Gender segregation in our society begins at a very young age and plays a major role in all aspects of our lives. The onset of gender segregation begins from when we are toddlers and plays a role in all aspects of our educational years. Even as we enter the workplace, our gender dictates some of our career choices. It sets the standard for salary, job titles, and certain levels of success. Some of the barriers have come down allowing people to cross the terrain of gendered work, but there are many more hurdles to cross.
The culmination of biological, sociological, political, and religious factors all seem to play a role in the cause and effect of gender segregation. In the book, Best Friends, Worst Enemies: Understanding the Social Lives of Children, the authors go on to say, based on research by Eleanor E. Maccoby that kids are more compatible with peers of the same sex. They gravitate to each other from early ages and their bonds strengthen as they get older. Their different behaviors seem to reinforce the segregation process (160).
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For example; boys will be more physical in their daily activities whether it is in sports or some other type of activity and girls will concentrate more on relationships. Boys play differently than girls and this reinforces the segregation process. They tend to be more rough and tough and girls seem to be gentler in nature. Gender plays a major role in our lives. From early on it influences our ability to establish and maintain friendships as well as relationships. Our gender also dictates what social interactions and activities are permissible within and outside ur gender group. As we age the rules may change but the premise remains the same. Gender lines can be crossed but not in all areas. Some of the rules may change by adolescence, but the changes don’t lead to total equality among the sexes. We all possess innate tendencies that allow us to cross the gender line to establish new relationships while maintaining our specific characteristics. Thompson, Grace, and Cohen make reference to the so called “cootie factor” in saying: “Segregated play increases gender differences, and gender differences reinforce the segregation.
Along the way, the other gender is considered not only different but inferior. We might call it the cootie factor” (161). The cootie factor only adds to the reinforcement of gender segregation among children. In studies by Stroufe and Thorne as cited by Strough and Covatto, children set up boundaries during childhood and preadolescence and they themselves enforce those boundaries. Children who cross boundaries are teased and labeled with “cootie” contamination (349). Adolescence is a time of transition in relationships with other-gender peer (Feiring ; Lewis, 1991; Laurse, 1996).
The quality of other gender peer relationships improves from age 12 to 15 ( Bracken ; Crain, 1994). The barriers against other-gender interactions that were normal in preadolescence break down by eight grade and other- gender peers, become important companions (Buhrmester ; Gurman, 1986, 1987; Clark, 1994). For many individuals, sexual interest in other-gender peers emerges at puberty (Furman ; Wehner, 1994) and romantic relationships become increasingly important through later adolescence (Connolly, Furman, ; Konarski, 2000).
Despite increased attraction to other-gender peers, adolescents continue to spend a great deal of time with same gender peers (Lundy, Field, McBride, Field ; Largie, 1998). Same-gender friends are more common than other-gender friends (Maccoby, 1998). Hence, although the magnitude of gender segregation may decrease from preadolescence to later adolescence, same-gender peer relationships still comprise a substantial portion of individuals’ peer networks (Strough & Covatto, 350). Despite the fact that there is more interaction among the genders during adolescence, the bonds created among the same gender still remain dominant.
According to Thompson, Grace, and Cohen, “To learn what it means to be a boy or a girl, your child looks not only to you but also to the larger culture and especially to peers. Beginning in early childhood, that usually means choosing to spend most of the time with groups of one’s own gender. Within these single-sex groups, they learn the rules of being male and female” (162-163). In Best Friends, Worst Enemies, the authors repeatedly claimed: Early in elementary school kids discover that there are rules about how the gender you belong to is supposed to behave. Those rules strictly overn your dealings with members of the other gender. Violation of these rules results in teasing, rejection, gossip, and other punishments. One of the most powerful and consistent rules about gender is to spend most of one’s time and energy in single-sex groups. This division into two groups starts in preschool or kindergarten and lasts at least until the beginning of adolescence (160). Even as we enter adulthood and move on to higher education, gender segregation still remains prevalent. I remember a time not too long ago when university enrolment maintained a olicy of segregation and only allowed students of the same sex to enroll. Today, even with enrollment open to members of both genders the segregation still exists based on early onset socialization practices. “A common explanation for gender segregation, in higher education as well as more generally, is that it is due to differences in the early socialization of boys and girls (ef Eagly, 2000). Boys and girls internalize different values and preferences, and this leads them to choose different subject areas” (Mastekassa, and Smeby 191).
On college campuses, gender segregation is evident in clubs and organizations that are related to their course of study. Mastekassa and Smeby also state “Women now make up more than half of all higher education students in many countries in the industrialized world. The distribution of men and women across fields of study is, however, still very uneven (Bradley, 2000, Jacobs, 1996; Storen ; Arnesen, 2003)” (190). For their study, Mastekaasa and Smeby used a sample of students from a Norwegian university. “The university colleges offer mostly three year professionally oriented programmes in fields like education, engineering, and nursing.
In Norway, as in many other countries, the influx of female students has been even stronger in these fields of higher education than in traditional disciplinary university fields. Nevertheless, there are still large variations between the different educational programmes. Most programmes, like nursing, education and social work, are clearly female-dominated, but there are also strongly male dominated enclaves like engineering” (190). Hanna Ayalon claims that the gender gap in college is a carryover from high school. Women’s lack of study in areas in mathematics, technology, and ciences in college is the result of course taking subjects in high school (277). Ayalon goes on to say “The participation of female students in advanced mathematics and science courses in high school is relatively low for a number of reasons: some related to girls’ attitude toward this field of study, and others to school influence” (278). It appears that the key to women breaking the barriers of gender segregation later in life is dependent on their choices in education early on in life. Choices that we make throughout life always seem to be influenced by our gender.
It influences our friendships, our education, and ultimately our career goals. “Gender has always been an issue of debate when it came to differences between men and women in all aspects of life. Each is purported to have different thinking, attitudes, reactions, behaviors, physical (Biagi, S. 2005) and biological characteristics that make each gender perceived in a distinctive way. With all these differences, both inherent and/or learned, the workplace is definitely affected by the idea of gender” (Al-Jenaibi 64).
However, when it comes to the workplace one may view it as gender bias or gender inequality as opposed to gender segregation. “The existing conceptions and stereotypes for women and men confirm specific expectations in terms of behavior, priorities, and orientation related to work-life and family life. Employers prefer subjects with few obligations outside work; a description which women, due to expectation of their having the main domestic responsibilities, can find it hard to live up to” (Anderson & Bloksgaard 60).
History has proven that some women have performed far superior to some men in the workplace and in education and yet the recognition is hard to come by. In Women’s Work, Men’s Work: Sex Segregation on the Job, the authors contend that “Despite increasing similarities in women’s and men’s work lives, significant areas of difference remain. In particular earnings and occupations” and “The concentration of women and men in different jobs that are predominantly of a single sex has been labeled sex segregation in the labour market. The overall degree of sex segregation has been a remarkably stable phenomenon.
It has not changed much since at least 1900″ (1). According to Reskin and Hartmann, there are numerous contributing factors to sex segregation such as; cultural beliefs, barriers in employment opportunity, socialization, education, training, and family responsibilities. Through the enactment of laws and regulations women have made substantial progress in this area but still not enough for total equality (125-128). Graham & Hotchkiss site a US Department of Labor 2007 statistic that full time employed women earn . 80 to every $1. 00 earned by their male counterpart doing the same job.
This is a reality even with equal employment opportunity laws in place. Companies and industries have remained persistent in gender-related disparities (577). Al-Jenaibi points out in his study that even though equal pay for equal work exists in a lot places, men a still paid more than women for doing the same job. Most often men don’t mind women in the work place as long as men maintain the superior position. (67) Anderson and Bloksgaard add to this by saying: “Analysis clearly show that gender blindness exists in relation to evaluating competences, skills, and opportunities.
As long as the existing norm of appropriate behavior continues to be cultivated and the demands that are posed for performance seem discriminating to women, it seems difficult to change the hierarchy of gender and competence in the work-place” (68). Employers seem to discriminate against women because they prefer workers with few obligations outside of work and women still maintain a high level of domestic responsibilities. Hoffmann and Powlishta seem to sum it all up by saying: The phenomenon of gender segregation may have important implications.
Because boys and girls grow up in distinctive cultures, sex differences may be amplified (Maccoby, 1988, 1998). In addition, because boys and girls have relatively little experience with each other, they may not be adequately prepared for the adult world, which is not nearly as gender segregated as the child world (Macoby, 1990, 1998; Powlishta, 1995a). Thus, sex-differentiated styles of interaction may be perpetuated by childhood gender segregation and may continue into adulthood in the form of communication problems between men and women and gender segregation in the workplace (Lockheed ; Klein, 1985; Maccoby, 1998) 299). Over the years through legislation, education, and the willingness to take risk we have made progress in reducing gender segregation in education and the labor market. Changes need to be made early on in life to make a significant difference in our adult life. Women have shown to be more willing to cross gender lines than men. Even when this has been possible, greater disparages have remained for women than men in terms of wages, and position. The key to gender equality is to go back and address where it began.
Works Cited Thompson, Michael; Grace, Catherine O’Neill; Cohen, Lawrence J. Best Friends, Worst Enemies Understanding The Social Lives of Children. Westminster, MD, USA: Ballantine Publishing group. 2001 Reskin, Barbara F. and Hartmann, Heidi I. Women’s Work, Men’s Work Sex Segregation on the Job. Washington, DC, USA: National Academies Press, 1986 Al-Jenaibi, Badreya. “Differences Between Gender Treatments in the Work Force” Cross-Cultural Communication Vol. 6, No. 2, 2010, pp. 63-74 Mastekaasa, Arne and Smeby, Jens-Christian. Educational choice and persistence in male- and female-dominated fields” Springer Science+Business Media B. V. 2006 Hoffmann, Melissa L. and Powlishta, Kimberly K. “Gender Segregation in Childhood: A Test of the Interaction Style Theory” The Journal of Genetic Psychology, 2001, 162(3), pp. 298-313 Strough, JoNell and Covatto, Ann Marie. “Context and Age Differences in Same- and Other-gender Peer Preferences” Social Development Vol. 11, no. 3, 2002 Andersen, Pernille Tanggaard and Bloksgaard, Lotte. Gendered Negotiations of Competences and Management” Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, Vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 58-70, March 2008 Ayalon, Hanna. “Women and men go to university: Mathematical background and gender differences in choice of field in higher education 1″ Sex Roles, New York: Mar 2003. Vol. 48, Iss. 5/6 pg. 277. Graham, Mary E and Hotchkiss, Julie l. ” A more proactive approach to addressing Gender-related employment disparities in the United States” Gender in Management. Bradford: 2009. Vol. 24, Iss. 8; pg. 577