Lecture 5: Gender and Work

The Modern Divide Between the Public and Private Sphere

  • Virtually every society has a gendered division of labour that must be done in order for the society as a whole to survive
  • Along with industrialization, there was a huge shift in how work was understood. The place of work became outside the home, which is a public sphere where work happened, and home as private sphere where reproduction, domestic responsibilities happened
  • In the twentieth century, the rate of women entering the labour force exceeded that of men
  • In the twentieth century, the percentage of women working: 16.2% in 1911 to more than 62% in 2008(between age 25-54, more than 80% in 2003)
  • Shift from male breadwinner model to the dual-earner couples, distributing family responsibilities

Precarious Work and Feminization of Labor

  • From standard employment relationship (family wage, benefits, long-term contract) to precarious work (Ex. Not guaranteed employment at a factory unlike standard employment relationship) (Social work that is precarious, mainly occupied by women)
  • Female jobs in retail or child care are often categorized as precarious employment
  • The Rise of Precarious Work Since the 1970s: Currently one third of Canadian jobs and precarious, and 40% of women (and 29% of men) fit this category
  • Precarious work is not family friendly. It became the norm and now it is becoming common, especially for young adults
  • This has allowed employers to hire women on terms that would be unacceptable to most men, because female work is considered ‘just doe pin money’ (extra money)
  • Precarious work includes lack of control over work conditions, lack of regulatory protection, and low income
  • Precarious work also includes self-employment, temporary work, the holding of multiple jobs, and part-time or on-call labour
  • The reason why many women tolerate precarious employment is because it pays better than foreign women working as domestic workers. Hence, they are still better off than how they would get paid in their own countries
  • Most importantly, women’s over-representation in precarious employment contributes to the gender wage gap

Ideologies of Male Breadwinner / Female Housewife Model

  • Gender ideologies still exist. The belief that women should be at home has not changed
  • Workplace as a testing ground of masculinity. Still to this day, the workplace is a ground for masculinity (Ex. Breaking Bad: Walter White reinforces his masculinity by drug dealing, because his masculinity is threatened as a teacher, whereas his friends are millionaires. His wife works as well, but it is not enough)
  • Men often feel that they are supposed to be tough, aggressive, and competitive at the workplace. They combine masculinity with workplace success. They remain unaware that the work they are doing is also producing and reproducing gender dynamics; they see it as just ‘work’, Men, hate failure at workplace
  • Confining women’s work as auxiliary, secondary and offering assistance to men’s work
  • Denying women a fair living wage based on the assumption that their income is extra pocket money

Persisting Gender Discrimination in the Workplace

  • Gender discrimination at the workplace particularly excludes women. Employers feel women don’t want to work, have different interests, and don’t need the money
  • What is sex / gender discrimination? : the question of bona fide occupational requirement (BFOR). BFOR requires certain criteria of an individual to perform the job
  • The case of RCMP and Firefighting weight/ height requirement and Meiorin test (1990). Prior to 1990, there was weight and height requirement to join the police force. You were required to have certain strength to become a firefighter. Statistically women weigh less. Discrimination therefore occurred because the police force required men that had a certain body type. Therefore, the weight / height requirement factor was replaced by a new fitness test which is a strength test. Tawny Meiorin, a BC firefighter, failed one component of the test, and was therefore dismissed. She argued that the test was discriminatory and invalid as a measure of BFOR. The Supreme Court agreed, and argued that evidence showed that prescribed aerobic capacity was not necessary for either men or women to perform work of a forest fire fighter safely and efficiently
  • The case of Hooters? Hooters hire specific women with particular look. When men tried working at hooters, they were rejected. In response, a lawsuit was filed arguing sex discrimination. The Hooters restaurant argued that they required specific gender for restaurant purpose (Ex. Sex appeal).  Women promoted a certain image. Hooters countered that female sexuality is a bona fide occupation. Female sexuality was mandatory to sell sex appeal

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

  • Sexual harassment is a kind of sex discrimination. It refers to an unlawful employment practice for an employer
  • The Supreme Court of Canada defines it as a unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that damagingly affects the work environment or leads to adverse job-related consequences for the victim of the harassment

Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment: A type of sexual harassment where a trade of sexual contact is offered for a reward or avoidance of punishment (Ex. 'Sleep with me and you’ll get promoted’ OR ‘don’t sleep with me and you’ll get fired’).

  • Hostile Environment: It creates an environment where women in particular feel unwelcomed, uncomfortable, threatened or unsafe (Ex. A fire fighter claimed that she had faced discrimination and harassment, including the display of hardcore pornography, the placing of a condom with a sexual slur on it in her locker and tampering with her equipment)
  • The issue of sexual harassment is not sexual attraction, but power. It is a display of power. It is about making workers feel unwelcome in the workplace, about reminding them that they do not belong because the workplace is men’s space. A way of keeping women in their places and out of men’s
  • However, sexual harassment is not always directed towards women. Men too can be harmed by sexual harassment from others (Ex. An older Ohio firefighter who sued his department after complaining that adult diapers and pornographic materials showing older men having homosexual sex had been placed in his gear)
  • However, most harassers remain male

Gendered Labor Market and the Organizational Structure

  • Underlying the idea of organizational gender neutrality
  • Lies the Ideal (Male) worker who completely devote to work without family responsibilities, often with the support of the wife
  • This is problematic for women who need to balance both family and work
  • Sex segregation is when higher occupations are dominant by men, and lower by women
  • Horizontal segregation is when women and men belong to different fields based on gender (Ex. Men to construction industry and women to social care industry). There are fields that offer better pay (mostly those which men are occupied in)
  • Vertical segregation is when women and men belong to different positions based on education, skills and experience in the same field (Ex. Lawyer, paralegal)
  • Sex segregation refers to women being denied equal work status as men within the same field
  • Segregation can be either horizontal or vertical
  • Vertical segregation refers to when individuals within the same field are segregated based on differences in education, experience, and skill (Ex. In an organization more men work as senior managers while more women work in administration)
  • Horizontal segregation refers to when women are segregated within fields different from which men are occupied in (Ex. Males are predominant in construction industry and females in social care)
  • Therefore, the division of labour exists because men and women have different jobs even in the same fields, or placed in jobs under different fields that are more appropriate for one gender than the other
  • Sex segregation itself explains the wage gap. It seems that women’s work is simply not valued as highly as we assign to men. Feminine work therefore rewards less money than men’s work
  • One of the easiest ways to see the impact of sex segregation on wages is to watch what happens when a particular occupation begins to change its gender composition (Ex. Clerical work was considered a highly skilled occupation, in which all-male labour force was paid well. But later on, most clerical workers became female. Clerical work was re-evaluated as less demanding of skill and less valuable to an organization, thus workers’ wages fell) (Ex. Veterinary medicine which was also a male-dominated field. The number of female veterinarians has doubled today since 1991. Women vets therefore earn less than male ones)

Glass Ceiling

  • Invisible discrimination against women in hiring, promotion, and retention. This often leads to vertical segregation
  • The glass ceiling restricts equal promotion opportunities for women in the workplace because of barriers. A barrier can be, corporate management by not promoting workplace diversity, having inadequate job evaluation criteria and relying on gender stereotypes in evaluation. Qualified women cannot be promoted to management level positions because the glass ceiling reinforces an all-male atmosphere in high-level positions
  • Glass ceiling involves invisible barriers including a corporate management having certain hiring criteria, evaluation etc.

Sticky Floor: Refers to women not experiencing upward mobility because they are trapped in low-waged positions

Glass Cellar: Warren Farrell argues that men are victims of glass cellar, because they are stuck in the most hazardous and dangerous occupations (Ex. Construction worker, boilermaker, roofer, truck driver).

Glass Escalator: When men enter female dominant occupations, male workers are promoted and hired in these fields (Ex. nursing, teaching). Glass Escalator functions opposite of glass ceiling, where there are no barriers. This is often with horizontal segregation. Men therefore earn more and are promoted faster than women in the same occupation. It seems that men, win either way. They use their gender privilege to rise quickly in the hierarchy.


  • Tokens are people who are admitted into an organization but who are recognizably different from the large majority of the members of the organization
  • A selective admission of minorities groups into the organization without changing the norms, culture, and structures of the organization and its inequality (Ex. By having Jessica as the name partner in Suits, the tries to reinforce gender equality. She is a window dressing to look great, to show that a black woman is the head of the law firm. But the hiring remains same (most lawyers in the show are men, whereas paralegals and secretaries as women))
  • Tokens are Hypervisibile as members of their category but invisible as individuals
  • It could be that you were the only man or woman, the only white person or person of colour, the only gay or straight person in a group
  • Therefore, tokens are accepted because of their minority status. They stand out in the spotlight, everyone notices them, but only because they are different

Gender Typing of Jobs is Not Fixed

  • Ex. Selling insurance
  • In North America, it is typed as men’s work but in East Asia (Japan and Korea), it is typed as women’s work

Gender Wage Gap

  • In 2006, young men employed full-time earn about $10000 more than their female counterparts, regardless of the educational level
  • A wage gap refers to the wage difference between men and women because women earn less than men.
  • This pay gap exists largely due to masculine and feminine stereotypes, where more value and pay is awarded in fields consisting of strength and competition than those consisting of co-operation and nurturing
  • This is seen in women employed in teaching, nursing, clerical positions, or in sales and services, and men employed in construction, engineering, and well-paid trades. StatsCan data indicates that the lowest paid occupations like sales and secretarial positions were common for women in 2001
  • Three factors
  • unequal division of the second shift (Ex. Childrearing, discrimination, and sex segregation)
  • In every field, women tend to be concentrated at the bottom of the pay scale. They face discrimination in hiring, and particularly in promotion (glass ceiling)
  • Gender composition of the workforce is a strong indicator of the wage: The case of veterinary medicine, computer programming
  • Mommy Track: Sheryl Sandberg argues that women should choose the employment track, with full confidence and focus

Mommy track: Refers to the ways in which workplace becomes discriminative against those workers who happen to take time off to get pregnant, bear children, and raise them.

  • A woman therefore faces a double bind. To the extent that she is a good mother, she cannot rise in the corporate world; to the extent that she rises in the corporate world, she is seen as a bad mother
  • Family-Friendly Workplace Policies: Provide set of solutions to workplace inequality including on-site child care, flexible working hours, and parental leave, which allows parents some flexibility in balancing work and family life

The Motherhood Penalty

  • Disadvantages that mothers experience in the labor market as compared to men and childless women. The wage gap becomes significant
  • A longitudinal study of women and their income shows 7% of wage penalty per child for mothers (due to loss of experience and discrimination)
  • An experimental study with resume of parents and non-parents finds discrimination at hiring for mothers (not for fathers) and 7% lower starting salary for mothers that non-mothers

Work-Family Policies for Workplace Equity

  • Family benefits, such as caregiver allowances and pensions
  • State-provided or subsidized childcare
  • Paid or unpaid maternal and parental leaves
  • Work-time policies (Ex. Flextime)
  • Pay Equity: Equal pay for equal work and equal pay for work of equal value
  • Employment Equity: Today, most employment equity policies emphasize on creating attractive workplaces for diverse employees and creating the broadest possible candidate pool from which to draw the most qualified candidate
  • In both Canada and the USA, discrimination on the grounds of pregnancy is prohibited, and employers may neither fire a woman for becoming pregnant nor fail to accommodate her pregnancy

Selling Fantasies of Rescue

Migrant Encounter in a American Military Camptown

  • In South Korea during 1960s-80s, military sexual commerce was common
  • There would be clubs where the U.S. military men working in South Korea, would find hosts for sexual exploitation or to find an intimate partner
  • The government benefitted from this because these American GIs paid money to talk with hosts or take them out for night (Ex. To talk to a host one on one, the GI would have to buy her a drink. To take her home, it would cost him $200)
  • Ex. Kristin and Scott in American Alley in South Korea
  • One day, Scott walked in and bought Kristin a drink. This later became regular as he would meet her on a daily basis. One day, Scott (19 years old), told Kristin (32 years old) that he loves her. Kristin was hesitant, but she decided to give Scott a chance. He promised Kristin and her two children that he would move with them to the U.S. However, Scott never lived up to his words
  • "But I am still working hard to love him". The mentioning of “work” here may be different from what we tend to think on a regular basis. Kristin might have met that she is trying to fulfill Scott’s desires, which can be sexually
  • At the same time, Scott might have lied to her for sexual needs, and Kristin agreed to move in with him to gain the nationality he promised
  • Indentured mobility of Filipino Hostesses and American GIs
  • Indentured mobility provides possible upward mobility for participants who agree to enter into a contract. However, they cannot freely remove themselves from the contract
  • They are therefore neither freely mobile agents nor victims controlled by terrible circumstances
  • Intimate Labor of migrant club hostesses

Intimate Labor: The work of forging and nurturing interdependent relations, as well as promoting the physical, intellectual, affective, and other emotional needs.

  • How intimate labor occurred
  • The labor the hostesses perform for the American customers in the clubs
  • The labor they perform on themselves to produce and suppress sincere feelings of love and affection. This leads to Intimate labor of the heart
  • Intimate Labor to Win the Heart: What was being sold and bought in these migrant clubs was masculinity for American GIs (Ex. One of the soldiers married a club host who needed his power and security because she felt scared, hence reinforcing his masculinity. His name was Steve who kept visiting the host because he wanted to help her)
  • Intimate Labor of the Heart: Women leaving the club wanted to produce an intimate relationship with the men. However, they needed to postpone and suppress true love because the individual they were in love might not have felt the same way (Ex. Agreeing to marriage). Hence, mobility for these women was important to keep in mind in case the relationship ceased to be a success

Selling Fantasies of Rescue in Contemporary South Korea

  • The militarized sexual commerce as a lens to examine shifting global hierarchies
  • Complicates the power asymmetry (unevenness) beyond the dichotomous construction of vulnerable Third World women vs. powerful American GIs. American GIs sold such fantasies, which reinforced masculinity and gave them power over the Third World women, who agreed to them as a way to get out or to form an intimate relationship. Hence, women became vulnerable
  • Highlights the condition of indentured mobility and unexpected and creative ways (selling fantasies) that power differentials are organized
  • Illuminates the interplay of global geopolitics and gendered pursuit of mobility and dignity in shaping intimate labor

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