Power relationships between genders Unit

GENDER RELATIONS

Powerrelationships between genders

Unit

Abstract

Socialconstruction of gender assigns different roles to the differentsexes. The broadening of sexuality beyond the two traditional sexesand social economic changes has introduced new issues in powerrelationship across genders both in the workplace and at home. Thefact that women have increased their presence in the workplace marksa stride towards gender equality. However, this has not helped powerrelations at home because women are assigned less power than men inthe workplace which is replicated again at home. On the other hand,the rise of powerful women in the workplace has threatened the powerof men at home given way to an interesting situation. Nonetheless, adominant effect is women have gained more power in line with genderequality. One implications of this has been familial conflict overpower distribution resulting to higher rates of divorce.

Powerrelationships reflected in the interactions that exist in theworkplace between the genders (male and female) are also found withinthe home

Genderrelations debates have intensified over the years with equality asthe core subject. The 21stcentury has seen increased dialogue regarding gender roles and genderpower relations both at home and in the workplace with women eager tochallenge the status quo that has assigned women to relativelyinferior roles. Increased presence of women in the workplaces hasincreased visibility of glaring issues in gender relations such aspay gap and labor distribution among others. Traditionally, womenhave been assigned the role of caregivers in the family while men areassigned the role of breadwinners. Following socioeconomic changes,these roles have been challenged with women seeking equality.However, systems and processes both in the workplace and family havein one way promoted and hindered this change. Nonetheless, theworkplace dynamics have reiterated the traditional role of women asinferior to that of men despite increased number of women being seenas positive step towards gender equality. Today, the American femalereceives 77% of male’s pay in the workplace despite samequalifications and similar roles (Whitehouse 2014). In short, powerrelationships in the workplace between the genders (male and female)are replicated home. Gender roles and power relationships ofteninfluence the opportunities for personal and professional success inlife.

Genderroles are shaped in households and family relations. Kabeer says that“Gender relations are not confined to the domestic arena —although households constitute an important institutional site onwhich gender relations are played out — but are made, remade andcontested in a range of institutional arenas” (p. 3). This meansthat how different genders are assigned power and how they exercisepower in the household is likely to be replicated in the workplace. Afew years ago, females have played second fiddle to men in householdswhere men were viewed as the rightful power holders and leaders offamilies. In most societies and cultures, husbands were viewed as thehead of the family while the woman is viewed as the neck to supportthe head. This direction of influence is symbiotic. Workplacesinfluence power relations at homes while family environmentinfluences distribution and gender relations at work.

Genderroles have in the past defined labor division. In most traditionalsocieties, females were assigned feminine duties such as raisingchildren and doing household chores. Males were assigned what wereperceived to be more masculine duties such as hunting, fishing andfathering. This division of labor has been carried on in modernsocieties despite various attempts to address these myths behindthem. For most young girls in school, science subjects are largely ano go zone as they are perceived to belong to males while humanitiesare dominated by females. The same case applies to careers such asteaching which are perceived to be more feminine and hence aredominated by women (Holmes 2007). Other careers such as engineering,computer engineering, mechanical engineering and other technical jobsare dominated by men as they are perceived to be more masculine.These perceptions are however, being challenged by moderndevelopments.

Differentcultures shape the composition and distribution of power across thegender divide. Previous studies have viewed power as intricatelyintertwined with connections both in workplace and in the family.Therefore, the struggle for power is also a struggle for connectionas a type of need. This perspective first suggested by Richard Wattsin his books Powerin Family Discoursesuggests that power defines familial relations. He cites variousexamples in familial relations defined by power such as the eldestson having a say over other siblings. However, it is not always thatpower in familial relations follows an age or sex path as careers andaccomplishment in comparison to other family members can be sourcesof power in a family (Watts 1991).

Economictheorists argue that gender roles are beneficial to society andfamily. The theory of specialization which is supported by biologicaltheories indicates that families and societies can thrive best ifmembers are assigned duties according to their skills and abilities.Biologists argue that women are naturally best suited to bear andraise children as opposed to men who are have the physical attributesand strength to fend and defend the family. Therefore, biologists andeconomics agree that women are best suited to stay at home and raisechildren while men should engage in paid work to support the family.With women challenging men for same positions in the workplace andeven for senior roles and others that were traditionally viewed asbelonging to male. The same attitude is being replicated at home withvarious reported outcomes.

Itis these claims that professional accomplishments or power in theworkplace that can be replicated at home that are rocking traditionalfamilial power relations. Tannen (2005) says that for most families,the term “sisters” or “brothers” is used to imply close andequal. Outside familial relations, the term “he/she is like abrother/sister to me” communicates a similar message of close andequal. However, hierarchical relationships in the workplace precludecloseness. Additionally, the notion that brothers and sisters areequal denies the power struggles in familial relations and assumesthat all family siblings possess the same perceived power in ahousehold. Therefore, transferring the hierarchical powerdistribution associated with the workplace implies that one’sposition in the workplace and the power he/she wields over subjectsand subordinates may be applied at the household. This is to meanthat individuals will attempt to replicate the power they areassigned in the workplace at home.

Thenit is correct to say that modern workplace patterns challenge thetraditional gender role patterns at home in some cases. This wouldmean that men who possess very little power in the workplace in termsof hierarchy in organizational structure may lose their societyassigned gender role as the head of family and some power that isassigned to that role. For women taking leadership roles at theworkplace, society has a different view about their role. They areexpected to work harder than men just to be considered deserving ofsuch positions or just to be compared as equally competent as men inthose positions. However, societies still expects women to challengefor the same positions of power with men and at the same time steeraway from female traits and also stay away for displayingpredominantly male characteristics (Oerton 2013). This is as a resultof gendered labor division and distribution in the workplace.

Thegendered labor designation has increased the vulnerability of women.The unjust gender relations are maintained by males sexist andgendered practices, masculine workplace cultures espoused inleadership and management skills, men’s domination over decisionmaking and powerful constructions of masculinity (Tannen 2005). Thisis evident in the fact that despite women increasing their presencein the workplace, they still occupy significantly few positions intop firms. For instance, in the fortune 500 companies, less than 15%CEO positions fall to women while in other organizations they holdover 40% of CEO positions. Such practices have ensured that despitewomen making meaningful trends to attain gender equality, systemicpractices and processes limit them to close the gap for good. On theother hand, workplaces acceptance of same sex relationships andindividuals challenges the traditional notion of the male as thedominant gender and the female as the submissive one. Such notionshave prepared societies for reversed roles and assisted indeconstructing gender.

Wherefemales challenge their gender roles and differentiate their genderroles in the workplace and at home, conflict results. Divorce anddomestic violence are two of the most common forms of conflictresulting from workplace power relationship between the genders beingplayed out at homes. Women are no longer willing to be play secondfiddle and are willing and more ready to challenge to the toppositions same as men. Iversen and Roselblauth (2006) indicate thatcompetition for similar positions and gender equality issues beingpromoted in the workplace do not fit traditional home power andfamilial relations. Where males are not willing to be challenged fortheir powerful positions as head of family or bread winner or indecision making, the conflict might result. Where such conflict isnot resolved amicably divorce may result. Nonetheless, it is onlyproper to admit that is just one potential causes of the high numberof divorce cases being reported in developed nations which is by nocoincidence have a higher percentage of women engaged in paid work.Therefore, as Oerton (2013) argues, the hierarchical organizationalstructures are responsible for gender inequalities and current powerrelations that disadvantage females.

Allin all, there are various ways that the current workplace genderpower relations are being played out at home. The effect has been animbalance in traditional power relations in the family. It is clearas discussed above that systemic processes have tended to promotemale domination in the workplace and at home. Men are still receivingrelatively higher wages than women on average and labor division isalong the socially constructed gender lines. Women have beenpersuaded to careers and positions in the workplace that are moresocially acceptable to the male dominated society. As such, womenhave not been able to exercise their power and freedoms as equalhuman beings. The process of pushing for equality and equality is along and it has started bearing fruit. However, given that somesections of society are not willing or are not ready to fit to thenew power relationships between the genders, negative side effectssuch as divorce have resulted.

References

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