Feminism and its implications for women in the workplace

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Chapter 3: Literature Review


This chapter provides the literature review of some of the studies that have been done on women in the workplace. It has been structured according to the historical trends of women in the workplace, which were summarised in chapter 1. I take a more detailed look at the studies of intersectionality and the areas and countries on which these studies have focused. The chapter ends with a review of the issues of leadership and authority in the workplace.

Feminism and its implications for women in the workplace

“Women fought for their rights throughout the twentieth century. In the past several decades, their
struggle has become truly global, but it is far from won.” (Sophie Bessis, 2000)
A study of the workplace dynamics that affect women cannot be conducted without an understanding of the historical context of the women’s movements that have fought to recognise the rights of women in society, politics and the workplace. According to Bessis (2000), “the twentieth century was marked by [the] struggle [of women] to leave the home, where they were confined by ancestral divisions of roles along gender lines”. The earliest feminist movements, which first appeared in the West in the late 19th century, focused on workplace and civil rights issues. In the 20th century the initial struggle was for education and was followed by the second objective of participating in public life, that is, the right to vote. Finland, in 1906, was the first country where women won the right to vote and run for election into political office.
In 1918 and 1919, most women in Europe won the right to vote, although French and Italian women were recognised as citizens only after the Second World War. Outside Europe, women were fighting for the right to “be just like men” (Bessis, 2000). Right up to the 1960s, women distinguished themselves in the struggles against fascism and colonialism, but these victories were not sufficient to establish their rights as a gender (Bessis, 2000). In the first wave of feminism, women simply wanted equality. In the USA, “women wanted to be able to have credit in their own names, have an equal opportunity to be a plumber or President and, please, please, not have to do the ironing” (Amiel, 1989:23). So initially the first phase of feminism was to recognise women’s right to education, vote and career options that were not limited by the fact that they were not men!
The second wave of feminism in the USA brought about new concepts and vocabulary to American women: “equal pay for equal work; Affirmative action; Title IX; The Politics of Housework; The Glass Ceiling; Men’s only clubs; the concept of Gender Privilege; Domestic Workers’ Unite; Date Rape; Roe v. Wade; and the personal is political” (Biklen et al, 2008). Second-wave feminism forced many women to choose between fighting the racial battle or the gendered one (Biklen et al, 2008). Second-wave feminism grouped women into one category (regardless of race or social class) and while it accomplished important goals for all women, it “marginalised the perspectives of Black women and women of colour so that they could never be the women whose lives feminism either narrated or were generated from … Simultaneously, second-wave feminism, in its emphasis on gender, obscured the intersectionalities of race, gender and other aspects of identity that affect our lived experiences” (Biklen et al, 2008:460-461). This led to the racial split of feminism in the US due to the bias towards middle class, white women in the research and the narrative.
According to Mann and Huffmann (2005), the discourse on the third wave of feminism was informed by the following four perspectives:
Intersectionality theory as developed by women of colour and ethnicity; Postmodernist and poststructuralist feminist approaches;
Feminist postcolonial theory (global feminism);
The agenda of the new generation of younger feminists.
The concept of waves has been used by researchers to describe the history and evolution of feminism. It is aimed at conveying the notion of there being “ebbs and flow, rise and decline and crests in some of the historical accomplishments and defeats” (Mann and Huffmann, 2005:57). The waves do not mean that there were periods without feminist activism. Rather it is meant to show the periods where feminism had a mass base that arose from the ideas and actions that were being advanced at that time. The feminist movements (especially the second wave) have been important in leading to certain questions being asked such as “does the fact that I am a woman mean that the experiences of all women are a mirror of my own?” and “does the fact that I am Black mean that the experiences of all Black people mirror my own?”. Clearly the answers to both questions was no and hence researchers started to bring race, gender and class into the studies (Biklen et al, 2008; Crenshaw, 1989).

Women and the workplace

The segregation of the roles of the man and woman with regard to work dates back to the Judeo-Christian Bible in which God told the woman that she would bear children in great pain while the man would eat by the sweat of his brow (Holy Bible). This may have been the driver of the societal hierarchies which have emerged over the years. The role of women as the domestic keeper seems to refuse to move since those words were first pronounced more than six millennia ago. During the agricultural period when economies were predominantly farming related, the role of the woman was basically a domestic one where she kept the home and raised the children while her husband went out to work in the fields and provide for the family. Then and even now, women performed certain aspects of agricultural work which included milking livestock, making cheese and butter and disposing of the surplus for a profit (Alesina et al, 2013; Chen, 2008; Fuchs, 1971; Ncube and Greenan, 2003; Seidman, 1984). They did not plough the land – that work was left to the men in the household – but women could and can still be found in subsistence farming environment, sowing the seed and harvesting the crops.
In the USA, as early as the 1800s, women could be found in the industrial workplace (https://www.iuc.edu.orgs.cwluherstory/CWLUArchives). Women started being employed in the cotton mills in 1787 when the factory system was first introduced, but this did not lead to the displacement of men by women in the workplace, as at this time they were doing what was considered to be “women’s work” (Abbot, 1908). They were weaving, which was what they had been doing when the industries were still home-based. However, the number of women in the cotton mills started dwindling in the 1900s while that of men was increasing. These changes were driven partly by the increase in the number of men (mainly immigrants) who were looking for work in the cotton mills and partly by the widening fields of employment for educated women. Moreover, cotton machinery had become heavier and needed greater strength and energy to be operated (Abbot, 1908).
The first all-women strikes took place in the 1820s in New England, with women demanding better conditions, decent wages and shorter hours – to the amusement of the local community. These were followed by the 1834 Lowell Cotton Mills strikes in Massachusetts in 1834. Following several wages cuts, the women in these mills walked out, only to return a few days earlier, at reduced rates and the victory of the company. 8 March 1857 saw garment workers in New York City picketing and demanding improved working conditions, a ten-hour day and equal rights for women. These strikes were broken up by the police. On 8 March 1908, the women in the needles trade in New York City marched in honour of the 1857 march, demanding the vote and an end to sweatshops and child labour (https://www.iuc.edu.orgs.cwluherstory/CWLUArchives). International Women’s Day, celebrated on 8 March, is in honour of the marches of 1857 and 1908 and the struggles of working women.
The increasing number of women who entered the workplace after the World Wars led to studies on the reasons for women working and the impact on the families of mothers working outside the home (McKay, 2007; Toossi, 2002; Wang, 1989). In the USA, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 went a long way to create workplace opportunities in the workplace (Guy and Fenley, 2014). Prior to 1970, mothers in the USA joined the workforce after the youngest child reached the age of 12 (except in black families where mothers with 5 year olds were working) (McKay, 2007; Wang, 1989). This trend has changed dramatically over the years, not only in the USA but globally. Mothers are returning to the workplace when the children are a few months old.
The primary driver of working mothers being in the workplace has been financial – to either avoid poverty, to supplement the family income or to achieve financial freedom and an improved quality of life for the family (Fuchs, 1971; McKay, 2007; Patrick, Stephens and Weinstein, 2016). With the passage of time, other factors have crept in to add to the reasons why women are working, such as personal satisfaction, social prestige and changes in societal attitudes (McKay, 2007; Patrick et al, 2016). Nowadays, being a working woman is seen as the norm. A few decades ago, a married woman in the workplace was seen as a sign of the husband’s failure to provide for the family. Working mothers were either single women or widows (Chen, 2008; Fuchs, 1971; Kazi, Raza and Aziz, 1988). Society believed in these roles and unfortunately this belief became entrenched in organisations due to the patriarchal nature of society and its translation into the workplace.

Women in the workplace and occupational segregation

“The division of labour by sex appears to have been universal throughout human history” (Hartmann, 1976).
This view has been echoed by various researchers in the area of occupational segregation (Finsley, 1984). As far back as the pre-Industrial period, women have always worked and the work they did was occupationally segregated (Alesina et al, 2013; Fuchs, 1971). Research into the origins of the different cultural beliefs on the role of women in society tested the hypothesis that the agricultural period is the one that birthed the gendered role when it comes to work (Alesina et al, 2013). In the latter research, Boserup (1970) used the different types of cultivation (shifting and plough) to account for the different roles played by men and women in agriculture. Shifting cultivation used handheld tools and could be done easily by both men and women, while plough cultivation required “upper body strength, grip strength and bursts of power to pull the plough and control the animals” (Alesina et al, 2013). Hence societies in which plough cultivation was prevalent developed the belief that women should stay at home. Alesina et al (2013) tested that hypothesis and found that this belief has been carried into the 21st century in those societies. Hartmann (1976) reviewed the history of job segregation by sex and explored the development of a “sex-ordered division of labour”. She argues that patriarchal systems in which men controlled the labour of women and children taught them the techniques of hierarchical control. When capitalism came to the fore in the 15th to the 18th centuries, men already had the upper hand with the gendered division of labour as well as hierarchical experience. Her research concludes that the current status of women in the labour market was created by men and continues to be sustained by them. She further advocates that an equalisation of roles in the labour market would require men to give up their privileged position.
Therefore, segregation of roles by sex in work effectively requires an overthrow of the patriarchy which has been deeply entrenched in societies for centuries. Her conclusion on the matter: “it will be a long, hard, struggle” (Hartmann, 1976).
In the 1980s, a workshop was commissioned in the USA to report on the different areas of occupational segregation including trends as well as remedies. One of the key findings was that occupational segregation by gender has played a role in the continued pay parity between the sexes. Sociologists also found that people with limited opportunities for career advancement (in most cases women) experienced socio-psychological effects such as job disengagement and reduced career aspirations (Fuchs, 1971; Kanter, 1977).
According to the Finley report (1984), researchers have identified different reasons for the occupational segregation by gender which continues to be found in “different occupations, industries and specific jobs within firms”. Some researchers have suggested that occupational segregation is due to organisational processes for hiring and managing employees. They advance that most organisations do not have the means to segregate positions as they become available. Other researchers say that occupational segregation is due to choices or options of female workers in terms of occupation. Women choose jobs that put bread on the table rather than careers in which they can have long-term career growth (Ragins and Sundstrom, 1989). While there can be debate as to why it exists, the undeniable reality is that occupational segregation exists in the 21st century and continues to divide workplace roles and remuneration according to gender.

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Equal Work for Equal Pay

“Women are still faced with the most vital of inequalities – that of the pocketbook” (Hager, n.d.: pg 65)
Following rapidly on the debate about “women in the workplace” was whether or not they should be paid the same as men for the same work (Berger, 1971; Guy and Fenley, 2014; Hogg, 1921; Mavin, 2006). The issue of women’s wages in relation to those of men has been on the radar since the 1920s, when wages were based on the level of expenditure of the recipient (Hogg, 1921). Up until the passing of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 in the US, women were paid lower wages than the men with whom they worked side by side (Berger, 1971; Hager, n.d.). After the passing of the Equal Pay Act, a differentiator other than sex was required for the payment of different wages for the same work. This differentiator could be, but was not limited to, merit, seniority and so on. Berger (1971), purports that women were underpaid because men wanted a cheap pool of labour and to keep well-paying jobs for other men. The situation was exacerbated by legislators not advancing the cause for equal work for equal pay.
The issue of equal work for equal pay is not one that is limited to a few countries. I have already mentioned that when I was seeking employment after completion of my articles, on a few occasions the men that I supervised were offered higher pay for work that I was equally qualified to do. There is a global trend in terms of differences between pay for men versus women for similar work. In the list below, the percentages indicate in a descending order by how much men are paid more than women for similar work: South Korea – 39%; Japan – 28% Germany – 22%; Canada -20%; UK -20%; Australia – 16% and France – 13%.
International bodies and various countries have passed statutes to address the issue of pay disparity for equal work. Listed in Table 7 on page 53 is the legislation that has been passed and the respo.
Gender pay parity is a global problem and continues to exist despite efforts to eradicate it through various international statutes and country-specific laws. The continuation of this problem is shown in the annual world economic forum reports. This area continues to be studied in the 21st century in an effort to find a solution to the problem (Berger, 1971; Finley, 1984; Guy and Fenley, 2014; Seligman, 2005). Despite all these efforts, in 2016 the world economic forum reports estimated that it will take up to 170 years to close the gender pay parity gap (https://www.theguardian.com).

Queen Bee Syndrome

The dynamics between women themselves in the workplace cannot be ignored as they form an integral part of the journey of women who report to other women as part of their career navigation. The “queen bee syndrome” is a term which was first used in 1973 by Staines et al to describe “women who were actively opposed to any changes in traditional sex roles” and later by Abramson (1975) to describe “women in senior management who denied that there was systematic discrimination against women and argued that fewer still were willing to do anything about it, so that queen bees would not accept that women who are capable of a management career are unable to progress due to discrimination” (Mavin, 2006:352). It has since come to mean “women who behave badly” and serves to perpetuate the belief that the role of senior women is to assist other women to climb the corporate ladder, a burden that has been unfairly placed on senior women who want “recognition for their own talents, abilities and knowledge and not for being representatives of the interests of other women” (Mattis, 1993). The queen bee syndrome continues to be a feature in the workplace with women not being willing to create opportunities for each other (Braun et al, 2017) and not creating internal networks among themselves to help each other up the corporate ladder.
Johnson and Mathur-Helm (2011) carried out a study of the queen bee syndrome in South Africa. The main findings of the study were that the syndrome – the reluctance of executive women to promote other women in the workplace – did indeed exist. The executive women who were interviewed for that study felt that their role in the organisation was to deliver on targets and that women in middle management would need to work their way up the ranks – just as they did. The consequences of the existence of the syndrome were that middle management women were unable to find mentors in their organisations and the possibility of forming a “girls’ network” was reduced.
While it is true that the onus of helping women navigate the labyrinth of career progression does not lie with senior women, it does not prevent women from seeking out mentors within and outside their organisations. In my MBL research, I found that the women in middle management complained about not having anyone to mentor them, whereas the executive women were actually keen to mentor them but had never been approached. The former had not engaged the latter in conversations around mentoring and were waiting for mentoring opportunities to just present themselves (Nkomo, 2006).
The other findings of the study by Johnson and Mathur-Helm (2011) on the barriers to the advancement of women were consistent with those of other researchers (Braun et al, 2017; Eagly and Carli, 2007; Patrick et al, 2016; Ryan et al, 2011; Wirth, 2003) and included the stereotyping of management/leadership styles as well as the formation of old boys’ clubs and other exclusive networks. Johnson and Mathur-Helm (2011) also found that male traditions, legislation that has tended to focus on racial rather than gender imbalances, the glass ceiling, women’s immobility and unwillingness to relocate and other personal barriers served to be a hindrance to women’s career advancement. These findings were in line with those of previous researchers in this area.
There is an unspoken expectation that the social dynamics of women in terms of sisterhood and solidarity behaviour will translate into how they relate to each other in the workplace. Solidarity behaviour is the opposite of the Queen Bee syndrome and it is the expectation that once women are in management, they will gravitate towards and support other women (Mavin, 2006). Further studies have found that solidarity behaviour is complex in that it assumes that women view other women as their natural allies, regardless of hierarchical differences (Mavin, 2008; Jogulu and Vijayasingham, 2015). It further assumes that senior women should view the “women in management mantle” as their individual responsibility. However, solidarity behaviour may set expectations of senior women in management which may not be fulfilled and may be unrealistic.
The assumption does not take into account the “complexity of women’s experiences in senior management and the negative relations between women. (Braun et al, 2017; Mavin, 2006). The assumption of sisterhood and solidarity behaviour assumes that the male behaviours that women in senior management tend to adopt in order to make it to those positions will change and that the women will adopt a less competitive way of management (Mavin, 2006). argues that “the assumption of women as natural allies is particularly challenged once a woman destabilises the established order “The nature of senior management for women and the behaviours and actions required to gain entry and remain in this environment do little to sustain the notions of sisterhood or solidarity behaviour” (Braun et al, 2017; Mavin, 2006:267). Furthermore, women in middle management often see those in senior positions as queen bees who “pull up the drawbridge for other women once they have reached the senior levels” (Braun et al, 2017; Mavin, 2006:269). My supervisor used an interesting phrase in isiXhosa to describe this notion: “bema emnyango, bedunuse”, meaning that once women get into senior positions, they stand at the door and bend over, exposing their behinds. In most African cultures, this is an unacceptable position. Finally, female misogyny which manifests itself as women move into the “predominantly male world of senior management” (Braun et al, 2017; Mavin, 2006) can be a barrier to women forming alliances in the workplace.


Affirmative action and employment equity

Affirmative action has been implemented in many countries over the years, including the USA, Canada, India, Australia, Malaysia and indeed the countries being studied (Ayob, n.d.; Bush, 1998; Clark, 1992; Jaunch, 1999; Ndinda and Okeke-Uzodike, 2012).
Affirmative action first emerged in the USA during the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s and was seen as one of the most profound public policies introduced (Soni, 1999) as well as one of the “most controversial since the abolition of slavery” (Leonard, 1990:43; Rubinstein, 1985) The aim of the initial policy mandated federal contractors to take affirmative action to ensure that applicants were employed without regard to their race, creed, colour, or national origin (Leonard, 1990; Shaw and Barry, 2004), thus consequently attracting and retaining “minorities who were previously underrepresented in the workplace relative to the population in the country” (Ayob, n.d.). The mid-20th century ushered in the idea to “reform US society in such a way that Blacks and other minorities would finally be regarded and treated as equals” (Esposito and Romano, 2014:72). The minorities were mainly Hispanics and African Americans as well as women who were being discriminated against by white employers (Ayob, n.d.; Ciocchetti and Holcomb, 2010). Prior to the passing of the affirmative action executive order, minorities and women had been passed over in recruitment and education opportunities and so this injustice was being corrected by affording these groups preferential treatment (Ayob, n.d.; Rubinstein, 1985). Australia had its own affirmative laws to address discrimination against women as well as racial discrimination (Bush, 1998), while Malaysia’s affirmative action policy addressed discrimination against its majority people and gave them preferential treatment in terms of corporate equity as well as providing them with access to higher education (Ayob, n.d.).
In the USA, affirmative action was intended to integrate minorities and women into the workplace and educational institutions (Rubinstein, 1985) and ensure that American institutions of education and workplaces were reflective of the American population. The result was that the racial inequality in America shifted and became a class inequality as the gap between groups was narrowed, but that within groups increased. In Africa and Asia, it was and is intended to be a “tool for transformation” (Jaunch, 1999). In Zimbabwe, it was implemented in a country that had an ethnically heterogeneous population (Jaunch, 1999). The result of implementing affirmative action in Asia (Sri Lanka and Malaysia) was to benefit the major ethnic groups. In Malaysia, affirmative action was a balancing act between creating opportunities for the ethnic groups that were previously disadvantaged without “creating undue hardship for the non-beneficiary groups” (Jaunch, 1999:7) and it successfully reduced socio-economic inequalities. However, similar to the USA, while interethnic inequalities were addressed, affirmative action led to class inequality within the tribes, an inherent problem with affirmative action policies that focused on redressing race, gender and ethnic balances without taking into account the class inequalities and thus creating economic inequality (Jaunch, 1999).
There are two schools of thought as to whether or not affirmative action has been successful in the countries in which it has been implemented (Charlton and Van Niekerk, 1994; Clark, 1992). The proponents of success have considered the increase in the number of the beneficiaries as a mark of the success of affirmative action policies (Clark, 1992). In the United States, success was defined as the increase in the number of black females and males in organisations and positions that were previously not open to them.
Different reasons for seeing affirmative action as having failed have been given in the different countries where it has been implemented (Clark, 1992). Affirmative action has incurred the criticism of the non-beneficiary group, who see it as reverse discrimination that it discriminates against white people and thus perpetuates discrimination (Rubinstein, 1985; Durrheim, 2003) despite the fact that its intent is to address discrimination. The reverse discrimination supporters have argued that it is unjust because the people paying the price are actually not the perpetrators, but their descendants and so they are being made to pay for what they did not enjoy (Groarke, 1990). The generation that is receiving the benefits is not the generation that did not enjoy the benefits of the perpetrators (Ayob, n.d.).
The beneficiaries should be the generation that suffered and not their descendants. Furthermore, the discrimination ended at a certain point in time (Ikuenobe, 2010) and would no longer be exercised; therefore the preferential treatment should not be open-ended (assuming that following the enactment, discrimination would eventually be eliminated from the workplace) and the playing field would be levelled. (Ayob, n.d.; Seekings, 2008). Other criticisms of affirmative action policies include the fact that appointments are not merit-based (Ciocchetti and Holcomb, 2010; Esposito and Romano, 2014; Rubinstein, 1985), and the beneficiaries are then likely to be assumed to be inferior and not competent for the roles to which they have been appointed (Ciocchetti and Holcomb, 2010; Rubinstein, 1985).
Those who oppose affirmative action have suggested (gender) neutrality and colour-blindness as a way to “dodge, deny or defend the racialised social systems” (Esposito and Romano, 2014:70; Rubinstein, 1985) instead of acknowledging that it exists and being part of a solution to correct its skewedness to one racial group at the expense of others. There have even been calls for the abolition of affirmative action as it is seen not to have worked (Leonard, 1990), while other calls, still from its critics, are that it should be abolished because it has led to the elimination of racial discrimination in US workplaces.
In Zimbabwe, prior to 1980 when the black majority came into political power, the ruling white minority enjoyed access to education and workplace opportunities that were not available to other race groups (Van Hook, 1994; Ncube and Greenan, 2003; Seidman, 1984). Post-independence, economic wealth continued to be concentrated in the hands of the white minority and did not transfer to the indigenous black majority (Jaunch, 1999). Affirmative action in the form of preferential policies led to increased employment of black Zimbabweans in the civil service and the consequence of the white government employees leaving to either join the private sector or leave the country (Jaunch, 1999).

Chapter 1: Introduction and Background
1.1 Introduction and Orientation
1.2 Context of the Countries in the Study
1.3 Research Problem
1.4 Study aims and objectives
1.5 Research questions
1.6 Research Propositions
1.7 Significance and contribution of the Study
1.8 Preliminary Literature Review
1.9 Importance of Women Leaders in Contemporary Organisations
1.10 Definition of Key Concepts
1.11 Delimitations of the Study
1.12 Limitations of the study
1.13 Critical self-reflection and positionality
1.14 Format of the study
Chapter 2: Key Conceptual Framework
2.1 Introduction
2.2 Intersectionality of gender, race and class
2.3 Definition of the labyrinth and its characteristics
2.4 Conclusion
Chapter 3: Literature Review
3.1 Introduction
3.2 Feminism and its implications for women in the workplace
3.3 Women and the workplace
3.4 Women in the workplace and occupational segregation
3.5 Equal Work for Equal Pay
3.6 Queen Bee Syndrome
3.7 Affirmative action and employment equity
3.8 Think manager, think male
3.9 Tokenism
3.10 Sexual harassment
3.11 The glass phenomena
3.12 Stereotyping and gender bias
3.13 Importance of Women in Leadership
3.14 Work-life Balance
3.15 Why women leave the workplace
3.16 Contemporary studies on women in the workplace
3.17 Leadership barriers
3.18 Leadership and Organisational Culture
3.19 Intragroup Dynamics in the Workplace
3.20 First-Time Managers in the Workplace
3.21 Intergenerational dynamics in the workplace
3.22 Intersectionality literature
3.23 Conclusion
Chapter 4: Research Methodology
4.1 Introduction
4.2 Research Design
4.3 Research paradigm
4.4 Research methodology
4.5 Population, sampling strategy and sample size
4.6 Data Collection Methods
4.7 Data Analysis Methods
4.8 Data Analysis using computer software
4.9 Grounded theory and Social Constructivism
4.10 The Data Transcribing, Analysis and Coding Processes
4.11 Strategies to Ensure Rigour
4.12 Conclusion
Chapter 5: Findings and Discussion
5.1. Introduction
5.2. Profile and overview of participants in South Africa
5.3. Profile and Overview of Participants in Zimbabwe
5.4. Research Objective 1
5.5 Research Objective 2
5.6 Research Objective 3
5.7 Research Objective 4
5.8 Other findings
5.9 Lessons that South Africa can learn from Zimbabwe
5.10 Lessons that Zimbabwe can learn from South Africa
5.11 What Successful Women Do
5.12 Suggestions for Retention Strategies for Companies
5.13 Research Objective 5
5.14 Conclusion
Chapter 6: Conclusions and Recommendations
6.1 Introduction
6.2 Conclusions to the Four Study Objectives
6.3 Contribution of the Study
6.4 Limitations of the Study
6.5 Suggestions for Future Studies
6.6 Conclusion
6.7 Final Thoughts and Reflection

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