Table of Contents
Gender segregation remains one of the most confounding forms of discrimination in the contemporary society, whose means to lasting solution is yet to be established. The worst scenario usually occurs at workplaces where women in particular fall victims of circumstance. There is always a blatant monotony of male domineering senior levels of management as though women lack capacity to be entrusted with leadership positions at their workplaces. According to research, women can become exceptional leaders due to the fact that they have emotional intellect in abundance as opposed to their male counterparts. They have been perpetually deprived of opportunities to exhibit this fact. The propagation of this primitive practice has perhaps denied the world the model leadership that would have otherwise been the remedy to many social, economic and political challenges that it keeps grappling with day after day; and some of which are attributed to poor leadership. Unlike women, men in senior management level have a syndrome of attributing their leadership practices to their chauvinistic personalities. The moment they rise to such levels they immediately begin laying down strategies that would hold them there for eternity. Part of these manipulations entails recruiting sycophants into immediate junior positions to provide them with support at their own convenience. This paper critically evaluates the factors that contribute to gender segregation at senior management levels. To explore this issue effectively, the paper uses relevant examples to examine the factors that contribute to gender segregation at senior management levels and the possible solutions to counter the syndrome. Moreover, it offers a theoretical explanation of these aspects. Finally, the paper proposes possible solutions to the problem of gender segregation at advanced management levels.
Factors Which Contribute to Gender Segregation at Senior Management Level
Kullberg (2013) established that apportionment of tasks at work is a factor that perpetuates gender disparities. Gender-based division of labour in which women and men are aligned for different tasks exacerbates the situation because people traditionally believed that female tasks are usually of lesser prestige and more inclined to domestic chores than men’s responsibilities (Kullberg 2013). This creates a situation of power differential in which men would automatically hold more power than women would. Due to this syndrome, women for long lagged behind in terms of capacity building in male-dominated careers. Hence, they usually give men an upper hand in venturing extensive fields of expertise, which is why they automatically find themselves in top ranks as opposed to women.
In addition to that, Ecklund, Lincoln and Tansey (2012) discovered that gender essentialism contributes to discrimination against women in senior positions. Gender essentialism is a general view that women are usually more competent than men in nurturing and caring fields whereas men are more competent in areas that require much stamina and financial standing. This perception often propagates chauvinism which naturally presents men as more suitable for authority than women (Ecklund, Lincoln & Tansey 2012). Although many researchers attribute this to biological factors, the notion has increasingly become culturally and socially entrenched with no regard to comparative biological advantages. Male primacy has been converted into vertical segregation via discrimination, internalized self-evaluation and gendered expectations.
Furthermore, gender norms and gendered preferences also contribute significantly to segregation at senior management level (Bygren 2013). This is because since childhood, men and women are usually socialized into specific gender roles that dictate how they should act in certain circumstances. Through these clustered roles, men and women are then obliged to develop varied preferences for work that are inclined to their respective gender. The gendered preferences would often lead to gendered choices where women would primarily choose professions or rather occupations which are not only lower in pay but also lower in status. This confirms why there are not many women at senior management levels even if current constitutional dispensations may advocate for equality.
Despite that, cultural schemas also make a considerable contribution to segregation at the senior management level (Schweitzer, Ng Lyons & Kuron 2011). Certain schemas are significant since they do not only show bias of the general society against the occupational abilities of women, but can also have a negative influence on the perception of women about their occupational abilities (Schweitzer, Ng Lyons & Kuron 2011). For instance, there is a popular belief that men are better than women at mathematics and science. However, no any difference allied to gender that exists in mathematics have been demonstrated to be attributed to cultural factors apart from differences in natural aptitudes. Similarly, another cultural schema is the fallacy that men are more natural managers than women although there is credible evidence to support this claim. Women are naturally proven to possess greater emotional intelligence than men. That is why, they have equal capability to be leaders because leadership qualities are more entrenched in one’s personality than gender alignment.
Moreover, gender segregation is also attributed to self-selection, which is another factor (Terjesen & Singh 2008). Some women simply prefer to spend time at home with their families even if they may have qualifications equal to the task. They are usually obliged to do so since high status ranks do not allow ample time for the heavy domestic workload that many women are attuned to. Such positions favour men since they naturally do not have the backlog of domestic chores as compared to women. Men can even work during wee hours and are always very flexible if they are called upon any time to attend to emergencies; a situation that does not favour women. This is why professional women, in particular, sometimes self-select out of higher-status or time-intensive positions so that they can maintain the conventional gender hierarchy and household concurrence.
Besides, the usual educational disparities play a key role in segregating women at top management levels. This is partly attributed to the fact that women are very selective when it comes to careers and would choose low-magnitude jobs more often than men who would strain after careers indiscriminately (Terjesen & Singh 2008). In addition, many women lack requisite qualification for highly competitive careers, for instance, those that demand mathematics and sciences as entry subjects. Therefore, they would naturally select art subject careers, which eventually turn them into lower cadre employees. It then becomes a big problem for them to rise to the top cadres because competent men would have already occupied numerous higher ranking positions and would also be striving to rise. This situation often discourages women from making any further efforts to get a promotion at work, forcing them to remain complacent.
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In spite of that, the disparities in work experience also play a substantial role in segregation. Women always have a disadvantage over men, especially when they are forced to interrupt their careers in order to attend to their children (Karlsson 2007). This interruption always denies them the chance of gaining the requisite experience for high level positions, unlike men who would be present at their workplaces full time. Men would also take advantage of their flexibility to advance in their studies, attend capacity building workshops and do extensive research that would guarantee them adequate experience in order to warrant their promotion. This is what normally causes incongruity between men and women in terms of job experience, hence eliminating women from the order of rising to high-level positions.
Simultaneously, the varying job searches between men and women make positions that women can occupy fully different from those occupied by men. According to O'Neil, Hopkins and Bilimoria (2008), women would adopt different strategies in their job searches, which play a certain role in occupational segregation. These conflicting strategies are partly influenced by power relations in the household, domestic responsibilities of women and gendered nature of social life. These factors make women consider the remunerable employment basing on the geographical proximity from her household unlike men who would traverse landscapes in search for a job no matter the distance from their homes. In the long run, women will tend to have narrower networks as compared to men. That is why women are perpetually fixed in female-dominated occupations, which are of lower status and lower pay as a result of their usual time constraints.
In addition to the aforementioned causes of gender segregation at senior management levels, there are theoretical explanations. The first is libertarian feminist theory, which asserts that men and women are at liberty to make choices and be accountable for their own decisions (Barrett & McIntosh 2005). Women and men naturally make divergent choices that would usually create a segregation scenario by default whether legal measures are put in place to curb this or not. Men and not women would naturally find themselves at top levels of management, but this should not be translated that women feel embarrassed or segregated since many women deem it appropriate instead. The theory reiterates that though the governments are on record initiating policies and laws that tend to breach the gap between sexes in management positions, it is necessary not to interfere with the inherent differences that have existed between sexes ever since. It insists that as long as the segregation is voluntary, it is healthy; hence, any attempts to revert it might only translate into other worse problems.
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The second one is the theory of equal treatment or formal equity, which often works in combination with libertarianism theory (Auer & Welte 2013). It states that society and more governments should treat men and women similarly in case their situations are also analogous. This theory was first adopted in 1970s during the feminist movement in the United States, which led to intermediate scrutiny as a standard for sex discrimination on grounds that men and women ought to be given equal treatment when they are in similar situations (Auer & Welte 2013). However, since it is very hard to determine the standards when men and women should be treated similarly or differently, the implementation of this whole theory becomes tricky and questionable.
On the other hand, critical race feminism theory also was developed with a deficiency of racial inclusivity of feminist theories and complete lack of gender inclusivity of racial theories (Lemons & Parzinger 2007). This theory is more globally embraced than others, which attempts to factor in the intertwining nature of gender and race. The feminism of critical race demands re-examination of surface level segregation and focuses on how sex segregation is entrenched in various histories. This causes varying effects that are based on race, particularly for women of colour. Such kind of segregation is evident, especially in multiracial countries, such as US and UK, with regard to the relationship between the elimination of race-segregated schools and sex segregation (Hawkesworth 2010). Critical race feminism ridicules several other theories, especially due to their failure to consider their divergent applications on the basis of one’s race, class, sexual orientation, or other factors of identity which are reflected in a segregated situation. It further creates dire need to examine obligatory and administrative segregation basing on sex to determine whether or not they would sustain racial stereotypes, particularly towards women of different colour. Additionally, critical race feminists doubt whether theories of permissive and voluntary sex segregation are socially tolerable manners by which races and sexes can be separated, or whether they sustain and perpetuate unequal factors (Hawkesworth 2010).
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Moreover, the theory of anti-essentialism maintains that sex and gender categories are restrictive in nature. Hence, they cannot include the unrestrained assortment of difference in identity of humans and enforce identities instead of simply noting their differences (Watts 2009). Some theorists hold a belief that there is a considerable variation in what is meant by being a man and being a woman. By promoting these differences through sex segregation, people certainly become confined to the outlined categories, which limits their initial freedom. Therefore, anti-essentialists examine how society tends to impose explicit identities within the dichotomy of sex, and how sex and gender hierarchies are subsequently created, propagated, and normalized. This theory calls for a specific disentanglement of sex from gender. Anti-essentialists suppose that there should not be any idea of the constituents of masculinity or femininity because individual attributes should be fluid in order to eliminate stereotypes that are associated with sex and gender instead (Watts 2009). There are no exact types of segregation on grounds of sex, which are outwardly supported or engineered by anti-essentialists, since compulsory and administrative sex segregation often emphasizes power wrangles between the sexes and genders. At the same time, permissive or voluntary forms of sex segregation only permit institutions together with society at large to group individuals into categories that are inclined to differential access to power, supporting the government’s abolition of such authorization of certain institutions and norms to continue to exist.
Finally, the theory of difference feminism also explains why men more often dominate the senior management level than women. The theory tends to support psychological, biological and moral differences between men and women. In fact, it accuses anti-sex segregation laws in order to dilute the aforementioned crucial attributes, claiming that such laws exclude free participation of women in the world. It tends to justify sex segregation through men’s and women’s differences although it advocates for segregation that considers women’s differences and promotes equality.
Possible Solutions to Gender Segregation
The best lasting solution to the problem of gender segregation is application of gender egalitarian cultural principles or simply alteration in traditional gender norms. This determination is supposed to reduce prejudice, boost women’s self-evaluation and support structural changes in the job alignment (Bygren 2013). Changes in societal norms will definitely reinforce the need for occupational integration of the women. People will start noticing women in conventionally male-dominated occupations, so that their prospects about women in the labour market might equally change. Many scholars argue that policies that are aimed at reducing occupational gender segregation must first focus on the change in culture.
A good example is represented by the USA where policies that tend to be historically inclined to one gender group are usually rejected, and effective policies that aim at providing benefits across groups are advocated for instead. In this respect, policies that are meant to restrict work hours for salaried employees or mandate onsite employer-sponsored childcare might be the most successful (Dencker 2008). Therefore, when more women are in position to make powerful decisions, it may affect occupational segregation. In case the widespread market becomes less segregated, then people in charge of making personnel decisions in conventionally female-dominated occupations have to create new vacancies, including higher status jobs, that are much attractive to women to preserve them. For instance, school board should recruit more women to headship positions and other levels of authority as a strategy to retain women workers, whereas such positions might have previously assigned to men.
There is a contemporary notion that men at workplaces are allowed to ride in a glass escalator through which women are obliged to watch as men surpass them on the way to the top positions. This is commonly referred to as vertical segregation; a situation that has ensured fewer positions at the top for women in any occupation, while men enjoy a massive allotment. However, this situation can be eliminated from society if it employs concerted efforts to eradicate such discrimination. The most effective of all the possible solutions should be a constant emphasis of gender equality right from the elementary levels of education. Society should also embrace it by assigning similar roles to both genders when children are still in their tender ages. This will necessitate the eradication of the superiority syndrome from an early age. The current situation in which women are highly segregated from holding managerial positions at workplaces is just but a reflection of what society has for long been propagated. The situation could have certainly been different if the propagation of gender equality had been the order of the day. However, time has come to make a paradigm shift from this uncivilized way of operation to a more civilized and befitting practice that conforms to the nature of the contemporary society. Let women’s contribution to leadership be embraced for there to be a difference because gone are the days when women were viewed as a weaker sex.