Outline and asses sociological explanations for workplace inequalities between men and women

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Charley Emery

Outline and asses sociological explanations for workplace inequalities between men and women

Oakley notes that after the industrial revolution in Britain acts were passed to limit women working; in 1851 one in four married women worked whereas in 1911 one in ten worked. During the Victorian era the ideology that a woman’s place was in the home became truly established and industrialisation led to the separation of men from the daily routine of domestic life. Now it is claimed that women suffer from four main inequalities in the workplace. Firstly, there is the much debated pay gap in which, even though legislation to stop unequal pay was introduced in the 1970’s, the although narrowing pay gap is still visible between men and women. Secondly half of all females in employment are in part time employment; this form of employment is often less secure with fewer benefits. Thirdly, women suffer from vertical segregation; this is sometimes referred to as “the glass ceiling effect”. Women are seemingly unable to achieve the higher ranking positions and are stopped from achieving managerial positions by an invisible barrier. Lastly, women are said to suffer from horizontal segregation which is the idea of gendered jobs. Women are more likely to have certain occupations which often reflect the “expressive” role outlined by Parsons in which women are claimed to be more caring, therefore women are highly concentrated in jobs such as nurses for example. These are often lower status professions than that of traditional male occupations.

Marxist Feminists argue that the cause of gender inequalities in the workplace is not the result of men exploiting women but the exploitation caused by the capitalist system. Marx argued that a reserve army of labour was necessary within the capitalist system, a pool of potential recruits that could be used in times of economic boom then dropped during times of economic slumps. This flexible unemployed reserve army of labour reduces the wages of all members of the labour force as it promotes competition for employment. Beechy claims that women form this reserve army of labour, women are less likely to be unionised, are less likely to receive redundancy pay and as they are often not the breadwinners they can easily return back to their invisible roles within the family. Furthermore due to the accepted housewife and mother gender role women are more likely to accept temporary or part time work so they can still manage to fulfil their mother roles. However Beechy claims herself that she is unable to explain horizontal segregation through the idea of a reserve army of labour.

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The functionalist Parsons would argue that women are naturally suited to their “expressive” gender roles and therefore a women’s place is within the home. Women are not necessarily meant to work, that is the role of the “instrumental” breadwinner male. He claims that the gender inequalities outlined by Beechy are based upon biology and the different biologically determined gender roles explain the lack of female employment and horizontal segregation.

Further functionalist ideas are “The Human Capital Theory” in which it is claimed that women’s lack of commitment to paid employment leads to the inequalities they suffer within the ...

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It is full of well developed theory and studies. Its particular strength is the articulate way the writer expresses herself. Candidates can learn to write like this by reading more widely, as this helps us to become familiar with good writing.