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June 9, 2011

How the Gender Gap Works

Sample paper 3 Student - Spring 2011

They say that the United States is the land of opportunity. I have a hard time just really getting this to sink in. It seems like becoming a citizen of the United States just locks you into this prison of social class, debt you will be paying off forever, and a constant worry of making money to live. We are born into or move into a country where social stratification effects everyone's lives.

With opportunity comes stress. Almost all Americans live outside of their means. So many want to climb that social ladder and be part of a higher class. It is far out of reach for so many that they end up living outside their means. Today the gap between social class is becoming larger and larger. If you are born into poverty it is almost impossible to jump the border and become a part of the elite class.

I think this is also why so many entertainment movies and stories are about a main character making that fantastical leap into a higher social class. It is so far out of reach that we go through live imagining what it would be like if we were rich, how things would be different. We go through life planning and waiting for when we "will" be rich, fantasizing about how our lives will be so much better if we were part of the higher class.
Being stuck in these different social layers dictates what we can and cannot have access to in our lives. What types of things we can buy or the places that we can live. We are limited if we are born into poverty by where we work, what material things we end up having around us and where we may end up going to school.

There are so many things that determine our social class in life but I think that the biggest area of social stratification lies within what class we are born into and our gender. People experience their social class often but what is experienced in almost every situation is their gender.

Although we'd love to say that we don't do this people are treated differently because of their gender. Just like with racism and how people are treated because of their skin color, gender stratification is there under the carpet. It's strange how this is one of the hugest areas that also determine status and money earned yet people seem to not really acknowledge it often. Everyone does it. In the way that they address people throughout the day to the way they look at people and talk to them.

In today's workplace women make much less than males do, and seem to have much more of a struggled they must go through in order to make it successfully to the top. In my own personal experience I have definitely experienced gender stratification and how I am treated differently because of my sex on a day to day basis.

For the last three years I have been in an engineering program which typically consisted mainly of men. There were a few women in my program but after the years it ended with just me and one other female. Right off the bat when given lab groups I was placed in a group with two of the other women in the class. This left just one girl who had to be in a group of all men. Wouldn't this have been better if the women were spaced up equally among the men so we could all experience working together?

I think this affected a lot of the women's grades in the long run. All of the women were new to this type of profession and most of the men were new or retired from the military doing the same profession. The women had a much harder struggle when learning the material where as the other men that were new to the material got lots of help from their knowledgeable lab partners that could help based on their previous experience.
All except two of the females left the program due to increasing amount of work and struggle trying to learn the material, while also trying to keep things good on the home front, while still taking care of their children and getting their household duties done.
After schooling most of the people applied for an internship, I was lucky enough to be picked along with three guys. I think mostly it had to do with my grades. Once in the position I was treated differently because of my sex and it was obvious.

The atmosphere at the company was hard to blend into because it was all men. You hear the way that they joke to each other was in a different way than the way that they would joke with me. When they joked with me it always had something to do with the fact that I was female or was a joke about some sexual comment. It was either these kinds of things or guys staying out of the way and only addressing me when necessary or with pleasantries expected in the workplace.

When an intern was picked for tasks or jobs where a lot of hands on training would have been given I was almost always overlooked. Instead I was given jobs and tasks mainly focused on the computer and documentation. Instead of getting to perform a lot of the procedures on a machine I instead had to read procedures and edit them for grammar, spelling or accuracy. This was hard because even though yes I am a female I really enjoyed working with my hands and getting down and dirty with the machines just as much as the guys did.

After the internship was over and job placement was given the other male interns were given positions in the company with development and engineering in Hillsboro which is what they wanted. I was given a position that I had to relocate to another state for, away from the main branch of the company and out in an area where only a few people work on site with tools. Right here I can see how my training is going to be limited further. Instead of being with several engineers and getting the maximum training I will be with just two other younger engineers with little to none experience. I was also able to find out that my starting salary is about ten thousand lower than that of a male intern last year who finished the program and became a level one field service engineer.

I can't say for sure that these things all happened due to my gender but it seems that most of the signs point in that direction. How can I really address these things in my company? Honestly...I don't think that I really can, without making a scene or accusations that would ultimately result in my possibly being fired or being treated even more differently because of how I feel about being treated because I am a female. How do we start to curb gender stratification? How do we reduce the way people are treated because of their sex and gender? The first and biggest step I think in stopping this is to just help to make people more aware that it is happening and that they are doing it. Once society can admit this, then perhaps it can start to heal.

Redefining Social Class in America

Sample paper 3 by Kristin Nxumalo - Spring 2011

There is a myth in the United States that if one works hard enough there will be no limit to what he can achieve. In fact this myth is the very foundation that many of our ideas about politics, law, education, health care and business are built on--the idea that whether we succeed or fail is ultimately up to our own ambitions and capabilities. Sociologists like to refer to this as the Horatio Alger Myth; which refers to the popular 1800's stories depicting young men making it from rags to riches based on sheer tenacity (Henslin 221). In fact, if you just turn on the news tonight you are bound to hear a story about someone making it "big" by nothing other than "hard work" and "grit". However enticing this story may be, and however much we have invested in it, the story is not true. The truth is that most societies, and ours is no exception, are built upon a social stratification system. This system helps organize society, and more importantly society's assets and resources, based on where an individual falls on the 'strata' or level in the system. In order to fully understand this system we have to understand how it functions in US society, how individuals are categorized, and what categories constitute the 'master statuses'--or predetermined, unchangeable categories that are so pervasive they influence all aspects of your location in society.

All societies have some form of stratification or societal organization. In the United States we commonly refer to this system as the 'class system'. Sociologists classify this system as 'open', meaning that there is movement either up or down, among individuals in each class. However, this movement is not free of barriers; there are hindrances to how far an individual can move on the social ladder. Social class refers to the amount of property, power and prestige that is held by a group of individuals. The divisions in the class system are directly related to the amount of property, power and prestige each group holds. In the US there are six major class determinations: the capitalist class (1% of population), upper middle class (15% population), lower middle class(34% population), working class (30% population), working poor (16% population) and the underclass (4%) (Henslin 209). With each step down the class ladder property, power and prestige decrease in the form of wealth, education, access to resources and autonomy. For example if you are in the upper middle class you probably attended a good university and received at least a bachelor's degree, you have a job with few supervisors and make enough money to afford the things considered of value in American society (a car, house and vacations) and you don't worry about affordable health care. On the contrary, if you are part of the working class you probably only graduated high school, you hold a 'remedial' position that is more likely to be routine, physical and less secure; folks on this rung may be able to afford a home sometime in their lives but are unlikely to have many other luxuries and live in constant fear of the instability of their financial positions. These disparages between the classes only become more pronounced as you compare the highest and lowest rungs on the ladder. With far more than half of the population (64%) being either lower middle and working class individuals, why aren't conditions improving for these middle classes if we have a democratic government? Sociologist C. Wright Mills believed the answer lies in what he coined as the 'power elite' (Henslin 201).
The power elite refer to the handful of people who are at the highest echelon of social class, some may even argue that the power elite are above the capitalist class. They control the overwhelming majority of the money, property and other economic resources in the United States and thus have more power and influence than any other class, regardless of their physical underrepresentation. The power elite have the most invested in keeping the class system alive; they use a lot of their influence and power to persuade politicians and corporations to look out for their best interests and investments even at the expense of the majority of the population. Additionally the power elite are a major part of the propagation of the American myth that anyone can get ahead if they work hard enough, if the general public believes in this myth then they will not only work harder in the capitalist society believing they can 'make it big'; but they will also accept their social class and the classes of others as a result of individual characteristics instead of social structure. It is the power elite that largely dictate what defines the class system.
It is a social tendency for individuals to describe their personal characteristics and attributes as positive and to describe 'others' attributes as negative; therefore if the power elite have the most influence in American society they are likely to define those characteristics that they possess as most desirable, the closer you are to having their characteristics the higher up you are likely to be on the social class scale. For example, if most of the power elite are white, middle-aged, wealthy and educated those will be the qualities that are most desired in an individual and the farther you are from those qualities the less likely you are to be a part of the power elite. It is also these characteristics that define each of the social classes; it is no secret that women hold a far less prestigious position than men in any social class and that people of color are more likely to make up a significant proportion of the lower classes and are underrepresented in positions and classes of power; and both are likely to be less educated. This also demonstrates how certain characteristics are pervasive when defining a person's social class; these characteristics are also often likely to be things that are genetic or ascribed and unlikely to be changed.
These pervasive characteristics are often referred to as a person's 'master status'. The four master statuses commonly discussed include a person's race, gender, age, and the socioeconomic status they were born into. All of these characteristics will play a systemic role in the opportunities afforded to the individual to acquire the power, prestige and property necessary to move up the social ladder. I would like to discuss another major factor that I feel can severely limit a person's opportunities and social class status, that often gets overlooked. That is pervasive mental or physical disability. Although, those with more resources (higher classes) are more capable of attending to their physical and psychological needs than those with less resources (lower class); it hardly makes a difference if someone has a degenerative or pervasive mental or physical condition. For example, Schizophrenia is a genetic disorder of the brain that effects your overall emotional and cognitive functioning; it is unlikely that if you have Schizophrenia you will ever be a part of the upper classes, and you are more likely to be a part of the underclass regardless of the availability of world class medical treatment. I would have to argue also that mental illness is the one ascribed characteristic that may be capable of taking an individual from an upper class to the lowest class. I work in mental health and know of countless individuals who at one time made up a part of the upper middle or working classes before their illness set in and are now a part of the underclass. Schizophrenia is just one example of how these conditions are a major barrier to one's abilities to move up the social ladder but others could include autism, cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. These conditions could make up a fifth master status.
Understanding social stratification and social class in America is a complex and daunting task. There are certainly more factors to be considered than what is presented here. It is important to note that there is some mobility of individuals among the social classes; but they are the exception and not the rule. There is not nearly enough upward mobility to call our society 'equal opportunity'. Our class stratification system only benefits the few people at the top. But to change it we must work through how the master statuses define our opportunities. We have to learn how to increase opportunities for those people who do not fit the ascribed 'criteria' for the upper classes. As a society we also have to stop buying into the Horatio Alger myth and begin to understand how the social construction of our society is what locks us in or moves us along social class lines; despite our best efforts.

Henslin, James. Essentials of Sociology: A down to Earth approach. Custom Publishing. Boston, Massachusetts. Copyright 2009, pages 197-221.

June 8, 2011

Exploitation or Opportunity?

Sample Paper 3 by Ivana Krog - Spring 2011

Do you think that the low-wage factories of the multi-national corporations, located in countries such as China, Bangladesh or Mexico, represent exploitation or opportunity?

"Every exploitative relationship begins with an initial inequality that makes the taking advantage possible. In exploitative relationship the rich get richer and the poor fall further behind. "- Robert Mayer

Exploitation, in this case economic exploitation, can be defined as using somebody's labor, but in return giving an unfair compensation, or taking unfair advantage of laborer. Exploitation is nowadays mostly taking place in factories of undeveloped countries of Asia, Africa and South America. The workers in factories are paid low, sometimes paid under the minimum wage and also placed to work in very bad conditions. According to Robert Mayer there are two kinds of exploitation: discretionary and structural exploitation. Karl Marx viewed the whole capitalist class as exploitative thing. On the other hand those people in between those multi-national corporations and oppressed workers are in dilemma to call it exploitation or opportunity. The question also is: Is exploitation ok even if it is not harmful and mutually beneficial?

"Hours are long. Wages are pitiful. Workers go there voluntarily, which means--hard as it is to believe--that whatever their alternatives are, they are worse." says Tim Harford the Undercover Economist. Nowadays most Americans and people of other developed western countries are aware of existence of sweatshops and labor exploitation in third world countries such as China, India, and Mexico. We all, including myself, agree that bad conditions and low wages for those workers are unacceptable, but it is also hard for most of us to do anything about it. The reasons for us to judge or do anything about it is because, first we benefit from it by being able to buy cheap products and second we see besides exploitation that those worker have been given opportunity to earn more money. Before we make our decision, we need to look at different theories of exploitation, globalization and spread of capitalism and we also need to evaluate working conditions and opinions of those laborers.

According to Robert Mayer there are two forms of exploitation: discretionary and structural exploitation. The discretionary exploitation or flexible exploitation is the one that raises question of fairness. The laborers are free to choose it they want to work for low wages and in difficult circumstances. Most of the time they are not so desperate that it comes to life and death, but their alternative options are agriculture, day labor or scavenging that will bring even less income and even worse working conditions; so in most circumstance they will choose to be exploited by multi-national corporations. It is the offer that they cannot afford to refuse.

The second form of exploitation is structural exploitation that is considered less evil exploitation. As name structural suggest it is more organized exploitation by free trade laws or market settings and competitions. Mayers in his article gives an example of Wal-Mart 2004 case as structural exploitation. In 2004 all Wal-Mart competitors decided to slash their prices after Wal-Mart decided to keep their prices same. Those competitors were allowed to take advantage of Wal-Mart's bad decision and to make Wal-Mart loose its business.

Marxist theory is that capitalism is based of exploitation. If we look at his theory and globalization of capitalism, we can say that there won't be end to exploitation for many years or never, because someone's labor has to be exploited for capitalism to work. On the other hand Functionalist would probably argue that those exploited workers voluntarily agreed to work for such low wages and that someone has to do the dirty work. They see that for benefit of western world and the benefit of those exploited workers stratification is inevitable.

Before we can even answer our question of exploitation or opportunity, we might want to look at some examples of exploitation in Mexico, China and Bangladesh.
In Mexico they are called Maquiladoras, factories that were establish after North American Free Trade Agreement. Those factories produce parts and products for American, Japanese and some European factories. They employ over one million workers in 3000 factories and under American standards those factories would be considered sweatshops. The workers are paid as little as $10 per day, they usually work long hours and working conditions are poor. The workers live in shacks without running water and where usually pollution is very high from the factories. The argument from NAFTA is that they provided jobs for many unemployed people and that poverty was there before those factories arrived.

Another example is Bangladeshi clothing factories that employ about two million exploited workers, which are mostly young women between age of 14 and 29. Thinking about just the fact that those are mostly young women, makes it easier for exploiters to take advantage of them. According to the article Garment History, the working conditions and pay of Bangladeshi workers are the worst in the world with wage of just 8 cents per hour, comparing to US about 8 dollars per hour. In addition to low wages, workers don't receive their earned wages on time; usually they would receive those months later. Overtime is not paid even though they have to work 14 to 16 hours a day. In 2006 workers organized strikes seeking higher pay and better conditions. The minimum wage has been increased and overtime pay ensured since then. So maybe there is hope that with people power conditions can change to better for those workers. On the other hand the multi-national corporation would say that if they have to keep increasing the wages, that they would have to move their factories to China, where labor at that point would be cheaper. That would obviously mean that two million Bangladeshi would loose their jobs.

Last but probably most known example of cheap and exploited labor is in China. Before mid 1800s China was completely closed from the rest of the world and from Industrialization. Today China's economy is on the unstoppable and very fast economic rise. The big part of that economic rise is because of all production factories from western world moved to China searching for cheap labor and so the cheap products. People from villages are massively moving to the cities to work in those factories because they would earn about $200 per month working in the factories and only about $50 per month if they stayed home and worked on the farms. There is also pressure to modernize with globalization. When Brook Silva-Braga in documentary The China Question interviewed young workers in the factory, they said that despite tough conditions that they have to work and live in, they just want to earn money and be able to buy modern things.

After examining exploitation, I think that low wage factories definitely are not opportunity for people. With globalization of capitalism, there is no stop to exploitation. People in the developing countries are forced to modernize; they are economically forced to work in such factories, so really they don't have options.
As mentioned in the beginning quote, every exploitative relationship begins with initial inequality and that is how I see what capitalism is about, rich exploiting poor.

Works Citied

Harford, Tim. "Quotes." Good Reads, November 2005. Web. 05 June 2011.

Henslin, James M. "Essentials of Sociology" Down to Earth Approach. Custom Publishing. Pearson. 2008.

Mayer, Robert. "Sweatshops, Exploitation, and Moral Responsibility." Journal of Social Philosophy, 2007. Vol. 38 Issue 4, p605-619, 15p. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 5 June 2011.

Rosenberg, Matt. "Maquiladoras in Mexico." Export Assembly Plants in United States. About.com. Web, 5 June 2011.

"The China Question." By Brook Silva-Braga. CNBC. Television, 3 June 2011.

"The Struggles of 2006." Garment History. Posted by Al-Amin Islam. Web Blog, 21 March 2011. Web, 5 June 2011.

June 4, 2011

Gender Pay Gap Is A Worldwide Problem

Sample Paper 3 by Virginia Thompson, Spring 2011

No matter how many degrees or experience a woman may have there is still inequality with the pay they receive compared to men, and this problem is global. Henslin states, "one of the most remarkable areas of gender inequality at work, the pay gap."(1) Women have become a large part of the work source through out the world, yet they are continually discriminated against in the form of compensation. Women and men do the same jobs, with the same vivacity and expertise but women receive much less pay for the same work. There is still discrimination going on throughout the world for women and there does not seem to be much change in sight. This discriminatory social process is being viewed and studied but not changed. This trend is a worldwide problem that affects the workplace and the economy all across the globe. Women continue to be victims of discrimination and being told they will never be as good as men, and it shows in their paychecks.

If we look at the statistics regarding the pay gap it becomes clear how big of a problem this is. The discrimination in numbers is clear. According to Henslin, "The pay gap is so great that U.S. women who work full time average only 69 percent of what men are paid."(1). The pay gap covers all areas of jobs and educational backgrounds. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows"gender pay gap in median earnings for full-time employees"(2) as being: Australia 17%, Japan 33%, United States 19%, Sweden 15%, and United Kingdom 21%. This is obviously a worldwide issue that affects women and is a problem that needs to be continually addressed. The OECD states, "in many countries, labour market discrimination- ie the unequal treatment of equally productive individuals only because they belong to a specific group-is still a crucial factor inflating disparities in employment and the quality of job opportunities."(3). The also explain, "30% of the variation in gender wage gaps across OECD countries can be explained by discriminatory practices in the labour market."(4). It is clearly seen here as a problem women face globally and women continue to be the victims of gender inequality.

This type of discrimination leads to tension and resentment in the workplace. The "man's world" still exists within the workforce and is shown here in the gender pay gap problem. Women are continually trying to find ways to fit into this masculine derived community. As we see, in order for women to try and get fair compensation they must work harder and act as a man would in the business setting. Even though this is a known fact and it is clearly discriminatory there has been little change in the area of gender pay-gap. The trend of women getting more education and streaming into the more competitive work places has been on a steady rise since around the 1940's. While women have begun to fight for the right to equal pay, we are still a long way away from the ideal. It is disturbing to know that entering college women can succeed and have the same training and still be denied the right to the same pay as men. Throughout the world the message of being less-than because you are female is still very prevalent when we look at the gender pay gap.

Gender pay gap not only affects the work place but the economy as well. A study done in Australia by the National Center for Social and Economic Modeling, shows how eliminating the gender pay gap can help the economy. "A 2009 report for the Australian Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs argued that in addition to fairness and equity there are also strong economic imperatives for addressing the gender wage gap."(5). They go on to state, "the researchers estimated that a decrease in the gender wage gap of 1 percentage point from 17% to 16% would increase GDP (Gross Domestic Product) per capita by approximately $260. This equates to around $5497 million. The results also indicate that eliminating the whole gender wage gap from 17% to zero, could be worth around $93 billion. The researchers also estimate that removing the negative effects associated with the prime determinant of the gap, that is being a woman, could add around $56 billion to the total annual GDP." (5). This study is startling evidence how not only is eliminating the gender pay gap good within the workplace but it can have a substantially positive impact on the economy. This shows how the gender pay gap can stimulate the economy, it is surprising how much we can hold on to our old male-dominated ideas when such positive effects can come from change.

In another article from Britain titled, Gender Pay Gap costs UK economy ?23bn a Year. Two commission members said in a joint statement, "The continued division of jobs into men's work and women's work is holding back our economy at a time when the challenge from abroad means we need to be operating a peak levels of performance."(6). From the title of this article we can see again how the gender pay gap effects the economy all around the world. The lack of change is having negative impacts within the working world and as well as the economic issues that impedes us all over the globe. As shown here by the studies done in both Australia and the United Kingdom there only favorable outcomes from disintegrating the gender pay gap.

While it has been a beginning for women entering higher education and workforce areas, there is still much change that needs to occur. The women who receive higher degrees are still not guaranteed the same compensation for their efforts. Women automatically receive less pay right out of college than men do with the same education. The discrimination begins there, but does not end there. Henslin explains, "to make $2,700 more a month all you have to do is be born a male and graduate from college."(1). This is a startling example for women trying to make better lives for themselves and their families. Another alarming statistic in Henslin is the The Gender Pay Gap, by Education, Figure 10.5, p.277, which shows male college graduates earn on average $87,777 and women college graduates earning only $55,222. While only half of this gap is due to career choices, the main factor for women and men competing in the same job is gender discrimination. This type of discrimination needs to be eliminated for the benefit of society as a whole. We are just a the cusp of change in this area and continued studies and laws made need to be put into place in order for this to occur.

As we can see the gender pay gap has many negative aspects. The disgruntled worker never makes for a healthy and productive work environment. Women who feel they are not being compensated for the same hard work as men are beginning to rise up and stand for what is right. This does not bode well for equality across the globe. This issue is affecting woman all around the world, in all industrialized societies woman are getting paid less than men for the same job. This has become a globally common practice of gender inequality. This enhances the views of women being the weaker gender. As we continue to see more women fighting their way up the corporate ladder let us hope there will be a change in the pay scale discrimination as well. The only way for this to be accomplished is to unceasingly expose the large gap in gender pay. When we look at how gender pay discrimination also impinges the economy, it is baffling that the change is not happening at a more rapid pace. The economy of industrialized societies can be positively impacted by eliminating gender pay discrimination. This is a very strong argument that can have a significant impact on our suffering economy. The evidence of this alone should be enough for us to rethink this nonsensical discrimination of gender inequality. This can only lead to more productive and progressive camaraderie not only within the workplaces but across the globe.

Works Cited

1.Henslin, James M. 2009. Essentials of Sociology. A Down-To-Earth Approach, Eighth Edition. Allyn and Bacon: Boston MA, 2009
OECD Main Page
2.OECD. OECD Employment Outlook 2008-Statistical Annex
OECD, Paris, 2008 p.358
3.OECD. OECD Employment Outlook-2008 Edition.
OECD, Paris, 2008 p.3-4
4.OECD. OECD Employment Outlook. Chapter 3: The Price of Prejudice: Labour Market Discrimination on the Grounds of Gender and Ethnicity.
OECD, Paris,2008.
5.National Center for Social and Economic Modeling. The impact of a sustained gender wage gap on the economy.
Report to the Office for Women. Department of Families, Community Services, Housing and Indigenous Affairs, 2009 p.v-vi.
6.Grice, Andrew, Political Editor, The Independent. Gender Pay Gap Costs UK Economy ?23bn a Year. 27, February 2006.