Intersectionality refers to the sociological theory that describes several threats of discrimination against individual of different race, gender or ethnicity. It is the way by which multiple inequalities are being defined. Intersectionality happens when an individual is advantaged in one way and disadvantaged in another way. Kimberle Crenshaw first introduced the term in 1991 in her famous work Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence Against Women of Color. In the journal, Crenshaw talks about the politicization of violence against women. She specifically identified the violence against African-American women. She described that Black women are discriminated at the workplace first for being a women and then for being Black. Intersectionality, as Crenshaw defines, refers to the different means by which gender and race interact to “shape the multiple dimensions of Black women’s employment experiences”. According to Brah and Phoenix, intersectionality is a concept emphasizing the various elements of social life that are inseparable.
With the advancement in technology and science, the emergence of globalization and new concepts in business, the human race has shown many promises. However, it still has to develop in one particular area and that is gender equality. Women in workplaces are still being subordinated. Many would argue that women have advanced magnificently over the past few decades in terms of working equally with men. It is but true that although there has been a rise in women’s participation in the economy and politics of nations, they are still perceived as weaker and hence less deserving. Speaking about gender inequality, two types of job segregation can be seen. The first is vertical where individuals are not appointed to higher ranks in an organization because of race, gender or age. The second is horizontal segregation where one gender dominates the other in terms of workforce. To put it simply, horizontal segregation refers to the fact the there are jobs where men are assumed to overpopulate women and vice versa. A good example of horizontal segregation is men’s domination in the public sphere and women in the private sphere. Over the years, the graph showing male workers in the public sphere and women in the private sphere has largely remained consistent with some minor fluctuations. As per various reports, women comprise less than 65% of workforce in the European Union and men on the other hand comprise close to 80% of the total workforce in the public sphere. In countries like India and other Asian nations, women are stereotyped as homemakers, not having any need to work in public organizations.
The notion that women make great homemakers and not leaders stems from the age old belief of men. According to the dominant gender that is male, women possess qualities that are most suited to take care of the family and home. Sociological theories that developed overtime further established this fact although implicitly. The sociology theorists like Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, C Wright Mills, Erving Goffman and Michael Foucault amongst others are some theorists who made a division in the role of gender in the society. Durkheim introduced the ‘division of labor’ in the society that all men should have equal amount of work, nowhere does he mention the role of women. Weber too has similar notions about women.
Many studies and researches have shown that women are more effective than men are in terms of leading an organization. According to a study conducted by Paul Gregg and Jonathan Wadsworth, it was revealed that women are not less than men are when all the contexts of leadership are taken into consideration. Further, the study showed that women showed significantly more effectiveness than men in terms of other aspects of leadership. Despite these findings, women are still devalued whether in the society or in the workplace. The key reason for this could be attributed to the perceived notion of people regarding the responsibilities of women. In fact, even women are responsible for their current devaluation because as it has been seen, many women in the past did not feel the need to perform any outside responsibility as they had men to do it. In the modern workplace too, women have the ingrained bias like men that resists them from valuing their own work.
Sigmund Freud, the famous psychoanalyst, in his theory of psychosexual development states that women are less moral than men are in the sense that their superego was inferior and less developed. He reasons his assumption by stating that women do not have the genitalia and that they are envious. According to the moral development theory of Kohlberg, men are far ahead then women in the society for the fact that they reach the stages of development in quick time and women stay behind. These theories and assumptions made the renowned theorists have contributed further towards shaping the ideology and overall thinking of the future generations.
Gender plays a vital role in deciding the wage of workers in almost all the organizations, either small medium or large. McKie et al. cite the example of food retail in order to present this gender gap in wages. According to the authors, food retail is a sector where gender segregation is the most visible because the companies prefer part-time women workers who are paid way less than other male workers do. The women workers work on low wage in order to combine their responsibilities to care and paid work. The analysis by the researchers found that shop assistants in food retails in Scotland tend to prioritize the unpaid care work and restrict the workers to be promoted. In recent years, women working in the film industry have raised their voice against the unequal pay offered to them compared to the men. A case of Mark Wahlberg, the Hollywood top rated actor being paid almost 1500 times more than his female costar Michelle Williams brings forth the gender pay gap issue predominantly. Many film actors and others from the industry spoke out against it. Claudia Goldin, a sociologist explains this biased attitude of people regarding gender pay by pointing to the workplace flexibility that women seem to lack at the time of childbirth and after.
Gallant further provides insights into the under-representation of women in leadership at higher education institutes. The author points out that this has become a relentless global phenomenon. He uses the symbolic interactionism theory to reevaluate the issue. As per the symbolic interactionism theory, an interactive environment provides humans with the best opportunity to express them clearly. The evaluation that involved eight women participants brought to the surface the ambiguities in the thoughts of these women regarding leadership. Gallant finds that only 56% of women were represented in higher education in 2013 although only a few women represented senior posts in academic field. This study shows that women have been molded in such a way that even they are not able to realize the discrimination. Their long perceived notion about their position in an organization is still that of inferior or subordinate to men.
Anitha et al. on the other hand, talk about the South Asian Women (SAW) within the sphere of industrialization. The authors bring forth two cases from the past – the Grunwick case of 1976 and the Gate Gourmet case of 2005 – in order to provide a clear image of discrimination against SAW in the UK. In 1976, majority of East African Asian ethnicity women went on a strike against the biased representation of African Asian ethnic women at the Grunwick Film Processing Laboratories. In 2005, another incident in the UK resurfaced intersectionality when South Asian Women especially women from the Punjab province of India were wrongly treated at the Gate Gourmet company that provided meals to British Airways passengers. The women were made to work in harsh conditions to prepare food for the BA and in addition, they were allowed less time for break, less leaves and less pay. The authors have highlighted the identity crisis of SAW population in the UK especially three decades ago. They try to analyze the clash between the diasporic identity on one hand and their identity as women on the other. This study presents a better view of the gender inequality intersecting with the equality on grounds of ethnicity.
Yasmin Hussain in her book titled Writing Diaspora: South Asian women, culture and ethnicity further mentions the discrimination of individuals on grounds of ethnicity and gender. The author makes a point about intersectionality and its representation in the popular media. The book mentions the plight of South Asian Women over centuries in the UK and how their voices have been expressed through works of art. She inquires about the realization of the people regarding the condition of women of different ethnicity presented through movies and literature.
In recent years, it has been found that ethnic and gender discrimination in the UK has cost the country a combined loss of more than 125 billion pounds. A study by the Center for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) found that UK loses 123 billion pounds every year on grounds of gender discrimination in the workplace while 2 billion pounds is lost in matters where discrimination based on ethnicity is recorded.
Nirmal Puwar sheds further light into the discrimination of the Black people and other working class bodies stating that the white men in the British senior civil service occupy all the important posts while the black senior civil servants are positioned subordinate to the white officials. The author highlights the role of black civil servants in understanding the somatic norm that underlies the representation of white men. Men in today’s world are still discriminated on grounds of their ethnicity. The recent cases from Australia where students from the Asian ethnicity were brutally attacked raises concerns regarding the situation of ethnic minorities around the world. The case of UK especially after Brexit further proves this. In the U.S. as well, cases of discrimination based on ethnicity is still prevalent. Palantir, a tech company at the Silicon Valley in U.S. was charged 1.7 billion dollars to settle the lawsuit that alleged racial discrimination against it. The company was found discriminating against Asian applicants who applied for job
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