The view of patriarchy follows the vision of when there is a family with dependent children, it is the man who is the ‘breadwinner’ i. e. spends the majority of time in paid employment; and it is the woman who is the ‘housewife’ i. e. spends the majority of time in unpaid employment, such as childcare. This could therefore be a reason for the inequalities in the labour market. This is because if this view of society is correct, men will remain in paid employment regardless of dependent children, whereas women with dependent children will leave paid employment and concentrate on unpaid employment i.e. childcare.
In 2008 the amount of live births in England and Wales was 708,708 (7ONS). Therefore this amount of women in 2008 would have left the labour market for up to a year through maternity leave. These women will therefore automatically be in unpaid employment. After the maternity period has finished the woman has a choice whether to return to paid employment or concentrate on unpaid employment and in particular childcare.
If the woman was to return to full time paid employment as well as the male remaining in paid employment, childcare for the dependent children would have to be arranged “Women’s employment patterns are closely bound up with their childcare role and are linked to the availability of affordable childcare8”. However in the UK, when compared to other countries, there is a lack of affordable childcare available. This may force many women to remain in unpaid employment, as it may be more financially beneficial to care for dependent children themselves, instead of paying for childcare.
Another option women may choose is to work part time. “Eighty-One percent of all people, of working age who work part time are women9”. The reason for this is that the flexibility of working part time enables women to manage their multiple roles that are associated with childcare. Furthermore some economists suggest that this trend is due to women preferring to prioritize their childcare and domestic roles, and return to employment when children are no longer dependent upon them 10(Kirton and Greene).
This is shown by the fact that women with young dependents are less likely to be in paid employment than women with older dependents. There is however no reason why the man should not commit to the childcare and therefore leave an option for the woman to return to paid employment. However in reality this does not often occur for different reasons. One such reason could be that generally women are more inclined to stay at home and care for young dependents rather than men “women continue to perform a larger proportion of child-rearing responsibilities11 “.
This could be down to either the fact that this is actually what the woman desires or it is the just the socially accepted norm. However Wilson writes that “As we enter the new millennium, it is now the norm for the women to be in paid employment, with the traditional family composition of full time male breadwinner and full time female housewife caring for the home and children now the exception rather than the norm12”. As women are more inclined than men to leave the labour market due to pregnancies and the following childcare, when they return to the labour market the woman would be substantially older than when left.
It does depend on how large the woman’s family is as the larger the family, the more time spent in unpaid employment due to larger familial responsibilities. Following from this if the woman has been out of the labour market for an extended period of time, she may be disadvantaged when returning to the labour market through ageism. Ageism is defined as “Employer attitudes, rooted in stereotypes of and myths about older people13”. Ageism works the same for younger people but is more related to a lack of qualifications and experience, rather than age. In the United Kingdom discrimination because of someone’s age is illegal.
Some employers may not see the long term benefits of training a woman of a mature age and deem her as too old. This can be due to the employer thinking that the mature woman will only remain with the business for a short period of time because of her age. Also a mature woman may be less likely to have as many qualifications as a younger person as a result of the growth of the education system in recent years. These aspects may limit the jobs the mature woman may be able to return to when joining the labour market. Therefore it can be assumed that women who return to work may partake in lower paid, less important employment.
This also helps explain why there is a pay gap between the genders; men do not often leave the labour market and therefore do not come across the problems of re-entering the labour market that women incur. Proportionally, there is a lack of women in managerial jobs. Reasons and solutions throughout this essay to gender bias are made on an assumption that men possess masculine characteristics, and women possess feminine characteristics; “There is a tendency to reduce masculinity and femininity to a dualism and thereby to see these as rather uniform and clear cut categories14”.
Whereas in reality an individual has their own attributes and not generalized attributes associated with their specific genders. Another aspect of looking at gender bias is that it may be too broad a category. There are also discrepancies between different ethnicities within the gender divide. This could therefore limit some of the applications to problems that have been mentioned in this essay. However to be able to summarise what occurs in real life, it is a necessity to make assumptions on the two genders. There is a large difference between the amounts of women in high paid employment, such as Senior Management, and men.
As a result of this it has lead to the gender pay gap. By there being a gender pay gap, it shows that there are inequalities between the genders in the labour market. The main reason for this could be due to familial responsibilities. Women, by laws of nature, give birth to offspring. The need to reproduce is a natural instinct so will always occur. This will therefore result in women continuing to leave the labour market through pregnancies and the resulting childcare. This results in women being disadvantaged in the labour market.
However many measures have been undertaken by governments in the United Kingdom to protect pregnant women. One example is maternity leave; in this a pregnant woman may leave her current employment for up to a year and then return to that employment, under the exact same conditions, if so desired. Also with the traditional family structure diminishing it may have contributed to the gender pay gap narrowing. Figure 1 – http://www. statistics. gov. uk/elmr/04_08/downloads/ELMR_Apr08_Leaker. pdf From this graph it is apparent that the gender pay gap has been steadily decreasing.
It could therefore be assumed that in future years the gender gap will be eradicated, thus removing inequalities in the labour market between genders. Nevertheless this cannot be taken as fact. Hakim states “Most women have actively colluded in their own imprisonment in unpaid work in the home and low-paid, low status jobs in the workforce15”. By this Hakim suggests that it is the choices that women make, that determine their roles in society and ultimately in the workplace. From this it could be assumed that the foundations for equality between the genders have been laid, but may never be fully achieved.