The term ‘Gender Equality’ narrates the equal valuing of the different roles assumed by men and women. The theme strives to overcome stereotype barriers and prejudices so both men and women are capable of equally reaping benefits and contributing towards social, political, cultural and economic developments within society. When men and women enjoy equality, the direct outcome is an instant and stable growth in economy. The educated and healthy women in a society are more supportive and accommodating towards their families and nations. (Lorber, 2005)
Although men and women are dissimilar physically, but it is the economic, political, social and legal interpretation of such differences that ultimately lead to create inequality among them. In social inequality, men and women typically have different responsibilities and roles in their daily lives as well as work. It is anticipated that men seem to do much riskier and heavier work that is generally located away from their home. Work done by men seems to have much higher status as compared with women who have the major responsibility for child-care, elderly-care, preparing and managing food for their families.
Gender equality signifies a society in which men and women enjoy the similar opportunities, outcomes, obligations and rights in every sphere of life. Equality between women and men exist only when both sexes are capable of sharing mutually in the distribution of influence and power; have equal opportunities for monetary freedom through formation of businesses or work; enjoy equal and easy access to education and the prospects to develop own personal goals.
Inequality for Women
“Women and men are not created equal. They each have their God given strengths, focused on their responsibilities for procreation and family viability. Those differences are not easily dismissed… however those differences do not condone gender discrimination in society, and certainly not in the workplace.” (Malkin, 2005)
Women mostly have unequal access to health services and education, face glass ceiling at work place. Social customs that force or encourage girls into early child bearing and teenage marriages have dangerous and direct consequences for their health. There are much high levels of brutality and violence against women almost in all nations around the world. This could be among their families where it is treated a normal custom. Violence, in the span of armed conflict, is used to humiliate the rivals and also to undermine resistance and morale.
Economic inequality is directly related to the monetary and financial conditions of women. More than seventy percent of poor in the world are women, while the number of females living in poverty has significantly and disproportionately increased as compared with men. Women also have unequal access to major economic resources like credit, capital, land and labor. Restricted opportunities for career advancement and employment are available for women. These limitations restrict the capabilities of women to improve their monetary and economic scenario. (Zinn, 2005)
Women are not represented appropriately at all levels of governments’ decision making in community, but specifically at national and regional levels. The legal system in most of the countries discriminates particularly against women in the fields of inheritance, family law, land ownership, property, criminal law and citizenship. The prosecution of cases, in most of the countries, involving violence against women is difficult and complex.
The discrimination specifically against girls and women- including economic discrimination, gender-based violence, harmful conventional practices and reproductive health inequities- remains the most persistent and pervasive form of inequality. Moreover, girls and women bear extra hardship during, as well as, after conflict and different humanitarian emergencies.
Gender Equality- An Established Human Right
“Women make up roughly half the human population but are relatively marginalized compared with their male counterparts.” (http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/where/worldwide/gender/index_en.htm)
The gender equality has been accepted and acknowledged as human rights’ principles since the adoption of charter of United Nations in 1945. Most of the international agreements such as ‘the Millennium Development Goals (2000)’ and ‘the World Conference on Human Rights (1993) have highlighted and stressed the grave need for nations to take appropriate actions against such discriminatory practices.
Accomplishing the goal of gender equality requires both men and women to work jointly in sorting and hunting for the solutions, in the particular ways that encourage and support mutual trust and respect. The programs to ensure gender equality should address all types of violence against women, including trafficking in girls and women, promoting positive role of women in peace building and conflict scenarios. It should also be ensured that the issues of gender equality are effectively incorporated into infrastructure and governance activities.
Gender equality is the foremost and primary human right. Women are equally entitled to live in freedom as well as dignity form fear and from want. Empowering women is an effective tool for reducing poverty and advancing development. Empowered women are in a better position for contributing towards productivity and health of entire families as well as communities. They can also support in improving prospects specifically for the future generation. (Kramer, 2004)
Despite many agreements at international level affirming the human rights of women and ensuring the cause of gender equality, women are yet to be more likely, as compared with men, to be malnourished, poor and illiterate. They generally have a low level of access then men to property ownership, medical care, employment, credit and training. Their possibilities for being politically active are less than men. Moreover they are far more exposed to the domestic violence.
Empowering Women for Maintaining Gender Equality
The ability of women for controlling their fertility is entirely fundamental to the empowerment and equality of women. When a woman is healthy she is more productive. When women’s productive rights- including the basic right to plan birth timing along with spacing and to make critical decisions related to the coercion and reproduction- are protected and promoted, she has autonomy to participate equally in the society. A vital aspect of supporting the idea of gender equality is based on empowering women, with a prime focus on redressing and identifying power imbalances as well as giving more autonomy to organize their lives. Women empowerment is in fact critical not only to sustainable development but to the understanding of human rights for every one.
Society and Gender Equality
A prosperous and flourishing society means that women and men have equal opportunities for realizing their human rights. Men and women contribute mutually towards fulfilling the requirements of societal and cultural development. The societal and cultural development is directly linked with the political, national and economic development. The men and women must benefit equally in a society from the outcomes of that development. (Kramer, 2004)
However inequality severely restricts socio-economic development, specifically in the developing countries, where most of the women are the major food producers, primary teachers, gathers fuel and water, laborers and providers of health care in the informal economy. Sustainable development in a society is reliant on the equal contributions made by men and women. As such ensuring equal participation by women in the progress of their societies requires two major elements; equal ability to contribute as well as equal opportunity to perform such activities. The status of women in the major areas of society including education, health, decision making and access to resources must be improved. Premeditated efforts should be made to ensure that particularly women have a justifiable and equitable role towards shaping the societal growth. “Reducing gender inequalities implies benefits not only for women but also for men, children and the elderly, and for the poor as well as the rich.” (http://www.thecommonwealth.org/files/174543/file/IPCPovertyInFocus13.pdf).
“Despite many improvements in the status of women there are still many inequalities:
· Two thirds of people in the world who cannot read are female.
· Nearly seventy percent of the world's poorest people are female.
· Women represent a growing proportion of people living with HIV/AIDS.
· In only 16 countries in the world is women's representation in national parliaments above 25 percent.
· Women's contributions to the global economy are growing rapidly but their labor remains undervalued and undercounted in national accounts.
· An estimated one-quarter to one half of all women have suffered physical abuse.”
Gender Issues being Addressed by HRM in Organizations
Human Resource Management represents effective and implementable solutions for the issues evolving from the inequality between men and women. The adoption of a practical HRM model in organizations present equal opportunities, specifically for personnel policy as the adoption of an HRM theme which signifies developing and valuing people in pursuit of goals and which stresses the individual’s role and the significance of involvement, provide opportunities for arguments about assessing all people.
The diversity in valuing people enables the promotion of gender equality to be associated with the accomplishment of business goals. The hypothesis that the rise of HRM is valuable for women, and also for gender equality requires immediate attention and action. This attention is critically needed as significant inequalities exist particularly in organizations reflecting on the progress of women into non-conventional areas of work.
Although significant progress has been made to ensure gender equality, still a lot of work is to be done. The HRM practices in an organization provide workable solutions. Particularly in the public sectors of most of the nations, due to its mission and anti discriminatory management along with provision of public services still remains a major issue. The debate is how to create circumstances in which men and women can accomplish their potential. (Wilson, 2003)
At the level of organizations, practices and policies relating to gender management are generally in the sphere of human resource management (HRM). It is pertinent to mention that HRM is viewed as strategic in the organizations; it specifically involves entire managerial personnel including general managers; it treats people as the most significant sole asset of the organization; it is purely proactive in its direct relationship with people; and it eagerly seeks to enhance the performance of companies, the societal well being and employees’ needs. A consistent concept of HRM literature is the creation and development of accountability to line managers for the purpose of managing human resource. (Wilson, 2003)
“Responsibility for the effective implementation of the Gender equality policy rests with the Head of each Department of office, supported by the senior management team.” (http://www.finance.gov.ie/documents/equality/Monitoring.doc.) Senior line management, in particular, is described as possessing “the locus of responsibility” for human resource matters. The line managers’ role is no longer limited to organizing and monitoring the delivery of services, but is developing in relation with HRM. It involves accomplishing the HRM policy objectives of commitment, flexibility, quality and eventually the effectiveness of subordinates. In the modern age, HRM managers are subject to, and more involved in novel practices in direct communications, selection, appraisal, target setting, training and development and motivation. (Kramer, 2004)
Development of responsibilities to HRM managers is a primary element in the recent concepts, related directly to diversity and equality management. Instead of concentrating on under-represented groups like females, managing diversity is primarily based on the theme that people should be rather valued as individuals for general reasons related to the interests of business as well as for social and moral reasons. Development of responsibility to HRM managers is emphasized when the issue is considered of who is actually responsible for implementing effectively the process of valuing entire individuals. This is a grave matter of concern for entire employees, particularly managers instead of being viewed as an issue related with only human resource practitioners.
In pursuit of such organizations that provide equality and fairness, which specifically ensures that both men and women fulfill their utmost potential, there are many issues surfacing from development of accountability to HRM managers, the first concerns HRM manager competence while managing people effectively. Insufficient training along with considerable strains of work has been mainly highlighted as characteristics restricting the level to which devolvement of human resource management is possible. The deficiency of managerial competence and capabilities rather than sexism or racism, could be the major cause of manager’s incapability to manage, diverse and fair group of people.
Another issue is whether or not to evaluate HRM manages on their effectiveness in assuring gender equality. Measurement could be a primary element with appropriate results and performance goals for accomplishing results. Moreover, equal opportunities goals for HRM managers could also be counter-productive and as such they should specifically be encouraged to set goals for themselves, focusing primarily on their managerial capability.
Challenges Faced by Human Resource Managers
To ensure equal and non-discriminatory treatment of both men and women is still a significant challenge confronted by the HRM managers in the organizations. In the area of managing diversity and HRM, there is much emphasis on delegated responsibility with line managers assuming the major role. Delegation and devolvement has some substantial resonance with the present pragmatic deliberations of the organizations where optimal resources are inadequate and central overheads are particularly subject to scrutiny. (Wilson, 2003)
However, devolving responsibility for the purpose of gender management raises some significant questions. The first is whether this symbolizes a significant opportunity to embed into cultures of organizations, managerial thinking, behavior and values of equality and fairness while addressing the gender issues which are the major aspiration for most of the organizations. Second is whether instead the removal of a supporter of equality, and the stress on line managers being primarily responsible for gender equality in the pursuit of their HRM duties, reveals the circumstances for abdication on behalf of individual managers.
Devolvement of gender management to HRM managers could present a significant opportunity for locating direct responsibility within the remit of most adequate people. Managers could confront many challenges while ensuring gender equality. It includes increasing activities of HRM, conflicting priorities, their deficiencies and lack of accountability regarding equality.
It is essential to search for the ways that could effectively address the issue of gender inequality and develop cultures in which gender equality is ensured. Every individual is free to make his/her optimum contribution. Delegation and devolvement of responsibility to HRM managers can play a vital role. However, it has the huge potential to represent the eventual choice from gender equality. Supportive continuous training, effective leadership, education for managers, vigilance for structure, communication strategies, outcomes and processes are inevitable ingredients to address the grave challenges of inequality present between men and women. (Wilson, 2003)
The vital and empirically-based assessment of HRM indicates a significant reality about the challenges faced by the HRM while managing gender equality. These include managerial control, increased surveillance and work intensification, weakening of mutual regulation and shifting of substantial risk to employees. Therefore, HRM promises such employment practices which can develop well-rewarded, well-trained, relatively secure, motivated, committed and empowered workforce, unbiased towards sexism and racism.
Examples of Current Applications
The HRM organizations are considered as high-commitment organizations. Behavioral and attitudinal commitment are applied to support and increase job performance and to check the rate of turnover, justifying entire investments made in highly trained, highly flexible and high quality employees. A wide range of personnel policies is also applied by the HRM managers to confront the challenges of gender inequality. These policies are directly linked with the employee involvement like communication, job design and leadership style. (Wilson, 2003)
Attention to ensure gender equality reflects a pure research-based cognizance that organization’s commitment towards resolving this issue is influenced by work and job experience rather than by gender or by personal features. For example, high level of gender equality exists in those organizations where job provides ample scope for self expression and responsibility. Socialization and selection are also viewed as significant aspects while applying the solutions to ensure gender equality. An important example of current application is the organization’s commitment towards gender equality measured by certain inputs such as visible hours and quality of achievement. The willingness and ability to work annualized hours is yet another significant example of current application.
Wilson, F. (2003) Organizational Behavior and Gender. Ashgate; 2Rev Ed Edition
External cooperation programs retrieved October 19, 2008 from
Kramer, L. (2004) The Sociology of Gender: A Brief Introduction. Oxford University Press
Lorber, J. (2005) Gender Inequality: Feminist Theories and Politics. Oxford University Press
Malkin, S. (2005) Gender Bias, Gender Discrimination, Gender Equality.
Retrieved October 19, 2008, from
Zinn, M. B. (2005) Gender Through the Prism of Difference. Oxford University Press
Gender Equality retrieved October 19, 2008 from
Gender equality. Facts. Retrieved October 19, 2008, from
Monitoring Gender Equality, Responsibility, Accountability & Monitoring, 2001 Retrieved
October 19, 2008 from
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The issue of gender inequality is one which has been publicly
reverberating through society for decades. The problem of inequality in
employment being one of the most pressing issues today. In order to examine
this situation one must try to get to the root of the problem and must
understand the sociological factors that cause women to have a much more
difficult time getting the same benefits, wages, and job opportunities as their
male counterparts. The society in which we live has been shaped historically by
males. The policy-makers have consistently been male and therefore it is not
surprising that our society reflects those biases which exist as a result of
this male-domination. It is important to examine all facets of this problem, but
in order to fully tackle the issue one must recognize that this inequality in
the workforce is rooted in what shapes future employees and employers--
education. This paper will examine the inequalities in policy, actual teaching
situations, admission to post-secondary institutions, hiring, and job benefits
and wages. It will also tackle what is being done to solve this problem and what
can be done to remedy the situation.
The late 1960s brought on the first real indication that feminist groups
were concerned with the education system in North America. The focus of these
feminist groups captured the attention of teachers, parents, and students. At
first the evidence for inequality in schooling was based on no more than
specific case studies and anecdotal references to support their claims but as
more people began to show concern for the situation, more conclusive research
was done to show that the claims of inequality were in fact valid and definitely
indicated a problem with the way that schools were educating the future adults
of society. One of the problems which became apparent was the fact that the
policy-makers set a curriculum which, as shown specifically through textbooks,
was sexist and for the most part still is.
Textbooks are one of the most important tools used in educating students
whether they are elementary school storybooks or university medical textbooks.
It is therefore no surprise that these books are some of the most crucial
information sources that a student has throughout their schooling. Many studies
have been done examining the contents of these books to reveal the amount of
sexism displayed in these educational tools. The results clearly show that
gender inequality definitely runs rampant in textbooks some of the sexism subtle
and some overt. To begin with, it is apparent that historical texts show a
distorted view of women by portraying them unfairly and inaccurately and
neglecting to mention important female figures, instead opting to describe their
sometimes less influential male counterparts. Elementary and secondary school
textbooks are also guilty of gender bias.
In elementary and secondary school textbooks, sexism takes many forms.
Boys predominate in stories for children; they outnumber girls 5 to 2. When
girls are present in texts, they are almost always younger than the boys they
are interacting with, which thus makes them foils for the boys' greater
experience and knowledge-- a situation commonly referred to as the "ninny
sister syndrome.' Girls are shown to be far more passive than are boys and to
engage in fewer activities. In fact, sometimes grown women are portrayed who
rely on small boys (often their young sons) to help them out of difficulty.
(Fishel and Pottker 1977. p. 8)
Surprisingly it is not only these hidden forms of sexism that appear in
One study found sixty-five stories that openly belittled girls (two were
found that belittled boys). Another study pointed out an instance where Mark, of
the Harper & Row "Mark and Janet' series, states: "Just look at her. She is just
like a girl. She gives up.' Male characters said, in another story, "We much
prefer to work with men.' This type of material on the treatment of girls would
seem to have little social or educational value, and its widespread use is
difficult to understand. (ibid, p.8)
In the long run, the ideas put in students heads through textbooks,
perhaps through the lack of female role models, can affect the choices they make
in the future with regards to employment.
Actual teaching situations are also prone to sexism. For the most part
teachers do not try to be sexist but, for sociological reasons, can not help it.
For the sake of this paper, it will be assumed that these situations occur
mostly in co-educational schools, but single sex schools are in no way immune to
the same problems. A perfect example of society's male-dominance interfering in
education unintentionally is when teachers assign projects to their students.
The teachers may hand out lists of acceptable topics ranging, in a history class
for example, from fashion to transportation. The teachers then give the students
a choice as to which topic they would like to do the project on. The underlying
problem with this is that girls tend to choose what could be considered more
"feminine" topics while the boys will choose the more "masculine" ones. "Offered
to the pupils as free choice, such selections are self-perpetuating, leading to
the expected choices and amplifying any differences there may have been in
attitudes." (Marland 1983, p. 152) The reason for this could be that society,
through the media and other modes of communication, has pre-conceived notions as
to what issues are "male", "female", or unisex.
Another example of how females are prone to gender inequality in the
classroom is during class discussion and also what the teacher decides to talk
about in the class. Classroom behaviour is a major focal point for those who
identify examples of inequality. There are many differences in the way that
females and males present themselves at school. It is apparent that in classroom
situations males talk more, interrupt more, they define the topic, and women
tend to support them. It is generally believed in our society that this is the
proper way to act in classroom situations, that males have it "right" and
females don't, they are just "pushovers" and don't have enough confidence. This,
however is a big assumption to make. Some research has been done in this field
that could, however, begin to refute this stereotype. It is frequently assumed
that males use language which is forceful confident and masterful (all values
which are regarded as positive). Females on the other hand, it is assumed, use
language that is more hesitant, qualified, and tentative. One can look at the
example of the use of tag questions, which are statements with questions tagged
onto the end such as "I'm going to the store, all right?" It is obvious that if
the above assumptions about the use of language were true, this hesitant, asking
for approval type of question would be more frequently used by women. ". . .
studies were carried out to determine whether women used more tag questions than
men. It was found that they did not. Betty Lou Dubois and Isabel Crouch (1975)
found that men used more tag questions than women." (ibid p. 100) The end of
high school brings about more obstacles for women on the way to achieving
equality in the workplace. One of the most important steps in achieving a high
paying, high status job is post-secondary education. It is apparent that even
today women are being encouraged to follow certain educational paths. This is
shown very simply by the fact that even here at Queen's University, men vastly
outnumber women as both students and faculty members in such programs as Applied
Science, while women greatly outnumber men in the programs of nursing and
concurrent education. Women have historically been encouraged to enter into what
could be considered "caring professions" such as nursing, teaching, and social
work. This is shown very crudely in the book Careers for Women in Canada which
was published in 1946 and written by a woman. The book devotes almost 200 pages
to pursuing careers in such fields as catering, sewing, being a secretary,
interior decorating, the arts, teaching, and nursing while it only allocates 30
pages to medicine, law, dentistry, engineering, optometry, and more combined.
The following quote clearly illustrates the beliefs of the more liberal people
of that time. "Some women have specialized in surgery. There can be no doubt but
that a capable woman may operate very successfully on women and children, though
it is doubtful whether a man would call in the services of a female surgeon
except in an emergency. (Carriere 1946, p. 234) Although much has improved since
the 1940s, the enrollment numbers in university programs clearly indicate that
women still have a long way to go before gender is not an issue. After choosing
a career path, women enter the workplace with a disadvantage. They have the same
financial responsibilities as men with regards to supporting families and
themselves and much of the time they have an even heavier burden because there
are many women in today's society who are single mothers. Given that there is no
question that the need for money is identical it can, therefore, be concluded
that there is a major problem with the wage structure in today's jobs. The wage
gap clearly shows that society as a whole puts more value on the work of males
than on the same work done by females. The facts that have been displayed above
showing that education is itself a sexist institution perhaps explain why there
is this inequality once schooling is finished. The fact that textbooks show
males as being more successful than females, that teachers set assignments which
reinforce gender stereotypes and sex roles, the fact that "masculine" behaviour
is reinforced while "feminine" behaviour is condemned, and the fact that women
are encouraged to choose certain career paths all validate the claim that the
gender inequality in employment situations can be directly related to the way
that children are educated.
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