Discrimination and low status of women in society is still an issue of the day. Social workers are faced with many females suffered from low social status, oppression and sexism. The role of social worker is to understand internal drivers of this problem and dependence between dominant social groups and females. Today, the dominant group is represented by males: husbands, neighbors, educators and colleagues. Many critics (Cacoullos 2001; Adams et al 2002) admit that sexism is an integral part of contemporary society.
It is an insidious infestation hidden in the very core of social relationships, and it has a cumulative effect upon all societal functions as reflected in lifestyles, economic institutions, religious doctrines, and personal relations. It is perpetuated and supported by the manner in which males and females are socialized. The basic institutions of socialization are education and the family. The behaviors associated with sexism are so deeply ingrained into our minds that sexist behaviors are generally unconscious.
It is considered that the privileges and advantages of the dominant group include better education and prestigious job, high position (middle or top management) and high pay, stable emotional state and strong character, strict moral code and values, etc. Society postulated that most men are more competent than women in the workplace. Issues related to the distribution of power came up over and over again, in quite predictable ways. The assumption, especially by white men, is that the more a person looks like a white man, the more successful he or she is.
The main stereotypes of women are (1) women work only to earn extra spending money, (2) women who work take jobs away from men, (3) women are absent from their jobs because of illnesses more than men, and (4) women are too emotional to supervise subordinates. These stereotypes cause many employers to question female workers’ commitment to work. And men are more likely than women to be perceived as “serious” about their careers. This places the extra burden on women to convince employers that they are not job risks.
The main privileges of women are that: they are calmer than their males; many women possess more education and training courses than men. In many cases, women are more motivated than men trying to earn more and perform well. They are more diligent, persistent, accurate, punctual and tolerant than men. Women are more economical and rational them men keeping the house and the family. In social work environment, most workers believe that white males used paternalism to keep women in their place today.
The males place women on ‘a pedestal’ so that he knows where they are at all times. Social workers consider that women in the world of work frequently step down from their pedestals. They suppose that the main cause of harassment and discrimination is gender differences and poor treatment of women in the work-place and at home. Only in some cases, women are accused in improper behavior or lack of education or knowledge to obtain a top management position (Companies Feel Benefit 2006).
The theory developed by Kohlberg allows researchers to understand human moral development of different people and values. According to this theory, some people have higher moral standards in contrast to other social groups. Kohlberg proposes the male centered approach to psychology. One of the theory’s postulates says that: “Orientation to “doing duty” and to showing respect for authority and maintaining the given social order or its own sake” (Kohlberg n. d. ). Using male centered approach, Kohlberg favors male dominance and higher moral values of males.
For instance, researchers found that moth male and female respondents favored male supervisors, who were believed to possess the characteristics of good managers-emotional stability, ability to make correct decisions, analytic ability, and the like. The erroneous belief that males are more competent than female workers has resulted in a hierarchy of preferred leaders in the following descending order: (1) white males, (2) nonwhite males, (3) white females, and (4) nonwhite females (Adams et al 2002).
Carol Gilligan opposes this theory stating that “it is unjust to leave women out of psychology” (Gilligan’s In a Different Voice n. d. ). Many of the roots of the contemporary women’s rights movement stem from the prejudices and frustrations women encounter regularly when they attempt to leave their “designated” role and enter the world of work, research, or study. Psychologically and professionally, many women find that established legal principles are not operative for them in daily practice in the world of trade and service. Carol Gilligan, have challenged the traditional understanding of “rationality,” arguing that feminine styles of thinking are no less rational than masculine ones” (Simson 2005, 1). In this case, the main diversity component is based on stereotypes of “psychological differences” between women and men which resulted in lower status of women and low social value. Perhaps the most damaging of all the handicaps a woman faces when she enters that world is the general assumption that a man by his very nature is capable of more than she is and in every respect.
For instance, the subtle psychological implications of this are reflected in early toys and unwittingly absorbed in childhood. On the one hand, toys are constructed to imply that boys are active and will grow up to create and produce. Girls’ toys, on the other hand, cater to a more passive nature and point toward a feminine role meant to nourish and consume (Adams et al 2002). Critics admit that “the gap” is Gilligan theory is that it is based on gender differences and gender roles in the society. “Gilligan points out differences in the worldviews of women and men, highlighting the issue of interpretation.
The masculine looks to social conventions and rules to guide moral decisions” Bird, Brush 2002, 41). One of the answers that those active in the contemporary women’s liberation movement would give is cessation of the stereotypes of female status–the casual acceptance that women are less than human (Adams et al 2002). For example, a female supervisor who handles a situation differently than a male supervisor is frequently judged ineffective by her male boss. Conversely, male supervisor can label the woman employee as “abrasive” when she is assertive. an important characteristic for career success among males.
This is even more of a problem for black American women than white women because of the perceived role reversal. The main difference is in values and beliefs that women work for additional pay only. Today, many single women earn for the whole family deprived social or husband’s. support. One could argue that women have less access to education than men and, therefore, are confined to lower-paying jobs. This, however, is not supported by evidence. According to U. S. Department of Labor statistics, the average female worker is as well educated as the average male worker, both having completed high school (Adams et al 2002).
It is common for women employees to be subjected to sexual harassment and verbal or physical abuse. Although not illegal per se, such behavior is illegal when it is used by managers and supervisors to decide whether to hire or fire someone, or offensive work environment. The conflict is that employers and society in general do not want to accept women in top management. A critical mass of people believes that the women’s movement is a misnomer for the changes occurring in the workplace.
These are inadequate descriptions of an interest in equal rights for all workers–males and females trying to be accepted on their merits and not to be stereotyped. Therefore the major issue is not men versus women. Instead, it is fairness for all workers regardless of their gender. In social work, the main problem identified by researchers is that “The gap between social work’s commitment to social justice and the actual practice of social justice, as indicated above, is the precise dilemma facing social work educators today” (Balassone et al 1999, 433).
The main task of the helping process is to identify the real causes of problems and troubles faced by women. Privileges and differences in values and beliefs could help to overcome pressure at workplace and self-esteem. All women (and men) are unique personalities and personal differences and peculiarities could help to achieve high social status and resist discrimination. The disparities in job opportunities available to men and women have augmented numerous debates about gender differences in job readiness.
The fact that statistics confirm women are earning much less than men and are still, for the most part, entering a narrow range of occupations (Cacoullos, 2001). In the helping process, it is crucial to judge, respect, value and accept individuals on their own merits, not on the basis of gender, but the ability to so value others would be incorporated into formal processes, such as promotions, appraisals, audits and so forth Following Gilligan “It considers maintenance of relationships and interdependencies and helping others to benefit, avoid harm, or recover from harm” (Bird, Brush, 2002, 42).
In this case, the task of social workers is to assist women in getting where they want to be. Social workers can help women to overcome discrimination, look at themselves to see how their own attitudes and behaviors get in the way, see what has to be changed in order that an increasingly diverse work force can work well together and be more productive, and make more money. Once this is in place, the process that leads to significant changes in attitudes and behaviors throughout the company can take hold.
In sum, social workers should understand psychological and social processes affected women and their social status, privileges and advantages of both genders at home and at work. The beliefs and conflicts mentioned above could help to engage women in a process of diagnosis, at the point at which confusion is the greatest, and they would have been able to arrive at next steps that would have been appropriate for them.
1. Adams, R. , Dominelli, L. , Payne, M. (2002). Critical Practice in Social Work. Palgrave Macmillan. 2. Balassone, M. L, Mello, S. D. , Holley, L. C. , Harding, S. , Nagda, B. A. Spearmon, M. L. (1999). Intergroup Dialogues: An Innovative Approach to Teaching about Diversity and Justice in Social Work Programs. Journal of Social Work Education, 35 (3), 433. 3. Bird, B. , Brush, C. (2002). A Gendered Perspective on Organizational Creation. Entrepreneurship: Theory and Practice, 26 (3), 41-44. 4. Cacoullos, A. R. (2001). American Feminist Theory. American Studies International, 39 (1), 72. . Companies Feel Benefit of Equality and Diversity in Workplace. (2006). Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 8, p. 2. 6. Gilligan’s In a Different Voice (n. d. ). Retrieved 23 March 2007 from http://lfkkb. tripod. com/eng24/gilliganstheory. html 7. Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development (n. d. ). Retrieved 23 March 2007 from http://www. haverford. edu/psych/ddavis/p109g/kohlberg. stages. html 8. Simson, R. S. (2005). Feminine Thinking. Social Theory and Practice, 31 (1), 1.