To what extent does gender influence the processes of securing paid employment, the status and expectations of a work role, and workplace interactions and relationships?

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To what extent does gender influence the processes of securing

paid employment, the status and expectations of a work role, and

workplace interactions and relationships?

The last 45 years we have seen a rise in the number of women entering the

workplace, from 53 percent (1971) to 67 percent (2013) whereas the number of male

workers had significantly decreased from 92 percent (1971) to 76 percent (2013)

(ONS, 2013). Within those 40 years, many changes had occurred, mainly the rise in

the service sector industry which had given women the opportunity to showcase their

abilities. The 1970’s had seen the revival of women in the workplace with several

aspects of new legalisation coming in, for instance, Equal Pay Act (1970), Sex

Discrimination Act (1976), Employment Protection Act (1975) all provides women

with perceived equality in this masculine, capitalist society.

Although women conceivably have equal opportunities in the workplace, women are

still very much underrepresented in paid employment and those who are in paidemployment

are not as ‘equal’ to men as one may believe. This essay shall explore

how gender is influenced by the pay and organisational structures, the status and

expectations accompanying service roles and how sexual harassment is used as a tool

for power during workplaces interactions.

Understanding ‘gender’

The discussion surrounding the notion of ‘gender’ has transformed considerably,

traditionally gender was once assumed to be based on one’s biological sex due to

differences between male and female - “ascribed by biology, anatomy, hormones and

physiology” (West and Zimmerman, 1987: 125). ‘Gender’ is closely tied to ‘sex’,

however, it is referred to as social or cultural distinctions associated with being male

and female (Oakley, 1974). Butler (1990) reinforces this as she argues that ‘gender’

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and ‘sex’ are intrinsically different, gender does not follow automatically from sex, as

she contends that there are more than two forms of gender (1990:7).

As a result of the former definition, the construction of gendered roles became

prominent.The role of women in society had been attached to the responsibilities of

managing the household, with domestic duties (cooking, cleaning, shopping) and

childcare. Such duties are socially-constructed as a ‘natural’ part of womanhood; the

work is undervalued by society in contrast to men (Williams, 1993; Carreon, Cassedy

and Borman, 2013). Men are in fact seen as the polar opposite of women, with their

‘natural’ role residing with the labour force, due to being breadwinners and in paid

employment, they are viewed by society as “good fathers” (Ross, 2016:116).

As a result of this, importance became bestowed upon women on the “reproductive

arena” (Connell, 2002:10), women who were career focussed were seen as subverting

their ‘natural’ role tied with womanhood and became associated with being bad, unfit


Feminists argue that the gendered institutional structures that frame and reproduce the

current organisation of unpaid work also support women’s economic subordination in

the realm of paid employment. Women’s paid work often replicates their unpaid

work, reflecting a gender ideology that maps femininity onto service work and work

involving the support of men.

Securing paid employment

Gender discrimination in the workforce between men and women has become evident

contemporarily due to the significant differences in pay and the underrepresentation

of women in top management roles. As a consequence this questions the ability of all

women, why are men in a superior position as an opposed to the inferior women.

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These ‘power’ structures have significantly been researched, and scholars have

identified a recurring theme which portrays this: the ‘glass ceiling’.

The notion of the ‘glass ceiling’ is an aspect of occupational gender segregation,

where in which women who have the same qualifications as men are continuously

denied a promotion to the highest levels in organisations. It has been described as an

“invisible - but impenetrable - barrier between women and the executive suite…

regardless of their accomplishments and merits” (United States Federal Glass Ceiling

Commission, 1995: iii). This is due to societal assumptions that women are

subverting and contradicting their ‘natural’ gendered roles and expectations. This

perception returns to the stigma of ‘reproductive abilities’, as it is widely assumed

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that women’s role in society must belong within a child-rearing and nursing capacity

(Basow, 1992) and not a business-minded vocation.

The occupational segregation has been viewed as one of the main reasons for the

gender pay gap (House of Common, 2005). The gender pay gap has been defined as

the differences between women's and men's average earnings (weekly full-time

equivalent). Despite the introduction of the 1970 Equal Pay Act, women still earn

around 15-18 percent less than men in full-time employment and between 37-40 per

cent of part-time employment (ONS, 2013). The Fawcett Society, an organisation

which contemporarily fights for ...

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