Benefits of Women and Gender Studies

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Women and Gender Studies encourages women to redefine themselves as political actors in the world and focuses on the power of agency within each individual. Feminism is practice and theory. As a course, Women and Gender Studies allows for its students to discuss usually inaccessible debates regarding feminist theory. It critically reflects on the roles individuals have in creating change and the process to which change occurs. It focuses on the vital relationship between context, power, and agency to examine how this relationship aims for social change in communities, and ultimately, around the world. Intersection of theory, practice, and experience assesses women’s organizing and deconstructs the development of change. Practicum students, Amreek Kaur and Youmna Hadded, are examples of WGS students who used their individual insights obtained from the course to act politically and slowly reconstruct the identity of women. Theory taught in Women and Gender Studies enabled them to make changes in their communities by volunteering in organizations which focused on eliminating sex discrimination in the workplace, and patriarchal dominance in everyday relationships. Although more women presently work outside the home than in the past, they do so under different circumstances. The concern of equal pay for work of comparable value has become a matter of public policy. Although wage discrimination is not new, the attention put on it is. Amreek Kaur chose the Pay Equity Commission as her placement with purpose to investigate the limitations of the Pay Equity Act and examine how enforceable it really is; as well as to assess how an act specifically geared towards advancing women was regarded in the bureaucratic structure from a feminist perspective. The Pay Equity Commission is committed to achieving equal pay for all employees, particularly women, by offering them support and assisting organizations in need. The pay equity commission works as a commission under the Ministry of Labor and is an independent agency which enforces the Pay Equity Act; equal pay for work of equal value. Pay Equity Office (PEO) review officers investigate, reconcile and resolve complaints to ensure protection of human rights, and are also involved in Pay Equity Hearing Tribunals. Amreek used theory taught in Women and Gender Studies as her force behind raising awareness of sex discrimination in the workplace. She was, as Linda Briskin called it, a ‘political actor’ not only in her placement, but also outside of it. Using material taught in WGS, Amreek utilized her placement at the Pay Equity Commission as an opportunity to introduce changes to organizations and people she associated with. Despite the Pay Equity Commission’s efforts to ensure equal pay amongst male and female workers, statistics continue to show otherwise. Noleen Heyzer, director of UNIFEM, stated that “it is not acceptable for women to work two—thirds of the world’s working hours, but earn only one-tenth of the world’s income and own less than one-tenth of the world’s property. Fundamental changes must be made”. Women are still typically paid less than men and are ‘segregated’ and ‘concentrated’ in the workplace. They are employed in different occupations from men and are over-represented in a limited number of occupations (Atlas, 64). Women work in a narrow range of job categories –half of all women in service, administrative support, and assistant professions being the main three - which are traditionally referred to as ‘pink collar jobs’. These ‘pink-collar jobs’ are secondary labour market jobs which are often low in status and pay, and have limited benefits for advancement. Teaching, aged care, nursing, childcare, cleaning, clerical work, and food preparation and service are some examples. Amreek hoped to transform the low status of ‘pink collar jobs’ and aimed to make them equal to jobs men perform; as both male and female jobs must be paid the same for jobs to be of comparable...
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