This paper is an analysis of contemporary issues associated with gender and power in the workplace; which will specifically include a discussion of gender relations, stereotyping, women’s identity, the structuring of formal and informal power, sources of inequality, and sexual harassment. The concept of gender in relation to the division of labor in the workplace, and in relation to issues of power and control is an unfortunate, groundless stereotype.
Suzanne Tallichet notes that the gendered division of workplace labor is rooted in flawed ideology of innate sex differences in traits and abilities, and operates through various control mechanisms. (Tallichet 1995: 698) These control mechanisms are primarily exercised by men over women and serve to exaggerate differences between the sexes, especially surrounding women’s presumed incapability for doing male identified work. Tallichet notes that most forms of workplace control take the form of harassment, sexual bribery, gender based jokes and comments, and profanity which passively but concisely makes gender differences an aspect of work relations. (Tallichet 1995: 698-699) Jan Grant and Paige Porter (1994: 150) add the ideology of the gendered logic of accumulation” to the discussion of gender in the workplace, which notes that men in Western societies have traditionally acquired and maintained the bulk of wealth in society. These traditional roles and consequently women’s identities have been formed and maintained by the workplace, therefore understanding any gender differences in labor requires an examination in this light.
Grant and Porter remind the researcher that the concepts of male and female are not independent relationships of the workplace, but have been strongly influenced and determined by the relationships of male and female in society at large. Unfortunately the gendered division of labor has maintained its origins in the home, while copying its structure in the workplace. This can be seen inside families through the sharp distinctions between paid work and non work, paid and unpaid productivity, and even the separation of the private and public spheres where women are perceived as attached to the private and men to the public domains. (Grant ; Porter 1994: 153) This is an important issue because while home and work may be physically separated for working men and women, home is often not a haven for women but rather just another place of work.
The gender division of labor then, is not limited to the paid work force, but continues to the area of unpaid work at home. Issues surrounding power inequalities in the workforce may be explained historically in terms of the arguments of socialist feminism. This ideology argues that since the control of material resources necessary for survival was largely outside the home historically, the location of women in the home became their source of dependence on men and their subordination to men. (Boyd 1997: 51) This argument appears to be more gender specific than other socialist theories such as Marxism, as it emphasizes that gender inequality reflects not only the type of economic system in place but also the power that men have within the household and the economy. Monica Boyd (1997: 64) proposes that power inequality in the workplace between genders has been maintained through occupational segregation, because it is the occupations themselves which differ in the capacity that incumbents have to impose their will upon others. This assertion implies that in any workplace, that exists not only a technical division of labor, but also a gender based social division ensuring that there is an difference in power toward men.
Boyd is able to back her claims by noting that Canadian women are employed in positions with fewer decision making jobs; women are more likely to supervise other women only; and although women have increased their presence in the workforce, this presence is mostly in the service industry only, and that this increase in presence has not converted into a presence of power. (Boyd 1997: 67) Grant and Porter (1994: 155) also support this view by stating that most female workers find themselves in female dominated industries, and corralled at the lower levels of power. These findings are particularly disturbing as they seem to be supported by anti matriarchal ideology of women being subordinate to men, and that .