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Gender Inequality Between Women and Men in the U S

Gender Inequality, Gender Studies


The battle of the sexes. We have all heard the term and know that it represents the war for equality between women and men. Most of us assume that women have won the battle as we go about our daily lives here in America. But, have women really won this war? Do women have equal rights with men in the world today? I think a lot of people, including women, would answer yes to this question, especially here in the US where women are expected and encouraged to go out and work and help support their family. But the question one must ask is do women get paid the same amount of money as men for the same job or task performed and do they have the same equal opportunities to gain high-paying jobs as men do? If the answers to these questions are no, then maybe society needs to take a fresh look at the causes of this inequality so it can finally be eliminated. To get to the bottom of this issue, we have to get to the very root of what causes the problems of inequality between men and women in the first place. Then, and only then, can we can figure out how to establish true equality between the sexes

Male and female refers to the biological sex of a man or woman whereas gender refers to the social and cultural meanings attached to femininity and masculinity which is a central organizing principle of social life. This is known as the gendering process which is the transformation of biological males/females into socially interacting men and women (Eitzen 258). From the moment of birth the biological sex of a child is determined so the gender role is cast and the child is assigned to the role of either male or female. These gender divisions make women and men unequal because gender is linked together with other power systems of inequality such as race, class, and sexual orientation. These attributes are all interconnected and create inequalities among men and women that are exhibited in varying degrees of power that cause different groups of women to exhibit several levels of inequality. The social concepts of femininity and masculinity are constantly changing and are not a form of our genetic makeup. They are shaped differently from one culture to another and they can be molded into one culture over a period of time or they can be developed among and between different groups of women and men depending upon their class, race, ethnicity, or sexuality with a wide variation of behaviors between the sexes across the globe (Eitzen 251-256). All societies have certain beliefs and different ideas about what women and men should be like along with ways of producing people who live up to these expectations and creating gender stratification which refers to the ranking of the sexes in such a way that women are unequal with men in power, resources, and opportunities (Eitzen 251-256). In most societies, domestic and family life is a woman’s world while a public and political life is a man’s world so gender inequalities seem to be social creations that are embedded in most societies around the world (Eitzen 251-256).

Although gender roles are learned by an individual from a very young age and produce very different personalities, behaviors, and motivations for women and men, gender inequality is essentially maintained by societal forces of gender stratification. The most demanding, complex, and all involving role that a member of society must learn to play is that of a female or male, an assignment that will virtually affect everything a person ever does throughout their lifetime (Eitzen 256-257).

Gender inequality is closely connected to race, class, and sexuality. It is a multilevel system of differences and disadvantages that include socioeconomic arrangements and widely held cultural beliefs that produce an outcome of male control over socially valued resources and opportunity throughout most of our societies in the world today (Eitzen 259). There are divisions of power and labor between the sexes that is an active ongoing process such as gender segregation in fields of study which help to create the gender wage gap by occupation. Men earn more money than women in about every occupation, even in female dominated occupations, because women enter a labor market characterized by persistent gender wage gaps according to occupational placement and discrimination along with other factors (Eitzen 259-260). Even though a post-secondary education increases women’s earning potentials and access to quality jobs, women tend to obtain degrees in fields with lower earnings than men. 80% of female graduates obtain a degree in the fields of family and consumer sciences, social sciences, education and health, and legal studies. On the other hand, 80% of men who graduate obtain degrees in fields associated with precision production traits, mechanics, transportation, construction and engineering related technology. Men also make up around 70% of graduates seeking engineering, mathematics and computer science degrees (Eitzen 259-260). This type of gender segregation among community college majors could definitely contribute to occupational segregation along with larger gender wage gaps. If more women were obtaining degrees in fields such as engineering or computer information technology and construction, they would experience greater economic reward from their education (“Gender Segregation in Fields of Study”). As we can see from the table below, women make up the highest percent of the lowest paying decrees while they make a very small percent of the male dominated higher-paying decrees.

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Representation of Women Earning Associates Degree by Field of Study

Family and Consumer Sciences 96%

Legal Professions and Studies 90%

Library Science 87%

Public Administration and Social Services 86%

Education 86%

Health Professions and Related Sciences 85%

Foreign Languages, literatures and linguistics 84%

Psychology 81%

Area, Ethnic, Cultural, and Gender Studies 71%

Biological and Biomedical Sciences 68%

Business Management 66%

English and literature 65%

Social Sciences and History 64%

Visual and Performing Arts 64%

Multi-Interdisciplinary Studies 61%

Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies, and Humanities 61%

Architecture and Related Services 54%

Communications 54%

Personal and Culinary Services 52%

Theology and Religious Vocations 50%

Security and Protective Services 48%

Physical Sciences and Science Technologies 41 %

Parks, Recreation, Leisure, and Fitness Studies 40%

Agriculture and Natural Resources, Total 34%

Mathematics 32%

Communications Technologies 30%

Philosophy and Religion 29%

Computer and Information Sciences 25%

Military Technologies 22%

Engineering 14%

Engineering-Related Technologies 14%

Transportation Workers 13%

Precision Production Trades 6.5%

Mechanics and Repairers 5.5%

Construction Trades 5.1%

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Table 1. Web. 2008-09 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). 2009

With the data provided, we can see the inequality between women and men in the education system of the United States which in turn contributes tremendously to the gender wage gap within and by occupations, here in the US. It does not matter if a woman works in an occupation dominated by women or men, or even in an occupation that is an even mix of women and men. Women’s average income earnings are still lower than men’s in nearly every occupation and every male dominated occupation tends to pay more than a female dominated occupation with similar occupational skills, particularly those with higher education skills of similarity. According to the reported wage gap in the 20 most common occupations for women who work full-time and the 20 most common occupations for men who work full-time, women earn less wages than men for the same job. If a woman’s average weekly income is around $700 then a man doing the same job would earn a weekly income of around $800. The following two tables will show the average earning and the gender wage gap for the 20 most common occupations for full-time working women and men.

The Wage Gap in Women’s 20 Most Common Occupations

(Full-Time Workers Only), 2011

20 most common occupations for women

Women’s average weekly earnings

Women’s earnings percent of men’s

Men’s average weekly earnings

Share of female workers in occupation

All workers





Secretaries and administrative assistants





Elementary and middle school teachers

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Registered nurses





Nursing, psychiatric, and home health





Customer service representatives










Supervisors of retail sales workers





Office and administrative workers





Accountants and auditors





Receptionists and information clerks





Bookkeeping, accounting,





Managers, all other





Retail salespersons





Office clerks, general





Maids and housekeeping cleaners





Secondary school teachers





Financial managers





Waiters and waitresses





Social. Workers





(IWPR) data from the U.S. Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011. Household Data, Annual Averages Table. Table 2. Web 11/18/2012.

Wage Gap in Men’s 20 Most Common Occupations

(Full-Time Workers) 2011

20 Most Common Occupations for Men

Men’s average weekly earnings

Women’s average weekly earnings

Women’s earnings as percent of men’s

Share of female workers in occupations

All workers





Managers, all other





Supervisors of retail sales










Laborers and material movers





Retail salesperson





Construction laborers





Wholesale and manufacturing





Systems/software developers










Chief executives





Grounds maintenance workers










Stock clerks





Gen. and operations managers





Auto technicians/mechanics





Surveillance/security officers





Police officers










Customer services





(IWPR) data from the U.S. Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011.

Household Data/Annual Averages Table. Table 3. Web. 11/18/2010

It is evident when comparing the two tables of the gender wage gap by occupation that not only do men have a greater earning advantage than women in what is considered male dominated occupations, but they also have greater earning potential in female dominated occupations as well. Five of the 20 most common occupations for men have weekly income earnings above $1000 while only two of the 20 most common occupations for women earn that amount weekly with the exception of stock clerks. Although women are more than twice as likely as men to work at jobs with poverty wages, both tables show evidence that there are occupations for both men and women that have average earnings for a full week of work that provide less than 100% of federal poverty levels for a family of four according to the US Department of Health and Human Services. Seven out of twenty female dominated occupations and eight out of twenty male dominated occupations provide average earnings of less than 150% of the poverty threshold which potentially places these workers among the working poor, with earnings too low to attain financial security and to high to qualify for public assistance. So the low earning occupations of both genders present a significant problem for both female and male workers (“Gender Wage Gap by Occupation”).

While income earning potential has improved for women in the US since the 1963 The Equal Rights Act Amendment, in 1979 women earned about 62% of what men earned. By the year 2000 they only earned 60% of men’s earnings, with these percents declining to 46.7% in 2010 which is not even expected to significantly increase by 2018. And the 37.1% of women who obtain a bachelor’s degree compared to 34.9% of men, women are still 50% more likely to work in lower paying job occupations of the public than men (“Inequality and Women in the US Labor Force”). The Government Accountability Office reported in 2010 that women made up 59% of the low-wage workforce and in terms of leadership positions only 24% of CAOs in the US were women and they earned only 74.5% as much as their male counterparts in 2009 (“Inequality and Women in the US Labor Force”).

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President Obama stated in his address to the United Nations General Assembly in September 2011 that everyone’s commitment to human progress demands that we all take steps to break down not only the economic barriers, but also the political barriers of women’s economic and political empowerment in the US and almost a year to the exact date in September 2012, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, launched the Equal Futures Partnership on behalf of the United states along with one dozen other founding members from around the globe (“The Equal Futures Partnership to Expand Women’s Political and Economic Participation”). This group has only one goal for women, and that is participating fully in public life to benefit and lead economic growth in all nations and to regulate and reform policies that will help to advance this goal with government obligations to protect and promote women’s fundamental freedoms and human rights. All founding partners will consult with civil society and national stakeholders to translate commitments into action by April 2013 with the United States already building on existing efforts and making new commitments such as equal quality education for women to obtain high-paying career opportunities in fields of technology, science, engineering, and math (“Equal Futures Partnership to Expand Women’s Political and Economic Participation”).

It is plain to see that the battle of the sexes has had its ups and downs over the decades and despite several attempts at equality, there still remains many inequalities between men and women. So maybe it is time to recognize that we need to find a new way to fix a very old and ancient problem between women and men since we have not yet been able to eliminate the inequalities experienced by all women. Maybe we need to take a deeper look at what has caused these existing boundaries of inequalities to reveal the masculine dominance of economic wealth and leadership so we can discover a new way to create a real equality between both of the sexes of women and men because women’s ultimate human potential is depleted within these male-dominant organizations of power (“A New Solution for an Age-Old Problem”).

Works Cited

Eitzen, D. Stanley. Gender Inequality.” Social Problems. 11th ed. N.p.: Pearson Education: 2009. 250+ Print.

“Fact Sheet: The Equal Futures Partnership to Expand Women’s Political and Economic Participation.” The White House. Office of the Press Secretary, 24 Sept. 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2012.

“Gender Inequality and Women in the US Labor Force.” Gender Inequality and Women in the US Labor Force. International Labor Organization, 23 Nov. 2001. Web. 17 Nov. 2012.

Institute for Women’s Policy Research Fact Sheet.” Gender Segregation in Fields of Study at Community Colleges and Implications for Future Earnings — IWPR. IWPR Publication, Apr. 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2012.

“Institute for Women’s Policy Research.” The Gender Wage Gap by Occupation. IWPR, Apr. 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2012.

(IWPR) data from the U.S. Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011. (Household Data, Annual Averages Table). Table 2. Web 11/18/2012.

(IWPR) data from the U.S. Department of Labor and Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2011.

(Household Data/Annual Averages Table). Table 3. Web. 11/18/2010

“A New Solution for an Age Old Problem.” Abandoning Leadership for a Better Way of Being for

Women and Men. ACLW Publishing, 3 Sept. 2012. Web. 17 Nov. 2012.

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Table. 1. Web. 2008-09 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). 2009