labour market. In addition, with increased occupational opportunities enjoyed by women, they are still faced with the burden of household responsibilities for example, as mentioned above, woman works 38 hours, 6 hours less than a man. This show woman career is still constrained with household occupations.

The factors which have promoted labour force are: fertility reduction, increased life expectancy, economic hardships and wider aspirations beyond the confines of family and home. However, the main factors constraining higher participation of female Mauritian in the labour market are resistance by own family members, inability to make arrangement for childcare, housework exigencies, nurturing within the household, reproductive responsibilities and difficulties in managing the interface between home and work.

Therefore, women hit a class ceiling as far as the management in concerned. Such is generally the case despite higher academic achievement than men. This secondary role is also reflected in their working conditions and their position in society and family. While the concept of equity and equality should be established in the world of work, women have to be provided with wide opportunities and can be further encouraged to develop their aptitude and potential optimally.

Globalization in Mauritius can also be considered as a threat for widening difference between men and women in the labour market and further creating gender inequalities. Trade expansion has increased women’s access to labour market, however, it worth pointing out that the vast majority of these jobs are low salary and low-skilled. In the light of existing gender inequalities, a widening gap between men and women in terms of access to economic resources and benefits to be derived from globalization can be foreseen.

Mauritian Law protecting against discrimination in workplace

The Constitution of Mauritius is regarded as being the supreme Law which clearly protects this philosophy of equality at Chapter 2 Section (3) and (16) which imparts for non discrimination as follows:

Section 3

”It is hereby recognized and declared that Mauritius there have existed and shall continue to exist without discrimination by reason of race, place of origin, political opinions, colour, creed or sex, but subject to respect for the rights and freedom of others and for the public interest each and all of the following human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

Section 16

Protection from discrimination

Subject to subsections (4), (5) and (7)-no law shall make any provision that discriminatory either of itself or in its effect.

Subject to subsections (6), (7) and (8)- no person shall be treated in a discriminatory manner by any person acting in the performance of any public function conferred by any law or otherwise in the performance of the functions of any public office or any public authority.

The Government of Mauritius has also passed law to eliminate all forms of Gender Discrimination and sexual harassment in certain areas of public activity under Sex Discrimination Act No. 43 of 2002. This act protects a worker from all forms of inequality in employment related to recruitment, selection, training, on grounds of gender, marital status and family responsibilities.

Gap in literature

It has thus been seen that gender inequalities is apparent in all societies and many research has been done with the aim of improving the condition of people at work. In Mauritius, however, gender inequality is relatively a concept which is ignored despite many laws exist to eliminate any sort of discrimination. The measures undertaken by the government still remain at initial stage. There exists little research concentrating in the field of gender inequalities in the workplace of Mauritius. The gap in the literature is little because it has focused on only one dimension of gender inequalities. In Mauritius, however, the concept of gender inequalities in the labour market is buried. As a matter of fact, research is urgently required to determine the all the factors leading to occupational gender segregation and also find ways to improve the conditions of employees at work.


Methodology is influenced by the purpose of the study and it is based on the best strategy to respond to the research questions. The objective is to provide insight into the methodologies used as well as into the reasons and pertinence of their use.

Research design is a plan as to what data to gather, from whom, how and when, and how to analyze the data obtained. It is a systematic plan to coordinate research steps to ensure the efficient use of resources and to guide the research according to scientific methods; again, it is a plan to be followed to meet the research objectives, and is the framework within which to solve a specific problem. A research design describes a logical manner in which individuals or other units are compared and analyzed; it is the basis for making interpretations of the data. The purpose of a design is to ensure that the relation between independent and dependent variable s is not subject to alternative interpretations. It is the clue that holds all of the elements

The project will employ questionnaire to identify the different causes of gender inequality within the workplace. The present research is mainly based on a survey method and the major means of gathering data from a questionnaire. Questionnaire is a medium for collecting and recording information about a topic of interest. It is consists of a list of questions and include clear instructions and space for answers or administrative details.

This study will employ a quantitative research method. In this study the data will be collected by the use of self-administered questionnaires. Self- administered questions will be used in order to accurately gather the required survey data from selected respondents to meet the researcher’s informational objectives, to present as positive an image of market research as possible to the respondents such that they will not feel negative toward the survey but welcome it and future surveys.

The questions in the questionnaire describe the situation in which the respondents experienced discrimination and the way in which he believes discrimination took place. Self-administered structured questionnaires are more cost effective to administer than personal interviews. They are relatively easy to administer and analyse. Most people are familiar with the concept of a questionnaire and it reduces the possibility of interviewer bias. They are convenient since respondents can complete it at a time and place that is convenient for them.


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