The Issue of Gender Inequality Within Society

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Updated: Apr 10, 2019
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The Issue of Gender Inequality Within Society essay

According to the International Labour Organization, “equality in pay has improved in the US since 1979 when women earned about 62% as much as men. In 2010, American women on average earned 81% of what their male counterparts earned. Women’s participation in the U.S. labor force climbed during the 1970s and 1980s, reaching 60 percent in 2000. However, in 2010 this figure has declined to 46.7 percent and is not expected to increase by 2018.” (“Gender Inequality and Women in the US Labor Force,” 2011). There’s still a disparity but it’s much less than that 62%.

The subject of the value of women’s work versus the value of men’s work is hot in society today. I think that one of the issues here is that we’re thinking about the world through the dominant cultural lens. People have a tendency to think about work in a very limited way. Work is frequently thought of as when someone shows up at their office, puts in a certain number of hours, then collect a paycheck after a given number of weekdays.

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There are other ways people might think about work, but it certainly may not be as inclusive of all the work that goes into building a society. All the necessary work that’s required for building a society falls on the shoulders of women. This social responsibility is regardless of the fact that men find themselves in higher paying positions. The higher paying positions have the excuses of more risk involved, or men are stronger, or less emotional, or other cultural stereotypes that are bestowed upon men.

Society must take into consideration that women are actually responsible for a fair amount of the work that is done in terms of making the society run. For example, let’s explore the fact that often a woman in mid-career may leave the workforce to have a child and is therefore no longer being paid; is she still contributing valuable work to the society? Can you imagine if women stopped taking the time out of their careers to have and care for their children and the impact it would have on society?

But for some reason, it’s not considered work worthy of pay because it’s work that a woman should do because it’s her natural place. When men are doing labor that requires a little more strength we don’t say “well that’s their natural place in society so let’s not pay them any more for that.” Right! So, we pay women less for doing the work that suits them most because of their biological makeup and we pay men more for doing work that is more suitable for their biological makeup.

If we look at the other work that’s required from or expected of a woman who stays home to take care of her children, all that is required of a homemaker, it’s hard work. Keeping the house clean, balancing the family budget, keeping and balancing the kid’s schedules, finding some time for some adult socialization, and all other responsibilities that a woman might have. She isn’t getting paid for all that work, but it’s all still necessary for maintaining societal balance. Something to think about is how the valuable work that women do to contribute to society is compensated versus the work that men do to contribute. Woman taking care of children are raising the next generation of workers, the generation that will be in charge of future society, get paid nothing while her male counterpart is off doing paid work.

The other side of this argument is that there are more and more opportunities that afford women to work paid jobs. We must think about how society is directing men into a certain type of occupation and women into another. In my work in emergency medical services, I have heard many times about how the “dirty work” of the streets is for men and women are best suited to nursing within the “clean” hospital setting. I wasn’t always welcome among my peers and frequently found the men trying to do things for me to “lighten my load.” It was demeaning and irritating.

If I didn’t accept their assistance, I would frequently hear comments on how “manly” I must be feeling today. I’ve also observed male nurses in the emergency departments get teased by my EMS peers about doing the “women’s work,” “keeping their hands clean,” or the male nurse’s inability to “handle the real world on the streets.” Most of the time the comments are laughed off, but internally it plays a role in a persons self-regard.

Finally, I would like to say that society could really benefit from the consideration of women historically and the way they have been funneled into a single role, not unlike the way one might imaging cattle being funneled into a chute leading to the killing floor. Three hundred years ago, women were persecuted and burned at the stake for failure to conform to the roles that society dictated. They were accused of being witches because they didn’t, couldn’t, or wouldn’t embrace and conform to what the societal standard for women was in that time (“A Brief History of the Salem Witch Trials,” n.d.).

There’s an interesting book called, “Caliban and the Witch” by Silvia Federici which tracks the way women went from being respected members of the family when people were living a more rural life to being forced into the position of a housewife when societies became more urbanized (“Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch,” 2017). The parallels that can be drawn between then and now are disheartening. While women aren’t being burned at the stake and accused of being witches, we are still persecuted for not properly conforming to the societal standards of what it means to be a woman.

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The Issue of Gender Inequality Within Society. (2019, Apr 10). Retrieved from