Cultural Diversity in the Workplace: Issues and Strategies

By George Henderson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 3
Women

From a historical perspective it is evident that capitalism, through its wage-labor system, introduced an important distinction between the sexes: men began to work for wages outside their homes, while women continued to work within their homes without wages. Despite mechanical aids altering the way women work, this did almost nothing to change the type of work assigned to women (e.g., domestic, family maintenance, reproduction, socialization of children). The so-called women's work continues to be seen by some people as natural functions, instinctive, and of little importance when compared with men's work. The downgrading of women's work has been a foremost cause of current status problems of women. Even when pre-1970 women supplemented their families' income through work at home by taking in boarders, laundry, or children, for example, their efforts continued to go unheralded; it was viewed as a part of their routine household chores.

Until World War II, most married women living with their husbands worked outside their homes only if they were extremely poor or if a hardship was experienced, such as the husband being unable to work or pay the bills. Middle-class and upper-class mothers were expected to remain at home with their children. If they did not their employment meant that their husbands were inadequate in some respect, and this was a blow to the men's self-esteem and that of their families.

Numerous rationalizations were used by employers for paying women less, but the major reason was quite simple: it was profitable. Not only were women forced to accept underemployment, seasonal employment, and tedious tasks, but they were also viewed as being expendable during periods of economic recession. Excluded from most skilled jobs and the

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