Throughout history, the female population has always received less average wages as compared to the male population. As of August 2020, Australia’s national gender pay gap is at 14% (Government of Australia 2020), which means the men of Australia earn 240 dollars more per week as compared to the women (The Guardian 2019). What this implies is that the average salary of a male if higher by almost fifteen percent as compared to that to a female worker. This huge pay rap comes as a result of various factors including discrimination and biases against women, difficulty to reach higher positions, establishing a work-life balance etc. Currently, the Gender Pay Gap (GPG) is gaining a lot of attention and criticism as it highlights the barriers Australian women still face to have the gain access to the same rewards and opportunities as a man (The Guardian 2019). This essay will be looking at the problem of unequal pay amongst the two genders from a critical sociological perspective and try to understand the roots of such issues. The essay will first look at the current situations related to the problem followed by looking at the issue from a feminist perspective. An attempt will be made to understand what effects these have on the women and conclusions will be drawn from it.
The ILO (International Labor Organization) has estimated that women, on an average, are paid about 20% less as compared to a man all around the world (ILO 2019). This essentially means that women all across the world are paid unequally as compared to a man. When looking into the reasons for these circumstances, it is found that they are a result of multiple factors. One of the contributing factors is lack of higher education for females (ILO 2019). Other factors include under-representation of women in leadership roles, the domestic responsibilities of women and various gender stereotypes against working women and jobs performed by such women (ILO 2019). There have also been situations where women have been considered “inferior” or “incompetent” as compared to the male crowd (Parker and Funk 2017).
Forms of sexual harassment faced by women in workplaces have also caused a disparity in between the two genders (Parker and Funk 2017) which also resulted in working not performing to their potential in a workplace. Most societies ignore these challenges faced by the women and there is a need for such societies to acknowledge these gender gaps and work towards reducing them. When addressing such disparities, it has been brought to notice that it is difficult to overcome them due to the employment of women and men in different labor jobs (Kee 2006 p. 408-427). Despite the implementation of various acts and policies, such issues still exist throughout the world. The policies have failed to bring about any significant changes related to equal pay in current times.
Social issues can be studied using various sociological perspectives (Lindsey 2014 p. 14). It is a well-known fact that gender and gender roles play a very important role in our society. In fact, understanding genders has almost completely reshaped the theoretical and empirical foundations of sociology (Lindsey 2014 p. 15). This revolution has led to the making of a feminism paradigm, which focuses on the various patriarchal overviews of current situations. The concepts of gender stereotypes, patriarchy, and sexism have been made famous in the world of sociology (Lindsey 2014 p. 15).
When looking through the feminist sociological theory perspective, all biases that exist in between genders are illuminated (Lindsey 2014 p. 18). The feminist perspective highlights the inequalities in the society and emphasize on various concepts like feminism and globalization in order to improve the standard of living. When talking about the gender pay gap from a feminist perspective, it is highlighted that the pay gap has affected the self-confidence of women along with affecting their life savings and pension plans (Striking Women 2020). Women’s competence and skills are consistently undervalued and they are promoted much less as compared to men (Striking Women 2020). According to Lips (2018 p. 417-433) a variety of structural and psychological factors come together to sustain the gender pay gap in a particular society. The feminist sociologists credit the norms of discrimination and the patriarchal society for the existence of this inequality in pay. Women’s incursion into other domains of employment are looked upon as a threat to existing stereotypes, hierarchies and the existing patterns of work-family balance (Lips 2018 p. 417-433). It has also been shown that women of color face far more discrimination compared to white women (Bleiweis 2020).
According to the feminist perspective, the gender roles are an outcome of the power and social importance that a particular gender holds. The female gender has been considered inferior for a while now, despite the attempts made to change this social importance (Schieder and Gould 2016). The concepts of discrimination, societal norms and gender stereotypes have ultimately led to women facing unequal pay along with limited occupation choices. It has to be acknowledged that the society we live in is a male-dominated, or a patriarchal society. Till recent years, women did not have voting rights or any other rights like men did (Schieder and Gould 2016). Women being considered inferior are rooted in the minds of various individuals situated at the top positions of their areas and this has effectively caused a discrimination against women.
The feminist sociological perspective is seen constantly challenging these beliefs and breaking the stereotypes against working women. They have pointed out that inequality is built into the organizations of marriage and families (Lorber 2011 p. 355-359). Through gender reform feminism and gender revolution feminism, it has been pointed out that these inequalities are not biological but psychological (Lorber 2011 p. 355-359). They have also questioned the concepts of power and privilege and how the media and other factors have normalized the presence of these inequalities (Lorber 2011 p. 355-359). Feminist activism continues to challenge the societal norms and spread the message of equality and equal opportunities amongst people.
Women as a social group have been facing under-representation and inequalities since a very long time. The social groups have always treated women as inferior and this continues to exist till this moment (Lorber 2011 p. 355-359). A study has shown that many women are tired of being treated like the weaker member or the victim, and they just want to be treated equally (The Guardian 2017). Women, in general, are seen taking a stand whenever they are being treated unequally. Women have started to respect themselves and their work to a point where they are supporting one another and standing against any inequalities that they face (NOW 2020). This is not only seen in the corporate industry but also in media and film industry. Many organizations and campaigns have come up to support this cause. #stoptherobbery campaign was started by UN Women to raise awareness about the gender gap (UN Women 2020). Though the gender pay gap has affected the women’s self-confidence and self-awareness, they are gaining a lot of support which will, in the future, help reduce the pay gap in between men and women.
The situations regarding the gender pay gap have gotten better over the years, with the gap reducing from 40% to around 20% in the world. However, these issues still persist amongst us. The least that can be done about the pay gap is spreading awareness about it amongst the working individuals, especially the women, and asking them to stand up for themselves. With the current progress, it can be estimated that equal wages will not exist in the world until 2069 (UN Women 2020). Better progress needs to be made throughout the world in order to fasten the process of minimizing the pay gap. The first step towards minimizing this gap is proper education amongst individuals. Stereotypes regarding genders need to be completely eliminated from the society and individuals need to be aware about their rights. A proper education will help open the minds of individuals and broaden their thinking. Women, especially, should be encouraged to choose a profession of their interest without caring about others’ opinions. Women need to be empowered along with everything else. The sociologists also have a responsibility of exposing the various stereotypes present in the society and social constructions and study how these can be further eliminated. The Gender pay gap is a social issue that needs to be fought by the society as a whole.
Bleiweis, R. 2020. Quick Facts About the Gender Wage Gap. Available at https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/reports/2020/03/24/482141/quick-facts-gender-wage-gap/ [Accessed on 28/08/2020]
Government of Australia. 2020. Australia’s Gender Pay Gap Statistics 2020 | WGEA. Available at https://www.wgea.gov.au/data/fact-sheets/australias-gender-pay-gap-statistics-2020 [Accessed on 28/08/2020]
ILO. 2019. Understanding the gender pay gap. Available at https://www.ilo.org/wcmsp5/groups/public/---ed_dialogue/---act_emp/documents/publication/wcms_735949.pdf [Accessed on 28/08/2020]
Kasperkevic, J. 2017. Unequal pay for women: “I was told men should make more.” Available at https://www.theguardian.com/money/us-money-blog/2014/aug/13/women-equal-pay-gender-gap-stories-work [Accessed on 28/08/2020]
KEE, J. O. O. 2006. Glass Ceiling or Sticky Floor? Exploring the Australian Gender Pay Gap. Economic Record, vol. 82 no. 259, pp. 408–427.
Lindsey, L. L. 2014. Gender Roles: A Sociological Perspective (6th ed.). London, UK: Routledge.
Lips, H. M. 2018. Feminism, psychology, and the gender pay gap. APA Handbook of the Psychology of Women: History, Theory, and Battlegrounds, vol. 1, pp. 417–433.
Lorber, J. 2011. The Variety of Feminisms and their Contributions to Gender Equality. Gender & Society, vol. 25 no. 3, pp. 355–359.
Martin, L. 2019. Australia’s gender pay gap still 14%, with men earning $240 more a week than women. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/15/australias-gender-pay-gap-still-14-with-men-earning-240-more-a-week-than-women [Accessed on 28/08/2020]
Parker, K., & Funk, C. 2017. Gender discrimination comes in many forms for today’s working women. Available at https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/12/14/gender-discrimination-comes-in-many-forms-for-todays-working-women/ [Accessed on 28/08/2020]
Schieder, J., & Gould, E. 2016. “Women’s work” and the gender pay gap: How discrimination, societal norms, and other forces affect women’s occupational choices—and their pay. Available at https://www.epi.org/publication/womens-work-and-the-gender-pay-gap-how-discrimination-societal-norms-and-other-forces-affect-womens-occupational-choices-and-their-pay/ [Accessed on 28/08/2020]
Striking Women. 2020. Gender pay gap and the struggle for equal pay.
UN Women. 2020. Equal pay for work of equal value. Available at https://www.unwomen.org/en/news/in-focus/csw61/equal-pay [Accessed on 28/08/2020]
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