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Gender Inequality in Modern Society

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This study deals with gender inequality in the modern society and looks at the difficulties women face when they strive for equal success as their male counterparts. About seventy-five percent of the jobs in well-paid professions are held by men and even if women are able to get equal jobs they are still paid considerably less . The central question posed is, are there any differences in the aspirations and career goals between males and females? However, in order to fully understand stereotypical social values about sex-roles in our society, an analysis of the broader context, in terms of the findings of the research of experts in the field, is needed. Thus, this Literature Review discusses the research on gender discrimination in the modern society as well as what drives women into the workforce.

Joanne Naiman, Professor of Sociology at Ryerson Polytechnic University, who has written extensively on how the gender roles change in Canadian society, argues that “historically sociologists have suggested, amongst various other reasons that biological differences between men and women constitute as one of the main reasons for males having better job opportunities. Thus males were always branded the breadwinners of the family whilst a female’s place was at home” . Studies by Joanne Naiman have shown that “during the latter half of the 20th century these views began to slowly change but still stained with the ideologies from the past they still exist at the brink of the 21st century”.

Lawrence Pervin, Professor of Psychology at the Princeton University contends that “up until 1954 researchers tended to ignore female workers as subjects of their research. From 1954 to 1966 sex-role measures developed. From 1974 to 1982 androgyny was established as sex-role ideal” . Another psychologist and prolific writer, Carol Gilligan stated that “as far as management motivation is concerned most of the recent studies show that there is very little difference in the aspirations and goals between males and females” . A number of researchers agree that historically males have shaped the society in which we live. The policy-makers have almost always been male and therefore it is not surprising that our society mirrors those ideas, which exist as a result of this male-domination.

Researchers David Bender and Bruno Leone state that women are manipulated into pursuing careers of a certain kind when companies do not give maternal leave or subsidized child care for working mothers. Over half of working mothers in North America have no rights for maternal leave. “Even in more recent times when the line between job opportunities amongst the genders is ever fading, a secretary or nurse or most of any other jobs which required supervision is still engraved into society as a females role” , says psychologist Carol Gillian. An example of this is from case study of professor at Ryerson Polytechnic University, Mustapha Koc, where Mary was given the responsibility of being the secretary, accountant and packaging department of the family business while her husband was the boss. This showed that even though they were husband and wife and could have shared all responsibilities equally, Mary was content to play the role society had outlined for her. Mary also became a housewife and quit her job at the bank without much debate when her children were born. This is because of the norms society had laid down.

However, other researchers dispute this opinion by suggesting that social values are changing in North America as well as in the rest of the world. Worsening economic conditions, need for two incomes per family, rising divorce rates, and insecurity in marriage are prompting women to plan and prepare for a career. Younger women realize that they are more likely to satisfy their survival needs directly through their own earnings rather than indirectly through the income of their spouses. Helen Astin, professor of higher education of the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California, suggests that the “medical and technological advances such as amniocentesis, artificial insemination, in-vitro fertilization and surrogate motherhood, provide women a greater control over their lives and bodies. Added to this is the concept of smaller families and longer life expectancy. These concepts give women more freedom and choice to plan and prepare for such eventualities”. Astin is a contrary opinion, however, as she has stated that the basic need for survival, pleasure and contribution motivate humans to seek employment. Economic conditions, a sense of devaluation of the domestic, and a desire to find self-fulfillment drive majority of the women into the job market.

Various suggestions have been put forward to explain the reason why women are driven to the workforce. Changing economic conditions may have driven women into the labour market, but after being in the workforce for a few decades they realize that paid employment along with satisfying their basic financial needs, also fulfills their individual needs of independence, provides them with a greater control of environment, and enables them to contribute more meaningfully to societal and personal needs. The challenge of work that is valued by the society, gives them a sense of achievement, and a realization of self-worth. This gain of self-esteem in large part is instrumental in satisfying their pleasure and contributory needs. Recent studies of females in professional employment of Nancy Betz, physiologist from University of Minnesota, have shown that “men and women do not differ in self-ratings, self confidence and work values”.

Clarice Auluck-Wilson, sociology professor at University of Chicago, highlights the facts that in the family women’s lives are controlled through male authority figure, by imposing the entire burden of domestic work upon them in addition to the paid work outside the home. Most men believe that domestic work and child-care are not their job, and some of them consider it beneath their dignity to perform those tasks. Employment may not release women from subordination, but it does provide them the psychological basis to exert and exercise power. Economic independence, self confidence and personal achievement motivation are the only tools that serve the women well in negotiating their status in the family with their husbands and other family members. Women’s employment marks a significant rejection of male control.

However, it is not easy for a woman to receive the same compensation as men, “measurable inequalities in occupational opportunities, wages, and workplace barriers continue to exist for women. A wage gap between women’s and men’s wages still exists. For example, there is 2% difference in pay between men and women two years after graduation, but this increases to a 16% difference in pay from two to five years after graduation.” Researches have investigated that women tend to have higher self-efficacy for traditional occupations and working with people, and lower self-efficacy for non-traditional professions and working with technology. In contrast to Carol Gilligan, who states that there are very little difference in the aspirations and goals between males and females , some psychologists agree that that women continue to experience lower career aspirations than men and are under-represented in some fields, such as physical science, applied mathematics, and engineering.

When determining the answer to the question, are there any differences in the aspirations and career goals between males and females?, one has to look at individuals, but also look at the ways in which society shapes the career outlook of both men and women. Throughout history, men have dominated the work sphere, and although this trend is reversing, it still continues to exist. Men still dominate society and are therefore in the position to enforce their dominant hegemony, leading to continued inequalities. The findings of the research of the experts in the field showed that women’s role in society affects the policies within nations, which often result in making it more difficult for women to pursue male-dominated jobs, as well as paying them less for equal work.

A number of researches agree that the world is changing, and in many cases the gap between men and women is closing, and making conditions better for women to succeed. The findings of Carol Gilligan and Susan D. Phillips help to understand the differences between aspirations and career goals between males and females, but it is difficult to determine whether or not this is directly biological, or whether it is a directly related to the greater obstacles that women face in comparison to men. Consequently, this Literature Review addresses gender inequity in the modern society and provides many viewpoints on the differences in the aspirations and career goals between males and females.


1. Bender,David Male/Female roles – opposing view points . (1999 October 29th). Toronto Star

2. Joanne Naiman 1997: How Societies Work. Class power and change in Canadian context.

3. Pervin, Lawrence A (1990). Handbook of personality. New York

4. Carol Gillian (1986). Reply to Carol Gilligan. Signs, 11, 324-333.

5. Koc, Mustapha Woman in our modern society . 27.

6. Astin, Helen S (1984). The meaning of work in women’s lives: A sociological model of career choice and work behavior.

7. Lott, B.E (1987). Women’s Lives: Themes and variations in gender learning. Montray, CA: Brooks/Cole.

8. Betz, N.E. (1981).A self-efficiency approach to the career development of women. Journal of Vocational Behavior. 18, 326-339.

9. Clarice A. Auluck-Wilson (1995). When all the Women lift. Signs, 20, 130-138.

10. Mernissi, Fatima. (1975). Beyond the veil. New York, Wiley.

11. Drolet, M. (Ed.). (2002). The male and female wage gap Vol. 29-35). Statistics Canada.

12. Whiston, S.C. (1993).Self-efficacy of women in traditional and non-traditional occupations. Journal of career development. 19, 175-185.

13. Jacob ,Jerry A. (1992) Women’s entry into management: Trends in earnings, authority and values among salaried managers. Administrative Science Quarterly, 37, 2, 282-301

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