14 April

Does gender segregation in the labor market still persist?

Microsoft corporate blogProgrammingIT-companies
Common sense prompts that gender segregation and gender discrimination on labor market have declined. There is a popular opinion that too much is talked about smaller women’s chances to blossom forth at work, while the problem was solved long ago. Actually, women all over the world have the same opportunities as men to get higher education, to hold a supervisor or manager position, to climb the career and salary ladder.



The biggest corporations and companies run special programs to shorten gender inequality on labor market. That seems like the evidence: smaller firms try to imitate the policy, and also values, of world famous companies in order to succeed and gain benefit like the second ones do (it is an economic-sociological proved behavior), so in nearest future, or perhaps in present, all players on labor market will popularize the idea of gender equality in all its senses. However, the state of affairs is far from desired. Even if organizations follow gender unbiased strategy, will it solve the global problem of gender inequality at work overall?

This is the guest article by Maria Antomony, HSE University graduate student, sociologist and code passionate.

To begin with, it is useful to refresh the main concepts relating to the topic. Gender segregation is uneven distribution of males and females in different economic sectors, various professions, occupations and positions [4]. It is a general term, which outcomes in inequality and multidimensional discrimination of women.

The most obvious is vertical segregation or glass ceiling: the higher is a desired position, the smaller are chances, that a woman could get it, therefore she has less chances to earn more [4]. On the contrary to horizontal segregation, which will be explained in more details later, vertical segregation has being more or less overcome (in terms of leader companies, not in average prospective), as it depends really much on structure and organizational principles, which are being reconsidered.

Despite the fact that the overall situation is far from desired, the solution is close to the issue of overcoming the prejudice that women are not able to rule other people and it can be resolved by the activity of the corporations (which clearly do so, leading by example other smaller firms and organizations). Moreover, it has been proved by psychology and neuroscience that women, occupying manager or other head positions bring more benefits to the company compared with those, whose management team consists only of males, because brain and hormonal activity differ between males and females and this diversity leads to extraordinary solutions (also it was proved that the core difference is not in capability to lead people or to arrange other’s work, but in way of thinking – more figuratively, less superficially, etc. [5]).

Additionally, the essence of biased attitude to women has also some traditional roots: reproduction is one of the core social functions, which takes much time from women to perform, that is why they are less desired workers (some kind of quasi-economic or quasi-rational reason). On the whole, the vertical gender segregation is more visible to all participants of labor market and not so much culturally and unconsciously rooted, that is why the world community concentrates on it’s solution and the end of glass ceiling practice is closer than glass walls practice.

The more serious issue is horizontal segregation or glass walls, which means that economic sectors and various professions are gender colored: for example, a teacher or a nurse is perceived as feminine job, whereas a firefighter or a doctor – as masculine [4]. The tendency is following: jobs predominantly performed by men are more paid than jobs with superior percentage of females. Horizontal segregation produces vertical one, because even in one sector women and men are expected to occupy different positions: for instance, a woman is more expected to be a nurse in medical sphere, while a man – to be a doctor, or a boss traditionally is drawn as a successful male, while his secretary is illustrated like an attractive but a bit silly female. The outcome of such distribution is income inequality, underestimation of women’s labor.

The question is why is it considered so hard to overcome? To make long story short: this kind of segregation has cultural and historical roots, which still exist. First of all, the origins of professional segregation are stereotypes that, firstly, women are naturally less rational, less stress resistant, more emotional and, secondly, historically women have to do housework, raise up children, educate them, so their job ought not to be risky or to take much time [4, 5]. Thus these arguments have no scientific grounding, the society still reproduces such traditional way of thinking. Even the majority of women still believe that technical skills, analytics, management and strategic thinking are masculine qualities [2, 5]. Because of that women, who try to compete for such ‘manly’ professions, have to work harder than an average man to get the same occupation and salary (they need to prove their ability to work in this sphere by overworking).

Considering the research mentioned in the previous paragraph it can be additionally said that there is no evidence that women perform particular work worse than men do, they just do it in an alternative way. Still, the case lies deeper: such difficulties which women have to face with make women themselves underestimate their talents and skills. This process starts with human’s socialization. Hidden curriculum at schools makes girls be less self-confident despite the fact that academic performance is higher among girls compared with boys [2, 5]. That is why this issue is really hard to overcome, it is built on child’s consciousness, it is invisible, and the only way to stop the reproduction of such segregation is to destroy the whole educational system, to teach not only pupils in egalitarian way, but also teach parents to give more freedom of choice to their children: it would solve not only the problem of horizontal gender segregation, but also eliminate biased attitudes to ‘non-masculine’ or ‘gayish’ professions like artist or hair-stylist.

However, evidently, such way if not impossible, then it to complex and long to come true. Anyway, turning back to the biggest players on labor market, which set tendencies their smaller partners and competitors, try to level off such forms of discrimination, to level up gender variability at all sectors of economics. Yet, the next examples are to display that arrangements for fighting gender discrimination are discriminative in nature.

The examples in the essay relate to IT sphere, as it is one of the most popular high-tech scopes with explicit gender homogeneity. A strategy fighting gender inequality, which to my mind, is quite effective and fascinating is proposed by Microsoft. The company runs multilevel program on engaging girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) by conducting master-classes, open lectures and even integrates into schools a system to encourage all scholarships to study computer science (CS) [1]. It is a really big platform with lots of partners, which makes not only girls, but all students (and also teachers) to reconsider CS as a creative, connected to real-world examples, exciting, and the most important, as gender neutral science [1]. Microsoft runs very literate solution, covering the earliest stages of professional orientation, additionally, it educates not only pupils and students, but also teachers how teach STEM in interesting way. That is the exemplar, and in case of its wide spreading the nearest future without strong glass walls will come true.



All in all, the issue of gender segregation on the labor market still needs further discussion and investigation. There could be no alternative opinion about achieved equality and that gender gap at work is just an idle talk. Salary and occupational gaps are the ice peaks, while the stereotypical thinking and prejudice about valuable gender colored skills and professions still persist and are being reproduced. The way of overcoming it, of transforming intellection is long and sophisticated. Thus the problem is not modern, it requires modern multidimensional solutions: it ought to touch all the stages of persons growing, primary and secondary socialization. Obviously, some valuable companies explore the first steps in educating the population overall. If the tendency of good deep examples, like Microsoft does, is popularized, the world will get a chance to cope with other grounded types of segregation. Thus it will surely take much time and resources, the results with nonzero sum for all participants (employers and employees) worth it.

References


  1. Inspire girls in STEM
  2. Framed before we know it: How gender shapes social relations
  3. ON RUSSIAN: Gender segregation and labour mobility [Гендерная сегрегация и трудовая мобильность]
  4. ON RUSSIAN: Why girls don't prefer maths [Почему девушки не идут в математику]
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