How Cultural Valuation Afforded to Men and Masculinity and Women and Feminity

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Since time immemorial, the society has been structured in a way that there is a gender that is considered superior to the other. Until recently, in most societies, the women were considered to be of lower societal status with the men considered as the members of a higher societal status. As a result, positions of influence in the economic and political world were accorded to the men with the women considered subordinate members. These cultural concepts have been carried forward and passed to generations. Over the years, it has been integrated into the organisational processes of different institutions promoting the superiority mentality. As a result, it has led to increased inequalities in the society. The paper seeks to look at how the cultural valuation afforded to women and men might interfere with gender equality in the society.

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Persistent Gender Inequality

Various scholars indicate that over the centuries, gender inequality has persisted exhibited by gender-based advantage. Anthropologists indicate for a long period in the history of mankind, women have never been in higher positions and status in the society than men (Badgett, Lau, Sears and Ho 2007). Despite some women having an elevated status in some societies either as leaders or warriors, they have been considered exceptions. Even in some of the societies where the women appear to have fared well in societal positions, they have never appeared to be privileged and dominant like men. For thousands of years, men have dominated every aspect of the society especially the political landscape. For all these years, the women have been relegated to subordinate status in the society. Badgett, Lau, Sears and Ho (2007) indicate that the women’s subordination can be traced back to prehistoric origins. In the modern era, the minds of people are interwoven to traditions that trace the subordination to the ancient era.  For instance, the women and men of the new and the old era think and act differently due to civilisation. On the other hand, parents continue socialising their children towards dissimilar interests due to traditions. People are bound to honour the established ideas and pass them to their children (Cohen and Huffman 2003: 447). It has been noted that biology is the source of the gender traditions that have for centuries depicted women as subordinate (Cohen and Huffman 2003: 447). Biological ideas identify men and women to be physically different in ways making men dominant over the women. Furthermore, the ideals of socialisation, biology, and tradition have contributed in one way or another to the persistence of gender inequalities and gender-based advantages pegged to cultural traditions (Huffman and Cohen 2004: 128). As a result, a universal norm has been established in different societies to regard cultural-social arrangements as necessary and unavoidable. Often, people interpret the arrangements as natural by association considering them as appropriate and desirable. In most cases, consistency of the gender inequalities has been attributed to having a relationship with biological and cultural ideals.

Gender inequalities have played a big role in disseminating the cultural images of gender. Over the years, women have been stereotyped as other-oriented ‘creatures’ whereas the men have been considered as self-oriented (Ely and Padavic 2007: 1123). Various intergroup social stratification theories have indicated that just like people, organisations attribute the valued cultural traits to the men that are the dominant group in the society. They argue that since men virtually dominate every aspect of the nation, the national stereotypes of men are used to reflect the most valued traits in different cultures (Ely and Padavic 2007: 1127). In most organisations, there are shared cultural beliefs which associate status expectations and characteristics (abilities and personal traits) with groups with higher status in the society. As a result, socially valued groups are assigned to members with higher status disregarding the people with low status (women). On the other hand, some institutions still justify the existing social stratification systems by endorsing legitimising stereotypes which attribute most valued traits to the men. Phillips (2005: 447) argues that various enterprises continue promoting cultural images of gender by suggesting that social hierarchies define the forms that in-group preference takes. For instance, in these scenarios, the higher status groups with greater social influences claim the most valued social traits as their own. As a consequence, the lower social groups are left to rely on creativity to redefine the less valued traits to distinguish them favourably (Kimmel and Holler 2000). The practice of organisations to continue propagating cultural images favouring one gender to another undermines the gender portrayed as a lower class gender. These stereotypes further promote gender inequalities in organisations because most of the companies would prefer to employ people considered of higher social status at the expense of the other gender. Women still remain inferior to the men in a collective majority of the organizations. The men remain the dominant figures in the employment circles. Stereotypical tendencies have played a role in promoting gender inequalities. For instance, the women are always condemned to the homes to take care of the family and take care of the home affairs. On the other hand, the men are engaged in employment and are more likely to go up the organisational ladder than the women.

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Gender Segregation

The structure and description of organisational practices further create gender segregation. According to Acker (1990: 140), gender inequality is persistent because it is integrated into the organisation’s work structure. Acker argued that even the definition of a ‘job’ contained implicit preferences for male workers. In most global organisations, employers prefer hiring employees with few distractions outside the workplace who can devote themselves totally to the firm. The preference described by a job description excludes women as they have primary responsibilities to care for their families. Acker (1990: 143) noted that there are five processes which produce gender segregation in various institutions. The processes include organisational logic, cultural symbols, individual identities, workplace interactions, and the division of labour. According to Acker (2006: 444), the divisions of labour in most institutions give more preferences to masculine traits which segregates the women. On the other hand, most of the workplace interactions make the workplace environments hostile to women. Of all the processes, Acker put much emphasis on the organisational logic. Acker (2006: 448) described the process as taken-for-granted principles and policies which managers used to exercise legitimate control over their employees. The workers comply with the policies and principles since they regard them as normal or natural business practices (England 2005: 268). Previously, other scholars had identified organisational logic as the main cause of class inequality. However, Acker’s theories identified organisational logic as a source of gender inequality. Acker’s arguments indicated that organisations supposedly used logical principles to determine the rates of employee pays and develop job descriptions. Acker (2006: 457) indicated that organisational managers often drew on gender stereotypes when developing job descriptions privileging masculine qualities which then become elevated in the hierarchies of the institution. As a consequence, organisational logic has made gender discourse embedded in institutions, therefore, promoting gender inequality in these institutions (Cha 2013, 160).

Income and Status Inequalities

Organisational processes partly play a role in creating income and status inequalities. In most of the institutions, employers make management decisions regarding the organisational practices that influence income inequality (Alvesson 2012). The stakeholders in the employment industry vary in extents which they hold internal organisational orientations and external market orientations. The orientation choices inform the employment practices used by the employers and their distributional impacts on the society. As a consequence, the employers bear the sole responsibility to set wages and match workers to their positions (Parker 2000). The decisions affect income distribution among the employers in the companies. For instance, there are various factors that inform the decisions regarding the wage rates and employee positions. Since most of the organisation’s processes give more preference to members of a culturally higher group, the men are likely to be assigned high-status jobs with higher wages than the women. Risman (2004: 433) indicates that organisational practices generate income inequality in the way they reward their employees for labour and set boundaries regarding the number of workers it can employ at a particular period. Most organisations tend to reward and credit the male employees neglecting the woman gender that is regarded to be of low status (Change 2002: 293). For instance, the number of work promotions in a particular department might be in the ratio of ten men to two women depicting inherent cases of status inequality.

Gender Identities

Research credits organisation processes for the development of gender identities. Scholars indicate that the organisational culture has shifted attention from the technical processes to concerns regarding the organisations’ socio-psychological on the people involved in the firm’s processes (Weichselbaumer 2003: 630). Different organisations have different organisational cultures. The cultures have impacts on gendered outcomes which include the social construction of both the women and the men and discriminatory practices. Wright, Baxter and Birkelund (1995: 422) explain that most of the feminist proponents argue that the organisational culture not only results in discrimination against the less dominant group (women) but also contributes to the discriminatory notions propagated towards this group and a few members of the dominant group. For instance, in situations whereby commercial airlines hire only male pilots supposedly because they have military experience, skill and exhibit qualities of courage simultaneously creates a masculine identity of the profession which excludes females from the role (Tomaskovic-Devey and Skaggs 2002: 111). On the other hand, in scenarios whereby an airline restricts the position of flight attendants to female applicants on the notion that the job description requires attentiveness and care naturally associated with female characteristics serves to exclude the male applicants for the position. In most workplace situations, gender identity is defined as the regular association of particular traits to either the women or the men (Hogg and Terry 2000: 125). The associations are based on the notions regarding sexuality. Often, the notions are assumed to characterise a particular type of gender as strong and effeminate while the other is depicted as a butch and weak.

Cultural Valuation

The cultural valuation afforded to genders, men, and women, has a likelihood of interfering with gender equality.  The valuation has an increased probability of causing conflict among the genders due to unequal distribution of resources and opportunities (Williams, Muller and Kilanski 2012: 550). For instance, research indicates that cultural valuation undermines one gender by giving the opposite gender undesired advantage.  For example, certain job descriptions might promote segregation and discrimination of one gender by giving preferences based on characteristics more dominant in one gender than the other. As a result, the more preferred gender has a higher probability of getting such opportunities at the expense of the opposite sex (Kimmel 2004). As a consequence, certain professions are likely to be flooded by a particular sex creating inequalities. The valuation arises from various factors such as the structure of the organisational processes. For instance, there are organisations with organisations cultures which make the working environment hostile to a particular gender due to discriminatory practices resulting from issues regarding the superiority complex of one gender. As a result, the valuation is likely to cause inequalities in status and incomes of people in the society and consequently interfere with gender equality.

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Over the years, cultural valuation has resulted in increased gender inequalities. The valuation is embedded in cultural norms that have over the centuries regarded men to be members of a higher social class than the women. As a result, men have been accorded preferential treatment as the systems have been structured to give them an unequal advantage over the females. Furthermore, most of the job descriptions have been designed to implicitly give a particular sex an added advantage based on their physical or social attributes which are explicitly expressed by one group. As a result, cultural valuation has had varied impacts on gender inequality. The men remain the dominant group while the women are still confined to the cultural establishments that hinder social mobility in the society.

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  1. Acker, J., 1990. Hierarchies, jobs, bodies: A theory of gendered organisations. Gender & society, 4(2), pp.139-158.
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