Women, HRM and Equal Opportunities
DISADVANTAGES FACED BY WOMEN
Women face disadvantages in countries all around the world. These include vertical and horizontal segregation, glass ceiling, pay gaps etc.
Horizontal segregation concerns the clustering of women into certain occupation categories, in particular the healthcare sector, nursing, teaching, hotels and catering and retailing.
Vertical segregation on the other hand concerns the clustering of women at lower levels of the occupational hierarchy (hence, the glass ceiling issue). This phenomenon is demonstrated by official statistics. For instance, less than 5% Directors of UK companies are female. (Gracie 1998) Even in female dominated areas, the evidence suggests that women are failing to secure the top jobs. The most striking example relates nursing. 90% of qualified nurses are women. However, it typically takes 18 years without career breaks for a female nurse to reach the managerial post of nursing officer compared with 8.5 years for a male nurse (Rosenthal 1994)
There is also a considerable pay gap between men and women. For instance in the UK, research released in February 2000 by the government’s women unit revealed that an average woman educated to GCSE level will earn £241,000 less than men in the course of their lifetime, regardless of whether or not they have children. Women tend to have less access to company benefits such as private health care, company cars and pension schemes. Looking at management grades, women managers are paid even less fairly. They receive only 70% of the pay received by male managers. The pay gap is partly explained by the fact that women do different types of jobs from men. Thus, horizontal segregation explains a considerable proportion of the pay gap between men and women The pay gap is also explained by the fact that a high proportion of women work part time. For instance, figures from the Spring 2001 Labour Force Survey show that of the 12 million women within the labour market in the UK, nearly 5.2 million (43%) were working part time. Where men are concerned, only 1.2 million (8%) are part timers (Labour market trends 2001)
Glass ceiling: Hearn(1992) argues that it is men and managements who need to change. Women are confronted by a ‘glass ceiling’ blocking upward career advancement when it comes to entering positions of power in organisational senior executive levels as well as government. ‘This glass ceiling is invisible but women experience it as a real barrier when they vie for promotion to top jobs’.
REASONS FOR THE DISADVANTAGE FACED
There are various person centred as well as situation centred explanations for this disadvantage.
PERSON CENTRED EXPLANATIONS
Person centred explanations argue that women are somehow different from men in several respects and as such they may be less suited to managerial and leadership positions. As men and women are differently socialized, this results in fundamental differences in behaviour. These can be explained by the ‘preference’ and ‘attribution’ theories.
Catherine Hakim (1996) argues that women’s disadvantage in organizations stems from the fact that they consciously make different life choices from men. i.e. they have different preferences. For example, they ‘choose’ to work part time in order to be able to balance their work and family life and this is something they do willingly rather than being forced into it. In addition she argues that women may be under represented in managerial grades as they choose not to have to deal with the stress and anxiety that a high post managerial role brings.
This theory states that men and women attribute success and failure to themselves in different ways. For example in the event of a successful work outcome, men would attribute that to themselves, i.e. the result of their own personal efforts. Women by...
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