Effects Of Gender And Class On Employment And Promotion

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It has been said that in modern society there is little distinction between classes, and that gender’s are on the whole treated equally. However research into the subject of employment when related to gender and class showed that there is still a great deal of inequality based on society’s clinging to outdated social perceptions which inhibit the progression of many individuals. My focus was specifically promotion within employment.

I found that there is great inequality between the number of women promoted and men promoted, men seem to be promoted more often than women and also tend to enter into jobs viewed as being of average pay and prestige and work their way to the top whereas women tend to enter low paying and prestige jobs and work their way up to jobs where men would often start.

One possible reason for this trend is that 44% of women work part time compared to 6% of men , this is possibly largely due to the flexible hours of such employment which allows time for family and domestic life which even in today’s growing equality are still shown to be largely placed on women’s shoulders due to social perceptions and upbringing women are often left looking after a family, house and having to work as well. Statistics also show larger numbers of female single parents who would require part time employment to be able to look after their children. The main effect of this is that these 44% of women are unlikely to receive promotion, part time work is rarely considered a career, and rarely offers opportunity for climbing the social or employment ladder, in addition employers may often see this as a lack of dedication leaving the higher jobs to the full time workers the majority of whom are male. Many employers also worry that females are more likely to leave their career to start a family. Alice Kessler-Harris (1990)

‘It is not that women choose to be paid less, the argument goes, but that they choose to live lives that yield less certain rewards in the workplace.’

However I would argue that neither of these things are so much chosen as imposed by society, or more directly by employers as a result of outdated social perceptions.

This is perpetuated further in a cycle, the majority of men reaching a job where they are in a position to decide on who should be promoted and perhaps in some cases as a result of upbringing in a society that views genders as unequal, choose to hire men who they feel have greater ambition and are meant to be bread winners, leaving women out of the higher positions and unable to affect this cycle.

However it is also shown that women’s lack of promotion tends to be compensated by more frequent pay increases, though this could be considered inadequate in a society that relies as much if not more on a person’s position in employment as they do in the amount a person is paid.

Improvements to the promotion of women to middle management positions have increased considerably over the last 30 years in America and the U.K. However promotion of women to higher management has barley increased at all, leaving women in lower positions.

These ideas and issues collectively form the ‘glass ceiling’ which is described as an invisible barrier that seems to stop women reaching higher positions in corporations simply because they are women, regardless of their ability.

There is also the idea that is constructed within the concept of a segregated labour market, the idea of skill. Skill arguably is as much constructed by gender as it is by a person’s individual ability. According to Caroline Truman in Women Power and Resistance: ‘The relationship between gender and skill is socially constructed meaning that work done by women demands less skill and therefore has less worth’. If this is so then one reason women are promoted less is as they are viewed socially as lacking the skills that are required in higher management positions. An example of this is that men are rewarded for having supposedly feminine qualities such as affection but women are not and nor are they rewarded for possessing supposed masculine qualities like aggression. And as the numbers of women in these positions are so low the changing of this social perception is a slow and arduous process.

Class is also an important factor in promotion, those in higher classes being more likely to find themselves promoted to higher management positions.

According to sociologists MacIntosh and Mooney only the upper class iscolates itself, and that the upper class tend to hold jobs and positions which are viewed as higher and also that give them the power to decide who will reach these positions, and so only those who are already in the upper classes, or higher middle classes are likley to be promoted into these positions regardless of their ability, in fact it is quite literally not what you know but who you know as all upper class activities are kept as a closed system. Chapman also noted there was still an existence of a self-recruiting upper-class identity.

William Lloyd Warner theorized that American society could be divided up into into distinct categories which affect how a person is promoted and what jobs they tend to do and the amount they tend to be paid . British and American society can be seen to have a similar class structure which affects employment in much the same way although over the years the amount of people within these classes has shifted, and their jobs changed, the premis remains the same.

Upper Upper class: These are people who have inherited their money, they hold most of the highest positions which they have also inherited or their friends and family have, it is mostly a closed system and so unless one is a member of this class or an incredibly fortunate or useful member of the class immediately below it it is unlikley that one will be allowed into these ranks and the jobs related to them.

Lower-Upper: These are people who have made their own money or prominent proffesionals, these people are often indirectly in control of who is promoted in their businesses and one can be promoted into this class by working up the ladder, however there is still sexual and class prejudice as usually one would have to be relativley high up from birth to receive education and wealth enough to reach a position where they could be promoted.

Upper Middle:Made up of lawyers etc. and high paid proffessionals, promotion in these areas is possible but requires a relativley high level of education usually disqualifying the very low classes, the glass ceiling is usually most prominent in these areas.

Lower Middle: These are not manual labourours but educated proffessionals such as teachers, or police officers. Promotion here is often easier as people from any class usually have potential to reach these positions with an adequate level of intelligence. In addition those who are in charge of promotion in these jobs often started off lower down themselves and so are less likley to be prejudice, though at the lowest levels education and wealth is low enough to prevent access to these ranks.

Upper Lower:This class is made up of manual labourers who have little opportunity for promotion given their job requirements, though some can reach a management level or move up by starting a small business.

Lower Lower: These are the impoverished and the homeless who have little opportunity for even getting a job due to lack of resources and social perceptions of their inadequacy, they often come from lower class families.

The above information on social class was taken from pages 163-176 of William Lloyd Warner’s Social Class in America.

It can be seen from the information gathered that although many believe we now live in a classless society this is not so, almost every factor of our life can be determined by the class we are born into, whatsmore there is no one definition of class, and most people would not be entirley certain of what class they were or even fit into any distinct category. This leaves the question of how a concept so vague and haphazard can affect the whole of our society and even the world.

We began the project by deciding on a topic, we had already decided on gender and class and were initially going to do a general overview of how this affects life in britain. However it was decided that this was too vague and so we opted to study how gender and class affected employment as we felt this was a large part of any persons life and that in a ‘classless society’ there would be little problems arising in these areas. We were away from university for a month once the project started so the goup communicated via email and it was decided that four main areas would be covered, one for each group member to research and compose an analysis on by the time we had returned to university. The four areas were pay, promotion, sexual harrassment, and types of work.

One of the main problems faced by myself and the rest of the group was the timing of the project; we had to present the project on the first week back, and had not received full information as to our task until the week before leaving meaning we had to do the entirety of our research away from the university, this caused problems for me as the library facilities near my home are not particularly useful so most reasearch had to be done via acedemic articles on the internet. I was also without email for a large proportion of the time away and so had difficulty contacting other members of the group. Upon our return there was further difficulty contacting one another due to email troubles leaving the group meetings very close to the deadline which may have meant the project was somewhat rushed toward the end. In future I wold arrange to meet up with the group throughout time away if possible, or perhaps arrange for the presentation to be assigned at a more convenient time. I felt my most valuable asset to the group was my ability to find information on a topic that potentially lacked academic depth or source and my persistence in searching for interesting ideas relating to the topic. My greatest weakness within the group was my lack of communication with the other members, partially due to my anti social tendency and partly due to technical difficulty. I also felt that my speaking in the presentation could have been improved with more practice.

Perhaps one of the most important incidents was the final compiling of the presentation actually on the day of the deadline. We had been largley unable to meet and exchange our research due to technical difficulties, but managed to meet in the morning, we were able to run through the presentation and make any changes needed, I think this was the most important part of the project as it allowed us to share ideas and learn from the other group members.

Despite the group having trouble communicating during time away from university everyone managed to do what they were obligated to and there were no real disputes as all members contributed equally to the research of the project.

If I could do anything differently it would firstly be to do the project at a more convenient time when I would have access to the university’s resources which would have been an invaluable asset to the work. I would also like to have rehearsed the presentation more, and have met up with the group during the time away from the university to discuss ideas rather than communicate soley via email.

Brown, Claire, Gender in the Workplace, ed. Claire Brown, Joseph A. Pechman, (Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press 1987)

Kessler-Harris, Alice, A Woman’s Wage, (Lexington, The University Press of Kentucky 1990)
Naff, Katherine C., Through the Glass Ceiling: Prospects for the Advancement of Women in the Federal Civil Service, (Public Administration Review, Vol. 54, 1994) (http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&se=gglsc&d=5001665432) (accessed 19/04/07)

Powel, Gary N., Investigating the Glass ceiling Phenomenon (University of Massachusetts) (http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0001-4273(199402)37%3A1%3C68%3AIT%22CPA%3E2.0.CO%3B2-3) (Accessed 18/04/07)

Summerfield, Penny, (Buckingham: Open University Press 1996)

Truman, Caroline, Women Power and Resistance, ed. Tess Cosslett, Alison Easton,

Warner, William Lloyd, Social Class in America, (Chicago: Harper and Row 1960)

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