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Women in the Workplace
If one takes a closer look at the issues surrounding the differences between the male and female roles in the workforce and in education, one will notice that women tend to be one step below men on the "status" or "importance" ladder.
In American society, the woman has always been viewed in the traditional viewpoint of what role she should play in the home; that she is the homemaker or caretaker. Even when women break from the stereotypical role of "housewife" and join the workforce, they still are not given an equal opportunity at acquiring a job that is seen to be as advancing or of higher recognition, as they would like to have. Men usually already take those positions.
Men are traditionally seen as being in the "supervisor" position in the home. They are the heads of the household, the breadwinners, and the women are behind the scenes, like the threads that hold everything together. The same can be said about the workplace. Men tend to hold administrative positions, while women usually have the positions that support the administrator. They are the secretaries and assistants that do the work for their male bosses and prepare things for them that later on only the administrator may receive credit for. " ‘Where,' asks the Englishman who is prominent in social welfare, 'are you're men? We see their names on the letter-heads of organizations, but when we go to international conferences, we meet almost entirely women.' 'Our men-oh, they are the chairmen of boards, they determine the financial policy of our agencies, but they leave the practice to women. They are too busy to go to conferences.'" (Mead 304).
Also, women have traditionally taken positions in fields that require doing social good or having maternal qualities which is probably linked to the role women play in the home (the role of caretaker), such as being a social worker or teaching in schools. One would also notice that men tend not to have jobs in these fields, as it would go against the stereotype of the man in the position of authority. Never actually having to take care of children, but making sure there is someone there to take care of them.
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But one cannot necessarily place full blame on either gender for the division of positions in the workforce that exist today. For these stereotypes were formed long ago, and have somehow seem to have stayed with us. These viewpoints were made from our mothers', grandmothers', and great grandmothers' times, and have been passed along down the line from generation to generation. The thought of one particular job being only for women nowadays, because of the maternal characteristics that must be displayed, is not only avoided by men, but also by women who want to break from that stereotypical role. Women don't want to feel as if they are being held to one type of career field just because they were born a woman.
We must speak rather of an endless spiraling process, in which good women were the immediate occasion of some reform, reform became thought of as women's field, this attracted women into it and further styled the field as feminine, and so kept men out. Between the two world wars there was a marked decrease in the willingness of women to enter those fields which had been ear-marked as fields of "service"; that is, fields in which the bad pay and heavy work were supposed to be ignored because they gave an opportunity to exercise womanly qualities of caring for the young, the sick, the unfortunate, and the helpless (Mead 305).
Women also haven't been given an equal shot at being heard in the classroom. It's been proven that men are naturally aggressive in nature, and that women tend to be more passive. This is not only evident in the workplace, but in the classroom environment, and can be seen at a very early age. Boys tend to shout out answers, whether they are wrong or right ones, while the girls don't attempt to participate or are not called on because they are over powered by the calling out of answers by the male students. "What I saw instead, even more than in the math classes I observed, was a kind of passive resistance to participation by the girls that went unquestioned by the teacher. Call it gender bias by omission. When, week after week, boys raised their hands to ask or answer questions in far greater numbers than girls (Orenstein 216). Teachers sometimes may or may not notice that they partake in this division of gender-based learning. Sometimes they may be allowing such behaviors to commence because they feel that it is just a part of nature, that girls won't be as active in the classroom as the boys are.
The "hidden curriculum" comprises the unstated lessons that students learn in school: it is the running subtext through which teachers communicate behavioral norm and individual status in the school culture, the process of socialization that cues children into their place in the hierarchy of larger society. Once used to describe the ways in which the education system works to reproduce class systems in our culture, the "hidden curriculum" has recently been applied to the ways in which schools help reinforce gender roles, whether they intend to or not (Orenstein 211).
Women have traditionally been playing roles in the workplace and in the classroom that tend to be seen as suitable for their behavior, whether it is unfair job positions or not participating in their learning experience in the classroom. But that trend is slowly changing and more women are beginning to realize they don't have to be held to those stereotypical roles any longer. But for the women of today to stand up for themselves and take those administrative roles, they have to be taught in the classroom to be more assertive with themselves. Maybe someday our daughters won't have to take a job as a secretary against their will just because it's a woman's job.
Mead, Margaret. Male and Female. New York: William Morrow & Company Publishers, 1949.
Orenstein, Peggy. "Learning Silence." Crisis in American Institutions. 11th ed.
Eds. Jerome H. Skolnick and Elliot Currie. Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon, 2000. 210-217.