Sunday, March 11, 2012

Gender Roles in the Workplace Essay

Gender Roles in the Workplace Essay

One of the most important issues in our society – is gender in the workplace. What I mean – is attitudes towards certain genders at certain workplaces or jobs, responsibilities, equality or inequality. If we would take a look at men and women possessing different work positions today and one hundred years ago we would see differences without a doubt. Today positions, which were especially for men years ago, become more equally for men and women. We see this desire of gender equality in all spheres, professional as well.

Sociological theories have own explanations for these issues and changes. If we will address this issue to a sociological theory of structural functionalism, first of all we would pay attention to the fact that at the present moment we cannot see gender role in the workplace changing. And this is one of the key points of the structural functionalism – changes cannot be noticed at the time, when they appear. According to this theory, changes in gender roles on different job positions are caused not by individuals, who think that males and females should be equal.
These changes appear because of the society’s need to adapt for new social environment, new changes. Talcott Parsons and Neil Smelser were stating the main idea of structural functionalism – society is a complex system composed of a various parts, much like a living organism (Newman, 46). Each of these parts has certain functions, just as living organism has. And what is the most important thing – to keep balance between all the elements, to establish harmless interaction between them. That is how structure of the society is being formed and modified. The theory of structural functionalism eliminated ideas of development and evolution of the society, because the main idea – to keep the balance.

Society is getting more and more complex, because of the differentiation of the individual functions and that is the reason, why changes appear. Society needs more functions to be realized. Some sociologists (Durkhaim, Erikson) stating that changes “encourage society revise itself and respond to new concerns” (Newman, 46). They stated that social changes appear because of social facts. First type of facts – are morphological (material). Other type spiritual (group values, norms, and expectations). One of the key Durkhaim’s ideas – is that facts, which make an impact on social life today appeared under the influence of factors, existing in the past.

Basing on the structural functionalism theory we can once more make an accent on the idea that such social change as gender role at the workplace was caused by other social factors, norms, and values. But what is more important – it appeared not because of individual views of some people, but because this change was necessary to realize social functions. Distinctive features of men were important at the new job positions, as well, as distinctive features of women were needed for other job positions. That is why, women and men today start to possess new job positions for them, new responsibilities, and functions more equally. And these were caused by the need of new functions in the social processes. From the structural functionalism perspective, if an aspect of the social life does not contribute to society’s survival – that is, if it dysfunctional – it will eventually disappear. Things that persist, even if they seem to be disruptive, must persist because they contribute somehow to the survival of society (Durkheim, 1915/1954) (Newman, 46). Using this statement we can say that equality of men and women in the professional field is somehow important for the society, otherwise it would not be introduced.

Theory of the social conflict has a different explanation of the changes in the society. This theory has own modifications inside, but we will talk about general positions of the theory. Sociologists, who created this concept state, that our society always has a row of conflicts running inside of it. Different groups with different interests appear to be involved in conflict, which cause unstable situation in the society. Some sociologists state that the main reason for the conflict - is desire for power. More often it is political power. Weber understood social relations, as basically, conflict relations. The key determinant of social relations was power (Adams, 181). Coser has his own view – the root of the conflict is the desire to reach more power, social status changes, higher income level, and prevalence of norms, favorable for them. But all of them were sure, that conflict – is the thing which leads society for the changes, development, innovation. Struggle in the conflict organizes social process of the selection best of the best. Conflict between ideologies and utopias of different groups is an ever-present reality in society (Ritzer, 59).

If we would take a close look to the appliance of this theory to the issue chosen – gender roles in different job positions – we will see very close connection. Through the history we can see women involving in the conflict with men (and society in general), they were fighting for their rights. This struggle was a conflict, to say more generally – a struggle for the power, for the income, for the higher status. This was the reason, why we can observe today, that women work almost the same as men do, possessing the same positions as the men do. This theory looks like a competition between individuals, between groups, which differ by class, status, interest, gender, etc. Speaking generally – this is competition between men and women.

As Coser was making his research, he stated that there always going to be inequality in the society, caused by psychological dissatisfaction of certain individuals. He determined social conflict – as a struggle for the own values, power, status, and resources of certain groups united by common criteria. So from the point of view of this theory men and women struggle for different interests, values, power, and oppose each other.

This conflict had not disappeared without changes, which are obvious. Conflict stimulates changes in the society, appearance of new norms, social processes. That is why we see laws and attitudes towards women in the societies all over the world are changing, heading to the equality with men.

Symbolic interaction theory explains behavior of the people from the point of view, which is dominant at the certain group concerning particular social situation. Symbolic interactionism sees meanings as the products, as creations that are formed in and through the defining activities of people as they interact (Blumer, 5). All components of the social structures are defined through the system of language and other symbols. Different groups with different interests form their norms, meanings, and sense. These understandings differ from group to group. These differences determine distinctive features of interaction between these groups. “The position of symbolic interactionism is that the meanings that things have for human beings are central in their own right” (Blumer, 5). Even if to take a look it the relations between men and women in their personal lives, we will notice a lot of cases, when woman says something and man understands it differently, because he has different meanings for the same sentences. This is an example out of the life, which shows symbolic interaction theory. Symbolic meanings determine differences of the world between different groups. Through this interaction each individual and society in general is being formed. Changes of the symbolic meanings in the group lead to the changes of the interaction with other groups. These changes cause society modifications. “Mead saw human society in this way – as a diversified social process in which people were engaged in forming joint actions to deal with situations confronting them” (Blumer, 72).

Out of these three theories, on my personal opinion, social conflict theory suits the best to the social process of defining gender roles at the work place and in the professional field. This theory explains why it comes out to be like that very clearly and accurate. It is clearly seen like a number of women in the politics is rising in every country from zero. This is a great example of the women trying to reach more power. We can see very often women, leading big organizations, large-scaled projects, companies, etc. And it is one of the ideas of the social conflict. Men and women are competing to possess best job positions, statuses, and more power. Even today we can hear some men telling, that women is not for politics of something else. And at the same time we can notice how women want to insist on own interests and desires and to show that they are able to reach high levels.

Even though, structural functionalism and symbolic interaction theories have good and interesting ideas which really apply and explain some elements of our topic, social conflict theory explains this issue in all details, each element.

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