Abstract: This paper assess on the challenges organisations face when executing gender equality at workplace. Tracing back to the basic form or gender discrimination, where it was taken as a conventional form in some developing places, to extreme feminism practise, where reverse discrimination against men is discussed. Gender equality is essential to improve productivity and creativity at workplace. On the other hand, some criticism argued gender equality being to ideal is analysed. The finding was danger could arise when employees or employers forget or ignore the essence of gender equality, therefore recommendations are given to remind everyone in an organisation when it comes to gender discrimination.
Table of Contents
1.1 Introduction-The paradox of women’s orientation in a society 3
2.1 What is discrimination? 4
2.2 Laws to ensure gender equality at work place 5
2.3 Infanticide of Female Babies in India and China 5
2.4 Achieved Status and Ascriptive Status 7
2.5 Self-promotion=Social rejection? 8
2.6 Importance of a gender discrimination free environment for employees 8
2.7 Rhetoric aspects of gender equality 10
2.7.1 Gender equality and the competency matrix 10
2.7.2 Gender equality or women’s priority? 11
3.1 Conclusion 12
List of appendix:
Taylor W. (2007) the competency matrix. National College of Natural Medicine…………………………………………………………………………………………p.12
1.1 Introduction-The paradox of women’s orientation in a society
“Women have been taught that, for us, the earth is flat, and that if we venture out, we will fall off the edge” (Authuor Unknown). This myth has been for decades a barrier to women who wants to expresses their feelings, to show others that women are capable of what man can do. The current Chinese president Hu Jintao noted, “Women are a great source of strength in creating human civilisation. The promotion of gender equality and protection of women’s right impact on the immediate interests of women and decide whether human beings can fully develop their potential and pursue a better life.” (www.people.com.cn). This creates a paradox of “Women are a great source of strength” versus “Women should not venture out”. Where should women stand? What role can they play in a society?
At work place, maintaining gender equality is essential to ensure every employee is enjoying a discrimination free environment, therefore eliminating the possibility of employees not speaking up due to unnecessary backdrop. Women has been seems to be the victim of gender discrimination. However, could this happen in other forms, where men are being discriminated?
The aim of this paper is to investigate the dilemma of organisations, when trying to execute sex equity. Looking at what difficulties organisation faces, when attempt to maintain a gender discrimination free environment for all employees. There are three objectives to achieve the aim. Firstly, is to access the ‘conventional’ gender discrimination in some places. Secondly, is to evaluate the importance of ensuring a gender discrimination free environment for employees. Thirdly, recommendation will be given on how an organisation can maintain gender equality at work places.
2.1 What is discrimination?
“Direct Discrimination occurs when on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, civil partnership, marital status, race, religion or belief or sexual orientation grounds whether the characteristics in questions are those of the person treated less favourably or some other person” Lewis and Sargeant (2007). Behind the word ‘discrimination’, right, freedom, justice and tolerance are hidden concepts. Discrimination could also exits in an indirect form, “the concept of indirect discrimination allows us to treat discrimination on a non-proscribed ground as discrimination on a proscribed ground. This broadens significantly the reach of non-discrimination law” Doyle (2000). This makes indirect discrimination vaguer to be protected by laws. Nevertheless, these laws are still solid guidelines and foundation for gender equality.
2.2 Laws to ensure gender equality at work place
Some of the important anti gender discrimination legislation include: the Equal Pay Act 1970 and the Sex Discrimination Act 1975
The Equal Pay Act 1970 outlaws ‘equality clause operates when a person is employed on ‘like work’, work rated as equivalent or work of equal value to that of a person of the opposite sex in the same employment.
The Sex Discrimination outlaws discrimination and harassment against civil partners and married (but not single persons) (Lewis and Sargeant 2004). In Sex Discrimination Act 1975 section 21A, clarifies that it is unlawful for a public authority to discriminate or commit acts of harassment on the grounds of sex when performing its functions. Moreover, public authorities are required to eliminate unlawful sex and race discrimination and sexual harassment, also, to promote equality of opportunity and good relations between men and women and persons of different racial groups (ibis).
However, these laws are often criticised for being short-term and limited approach (Shapiro and Olgiati 2002). Torrington and Hall (1995) argued that a policy does not intentionally make to change the situation but could be merely symbolic. Can these laws overturn the millennia of inequality? It might be relatively difficult to implement in some parts of the world, where women are widely recognised as low-status.
2.3 Infanticide of Female Babies in India and China
Discrimination of sexes can actually exist in a ‘conventional’ form. The phenomenon of infanticide female babies in two of the most populous nation- India and China is a valid example. It reflects the low status of women. In some rural parts of India, no baby girl was found at all. In the other thirty villages, there were 343 boys to 54 girls. Why those Indians infanticide baby girls? As some of they think sons are called upon to generate income, they work hard in fields. Therefore, sons are viewed as a type of insurance (Porras 1996). Conversely, these families prospect bride must pay huge amount of money to the family she is marrying to. The wedding expensive usually sum up to more than a million rupees (US $ 35,000). Whist an average Indian earns about 100,000 rupees ($3,500) a year. For poor families, they see baby girls as a dowry but boys as income generator. This has always be the case in India, and as a conventional form. In some parts of the world, government are accused to permit, or even encourage the killing of handicapped, female infants or unwanted child. For instance, 200.B.C in Greece, among 6,000 families living in Delphi, less than 1% had two daughters, murdering of female infants was so common. In China, a tradition of infanticide and abandonment, especially of females, existed in China before the foundation of the People’s Republic in 1949 (Zeng 1994). Chinese thinks that when a girl gets marry, she leaves the family and become part of her husband’s family. Conversely, a boy child can ensure someone will take care of them in their old age.
Infanticide babies no matter of which gender is brutal, if action is not taken, this will continue and pollute societies world-wide. However, how has the low status of women being implemented to the prosecutors’ head?
2.4 Achieved Status and Ascriptive Status
Any further discussion on gender should begin with distinguishing between ‘sex’ and ‘gender’. According to Mukhopadhyay and Sudarshan (2001), the term ‘sex’ is a biological determined attribute, and it is not easy to change. Whilst ‘gender’ being the social constructed roles, which the significance vary from one society to another. In addition, the status of gender changes obviously as a society develops over time. What construct the importance and roles play by different gender? There are two main sets of factors, determined by achieved status or by ascriptive status. Achieved status refers to ‘a status acquired by an individual through her efforts, often through competition and the use of special abilities, knowledge and skill’ (Government of Indian 1974 :7). On the other hand, ascriptive status refers to ‘any status not based on individual ability, skill efforts or accomplishment, but on inherited positions in society’ (ibis). Achieved status involve personal attributes, change according to the individual’s desire. In contrast, an individual do not have control over ascriptive status, as it involve the collective consciousness of a community, for instance, norms of family, kinship, nature of conjugal contract, religion etc. (Grusky and Manwai 2008). Fortunately, the ascriptive value has come down in level as time pass by as people are getting more educated, they are more enlighten to respect one another. However, there are still bunch of people out there stereotyping women.
2.5 Self-promotion=Social rejection?
According to (Borgida, Hunt and Kim 2005), when one forms an initial impression of women, one always rely on their perspective of stereotyped women, than on information on a specific woman. What will one think about a woman when she attempts to clime the occupational hierarchy? The research of (Bordiga, Hunt and Kim 2005) argue that in order for a woman to perceived as compatible to her male counterparts in leadership roles, she must clearly keep on emphasising her past successes, and be a self-promoter.
Ironically, this form of self-promotion could likely form social rejection, and therefore creates a dilemma for women (ibis), as modesty is considered a feminine trait but not self-promotion.
Rudman and Glick (1999) explored on what perception could form when women present themselves as assertive and directive-or as competence leaders. The finding was these women are viewed as betraying their feminine gender roles, thus, no longer perceived to own feminine interpersonal skills. (Heilman, Wallen, Fuchs and Tamkins 2004) carried out further study on how gender stereotypes affect the perceptions of competence among female job applicants. The finding was people stereotyped man as more competitive before they look at their candidate’s prior job performances.
To draw a conclusion of the findings of different researchers, women are given difficult position at work places. Without conscious practice of gender equality, what could happen to organisations?
2.6 Importance of a gender discrimination free environment for employees
Rees and McBain (2004) argued that employees are a company’s most valuable asset. In addition, to attract and retain talent is a key corporate challenge. Gender discrimination, when favouring either male or female in an organisation, could bring an organisation at risk by limited capable individuals to perform at his or her best. Moreover,
Goss (1998) noted “equal opportunities is primarily a moral or ethical project that focuses on the processes giving rise to inequalities and seeks to address these in a qualitative sense, not by reducing social difference to a common economic currency, but by promoting its acceptance and understanding.” Promoting acceptance and understanding is essential. Workplaces should provide an environment where all employees are treated equally, despite their race, gender or religion. Goss also argued to promote equal opportunities is first and foremost a social duty for any employer. Perception of inequality could raise issue of job dissatisfaction and high turnover (Anderson 2003).When an employee perceived greater levels of justice at workplace, he is generally more engaged in organisational citizenship behaviour and a more positive work attitudes and behaviours (Moorman 1991, Rahim, Magner and Shapiro 2000). Moreover, organisations can be benefit from greater creativity in group decision as different gender could see things very differently from one another.
Admittedly, the idea of reaching the realm of gender equality is significant as it could increase an organisation’s competitive advantage on carefree employees. However, there are also critics on the rhetoric aspects of gender equality.
2.7 Rhetoric aspects of gender equality
Goodsell (2007) argued that the idea of gender equality is vague as it enforces an extreme absolute conception of gender neutrality. It is unrealistic attempt to omit all sorts of gender conventions. Feminist scholar Catharine MacKinnon argues that formal equality is ineffective, as it leaves the focus on men and masculinity. This concept could further illustrate by Taylor (2007)’s competency matrix illustrates different stages in learning according to one’s understanding of why learning. This is also applicable to the concept of gender equality.
2.7.1 Gender equality and the competency matrix
At the first stage where people do not know they do not know, is where people are discriminating each other gender-wise, yet nobody realise that it is an insult to others. When people start to realise discrimination exists and it is not fair in a society, some people take action because they finally realise they know the problem. A group of people will give-up the mission of promoting gender equality as they faced difficulties and frustrations. However, the rest will continue to attempt to encourage and ensure gender equality at work place. As time goes by, laws and legislations are set, forming a solid foundation of the concept, that people consciously know they know the problem, and therefore working towards it, they really do respect each other despite their gender, and understand the true meaning why promote gender equality. Unfortunately, some people make numbly practise ‘gender equality’ and forgetting the true meaning of it. For instance, ranking women as priority, forgetting equality’s meaning.
Figure 1: Taylor W. (2007) the competency matrix. National College of Natural Medicine
2.7.2 Gender equality or women’s priority?
The mentioned model could explain what the trend is today; a lot of people forgot the true meaning of ‘gender equality’, taking an extreme thinking women priority should be instead correct. This loses the true meaning of gender equality. For instance, in 1997, a group of men sued Hooters (a restaurant well-known because they hire sexy young girls). Hooters agreed to pay $3.75 million to settle this lawsuit. The settlement allowed the chain keep on having solely Hooters girls to sever good and beverages (www.bbc.co.uk). There are also other cases for men suing Hooters for restricting its servers to be female. In addition, according to Anderson (2003), the charges of reverse discrimination are increasing by men at the middle or executive levels of management.
‘Fair and equitable treatment is a primary concern for most employees’ (Sheppard, Lewicki and Minton 1992). Gender equality should exist in a fair manner, where both sexes are protected, given the equal rights.
Tibetan Spiritual Leader the 14th Dalai Lama once claimed “Human beings, indeed all sentient beings, have the right to pursue happiness and live in peace and freedom.” This statement lies in a utopian world. In reality, does the ‘right’ everybody ought to have he mentioned even exist? The doubt incorporates with Oscar Wilde-the Irish Poet’s argument of “Society exists only as a mental concept; in the real world there are only individuals”. The real world which we are living in (obviously not the utopia), people only concern about themselves, taking themselves as superior, it does not bother an individual to protect other’s individual rights, as they are all busy to protect their own right.
If the human race ever tries to aim to live in peace and freedom, eliminating the thoughts of discrimination will be the very first steps, it could start from small scales for instance, daily life practices, when it brings to what organisations can do to support this dream, there are several steps organisation can follow:
Firstly, there should be a zero tolerance for any discrimination.
Secondly, if any employee complains of gender discrimination, the organisation should investigate carefully, if there really is a problem, action should be taken.
Thirdly, managers should be role models to make sure everyone within the company understands what extend gender discriminations goes.
People should never forget the true concept of gender equality, which is to maximise productivity, and utilise everyone’s talent at work places no matter which gender they are of. Imagine a work place where everyone respects each other, giving their best. This could motivate employees and create an open organisation culture for them. On the other hand, a ‘learning organisation’ could definitely help, spreading gender equality throughout an organisation.
The limited of this research is the complexity nature of the topic, the status of women varies from society to society, therefore, cases in India and China could not generalised the concept of low-status of women worldwide. In addition, other aspect of gender discrimination such as gay and lesbian being treated unfairly is not discussed in this paper.
As a conclusion, gender discrimination at any form should not be ignored. This breach of human rights could lead to serious problem, as human labour should always be the most valuable asset to any organisation.
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