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The Millennium Development Goals Mdgs Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 3229 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The Millennium Development Goals are an integrated set of eight goals and 18 time-bound targets for extending the benefits of globalization to the world’s poorest citizens. The goals aim to stimulate real progress by 2015 in tackling the most pressing issues facing developing countries – poverty, hunger, inadequate education, gender inequality, child and maternal mortality, HIV/AIDS and environmental degradation. UNDP helps countries formulate national development plans focused on the MDGs and chart national progress towards them through the MDG reporting process (Wacc, 2006).

In most developing countries, gender inequality is a major obstacle to meeting the MDG targets. In fact, achieving the goals will be impossible without closing the gaps between women and men in terms of capacities, access to resources and opportunities, and vulnerability to violence and conflict.

Millennium Development Goal 3 is ‘to promote gender equality and empower women’. The goal has one target: ‘to eliminate gender disparity in primary and secondary education, preferably by 2005 and to all levels of education no later than 2015’. Four indicators are used to measure progress towards the goal: the ratio of girls to boys in primary, secondary and tertiary education; the ratio of literate women to men in the 15-to 24-year-old age group; the share of women in wage employment in the non-agricultural sector; and the proportion of seats held by women in national parliaments.

The existence of a separate goal on gender equality is the result of decades of advocacy, research and coalition-building by the international women’s movement. Its very existence demonstrates that the global community has accepted the centrality of gender equality and women’s empowerment to the development paradigm- at least at the rhetorical level.

“Gender inequality means inequality between men and women in accessing the existing resources” (Saroukhani 1991:673). In the view of Krammara & Treicehr “any kind of behavior, policy, languages, and other actions that represents a fixed, comprehensive, and institutionalized view in regard to women as inferior beings, means gender inequality”. (1985:185). Therefore, gender inequality refers to the differences between men and women in receiving social and economic advantages which is often to the benfit of men at the expense of women, which means men take superiority over women.

Men and women experience the world of work quite differently. Wage disparities, occupational sex segregation, and gender differences in authority, for example, are well recognized (e.g., Padavic and Reskin 2002). Despite distinguished changes in work, meaningful differences in these areas remain persistent features of contemporary society (England 2006, 2010).

While there are certainly other factors at play, this paper focuses on discrimination in a variety forms, including in hiring (Gorman 2005; Goldin and Rouse 2000), promotions (Olson and Becker 1983), wages (Meitzen 1986), glass ceiling, and as well as sexual harassment (Welsh 1999).Of course, documenting the contemporary occurrence of gender discrimination in employment is only a first step. As Reskin (2000, 320) argues, “We need to move beyond demonstrating that employment discrimination exists, and investigate why it persists in work organizations.” We must look at processes that lead to unequal outcomes for women and men. The real challenge is to uncover how discrimination unfolds in actual work settings.

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The issue of gender inequality can be considered as a universal feature of developing countries.One of the areas of disparity between males and females is related to the difference in their employment status which is present through occupational segregation, gender-based wage gaps, and women’s unequal image in informal employment, unpaid work and higher unemployment rates (UNFPA, 2005). As women in developing countries have low status in the community, the activities they perform tend to be valued less; and women’s low status is also perpetuated through the low value placed on their activities (March et al., 1999).

In the case of Mauritius, even though there has been a rapid change in the society where women have reached a high level and hold status such as Judges, Directors, Engineers which were unconceivable to be the fields where women could emerged; there are still some occupation where women are entangled in the culture norms and could not take the lead. For example, there are some sectors such as Fire Men at the Fire Services where there are no female officers.

There are less women who work as Electrician, Plumber or even Carpenter, as these occupations do not allow women to perform well due to their physical strength. Besides there is no doubt that there are organisations which are gender biased. Most of the organisations are entirely rules by male managerial culture as when organisations were first performed; only males were in the paid workforce. 

Despite there has been an increased in the education field at all level and the increase of women in the workforce, there has been a minor change to the men dominated culture in the workplace where women are still treated as inferior agents. Our study focused on how gender inequality still has an impact on the Mauritian female within the workplace.

General context

An Overview of Gender Inequality in Developing Countries

The issue of gender inequality can be considered as a universal aspect of developing countries. Unlike women in developed countries who are, in relative terms, economically empowered and have a powerful voice that demands an audience and positive action, women in developing countries are generally silent and their voice has been stifled by economic and cultural factors.

Economic and cultural factors, together with institutional factors state the gender-based division of labour, rights, responsibilities, opportunities, and access to and control over resources. Education, literacy, access to media, employment, decision making, among other things, are some of the areas of gender disparity.

One of the areas of disparity between males and females is related to the difference in their employment status which is distinct by occupational segregation, wage inequality, and women’s unequal representation in informal occupation, unpaid work and higher unemployment rates (UNFPA, 2005). As women in developing countries have low status in the community, the activities they perform tend to be valued less; and women’s low status is also perpetuated through the low value placed on their activities (March et al., 1999).

In-depth analysis of DHS by Hindin (2005) showed that only 17% of women in Zimbabwe, 12% in Zambia and 4% in Malawi have higher status job than their partners. The respective percentages of women whose partners have higher status jobs are 52, 43 and 53.

Women are also overrepresented in the informal sector. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 84% of women’s non-agricultural employment is informal compared to 63% of men’s. The figure is found to be 58% and 48% for women and men, respectively in Latin America (UNFPA, 2005). Studies generally show that women are more likely to be engaged in work which is for longer hours than men. For instance, in 18 of the 25 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, greater than 50% of women were employed and even in six of these countries the percentage of employed women was greater than 75% (Mukuria et al.,2005).

However, as most of the employed women work in agricultural and other activities which are mostly considered to be having limited or no financial returns, their employment does not contribute much to their status in the workplace. Thus, women in those countries are dependent on their partners in most aspects of their life. In spite of its importance in enabling women to get access to information about personal health behaviours and practices, household, and community, the percentage of women exposed to different types of media is limited in most developing countries.

Women’s limited access to education, employment opportunity, and media, attached with cultural factors, reduces their decision making power in the society in general and in a household in particular. Regarding their participation in decision making at national level, though the number of women in national parliaments has been increasing, no country in the world has yet achieved gender parity.

According to the millennium indicators data base of the United Nations, cited in the UNFPA (2005), the percentage of parliamentary seats held by women in 2005 was 16% at world level, 21% in developed countries, and 14% in developing countries. This low representation of women in national parliaments could be due, among others, to type of electoral systems in

different countries, women’s social, economic status and beliefs about women’s place in the family and society, and women’s double responsibilities for work and family (UNFPA, 2005).

Women are underrepresented in the formal sector of employment. The survey conducted by the Central Statistical Authority (CSA, 2004) showed that women account for less than half (43%) of the total employees in the country. Considering the percentage of female employees from the total number of employees by employment type, the highest was in domestic activities (78%) and followed by unpaid activities (59.3%). In other types of formal employment (e.g. government, NGOs, private organizations), the percentage of female workers is less than 35.

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On the other hand, the survey showed overrepresentation of female workers in the informal sector. About 58% of working women work in the informal sector whereas the percentage of working men in the informal sector was 37.7 % (ibid).The breakdown of the federal government employees by occupational groups also indicated gender disparity. From federal government employees found in the clerical and fiscal type of jobs 71.3 % were female, while the percentage of females was slightly more than half (51%) in custodial and manual type of jobs.

Women make up 25% and 18% of the administrative and professional and scientific job categories, respectively, indicating that upper and middle level positions are overwhelmingly dominated by men (Federal Civil Service Commission, 2005). This concentration of women in the informal sector and low level positions has implication on their earnings. In this regard, the survey showed four out of ten women civil servants earn Birr 300 a month compared to two out of ten for men (Federal Civil Service Commission, 2005).Ethiopian women’s access to mass media is one of the lowest. In their DHS comparative report, Mukuria et al. (2005) show that, among 25 Sub-Saharan African countries.

Chapter 2

Component of gender inequality-horizontal and vertical segregation

Jonung (1984, p. 45) defines the presence of occupational gender segregation as when women and men are given different occupations that is reliable with their overall shares of employment, irrespective of the nature of job that they have. Gender segregation mean when the percentage of one gender is higher than that of males and females in an occupation. It reflects the gender differences in employment opportunity. The number of occupation with segregation against women is far greater than the number of occupations with segregation against men. Occupational gender segregation consists of two main component dimensions known as horizontal and vertical segregation (Blackburn et al, 2000).

Horizontal segregation is known as under or over representation of certain group in the workplace which is not ordered by any criterion (Bettio and Verashchagina, 2009). According to Anker (1998) horizontal segregation is an absolute and universal characteristic of contemporary socio-economic systems.

It focuses mainly when men and women possess different physical, emotional and mental capabilities. Such discrimination occurs when women are categorized as less intelligent, hormonal and sensitive (Acker 1990). Women are labeled as unreliable and dependent workers when they are pregnant. They are less competent as they will not work as long and hard as others. They become more stressful and sensible to tiny issues happen in the workplace. Martin (1994) declared that in masculine management style, most of the time women possess ‘soft skills’ and men possess ‘hard skills’. It is this concept which creates gender segregation in the workplace.

Vertical segregation referred to the under or over representation of a clearly identifiable group of workers in the workplace at the top of an ordering based on ‘desirable’ attributes such as income, prestige, authority and power.

Huffman (1995) finds that women do not possess enough supervisory authority at work, in education, occupational experience and prestige. One reason that women lack authority is because most women are more concentrated in female-dominated occupations which comprise fever position of authority than male-dominated occupations. Moreover, it is viewed that men’s have greater status value, that is men’s personality are more valuable than women’s and they are much more skilled. (Broverman et al. 1972; Deaux and Kite 1987; Eagly 1987).

Men possess more powerful position in the workplace (Bridges & Nelson 1989). Women’s wage rates are lower than men’s even if their qualifications are similar. As women enter in the workplace, this reduces the level of prestige related with the task and men leave these occupations.

Sex discrimination-discrimination, harassment and glass ceiling

In many parts of the world, women have experienced breakthroughs in their rights in employment. Despite these advances, women from every country and culture continue to face sex discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace. The international community has recognized both discrimination based on sex in the terms and conditions of employment and sexual harassment as violations of the fundamental human rights of women (Gudrun and Danya, 1998).

Although sex discrimination is prohibited by law, it continues to be a widespread problem for working women. There are three forms of sex discrimination that have an effect on women in organizations: overt discrimination, sexual harassment and the glass ceiling. Each has negative effects on women’s status and ability to perform well at work.

Overt discrimination

Overt discrimination is defined to make gender as a decisive factor for employment-related decisions. This type of discrimination was targeted by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited making decisions based on sex in employment-related matters such as hiring, firing, and promotions. It consist such behaviours as to refuse to hire women, to pay them inequitably or even to steer them to “women’s jobs”. Overt discrimination also led to occupational sex segregation where jobs are classified by low pay, low status and short career ladders (Reskin, 1997).

Sexual Harassment

MacKinnon (1979:1) defined sexual harassment as “the unwanted imposition of sexual requirements in the context of a relationship of unequal power”. As in overt discrimination, sexual harassment is a persistent gendered problem for women in the workplace around the world. Sexual harassment is a type of sex discrimination, but one manifestation of the larger problem of employment-related discrimination against women. It now appears obvious that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination.

There are three psychological dimensions of sexual harassment that continued to persist worldwide: sexual coercion, gender harassment and useless sexual attention ((Fitzgerald et al., 1995; Gelfand et al., 1995). The case of sexual harassment in the workplace is mainly due to obtain more power and status than the opposite sex (e.g., Baugh, 1997; McKinney, 1992; Piotrkowski, 1998; Riger, 1991; Welsh, 1999)

Statistical discrimination is another form of sex discrimination in the workplace, it consists of sex-typed job assignment (i.e. “error discrimination”-Aigner & Cain 1977, England & McCreary 1987, Bielby & Baron 1986a). For example, employers put men into jobs which consist physical demands and women into jobs demanding social skills (Bielby & Baron 1984, Farkas et al 1991). However, employers introduce gender segregation in job assignments exceeds technical or economic justifications: within the “mixed-sex” occupations that either sex could presumably perform, small differences in job requirements were accompanied by large differences in sex composition (Bielby & Baron 1986a:782).

The Glass ceiling

The term ‘the glass ceiling’ was coined in a 1986 Wall Street Journal report on corporate women. The glass ceiling is a concept that most frequently refers to invisible or artificial barriers that do not allow women from advancing past a certain level in corporations, government, education and nonprofit organization (Federal Glass Ceiling Commission -FGCC, 1997; Morrison and von Glinow, 1990). These barriers reflect “discrimination … a deep line of demarcation between those who prosper and those left behind.” The glass ceiling is the “unseen, yet unbreachable barrier that keeps minorities and women from rising to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder, regardless of their qualifications or achievements” (Federal Glass Ceiling Commission 1995b:4; emphasis added). This official description suggests that the definition of glass ceiling must know that it reflects job inequality that is unexplained by a person’s past “qualifications or achievements”; it reflects labor market discrimination, not just labor market inequality. For the purpose of this study, the glass ceiling concept is discussed regarding women who suffer from discrimination in the workplace.

The usual method to know where there is discrimination is to look for inequalities that are unexplained by prior personality of the employees. Inequalities that originate from past discrimination in education or training or from choices that people make to pursue nonmarket goals such as family, volunteer work or leisure are not generally measured as part of a glass ceiling. Therefore, glass ceiling inequality represents a gender or racial difference that is not explained by other job-relevant characteristics of the employee.

The glass ceiling is a third type of discrimination that affects women in the workplace and it is an important factor for women who do not get enough access to power and status in organizations. It also includes gender stereotypes, lack of opportunities for women to get promotion and prevent women to get higher income than men.


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