Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Gender Discrimination: Beliefs and Experiences: A Comparative Perspective of Women and Men in the Delhi Police

Academic journal article Journal of International Women's Studies

Gender Discrimination: Beliefs and Experiences: A Comparative Perspective of Women and Men in the Delhi Police

Article excerpt

Abstract

Gender roles are learnt through the socialization process and subsequently extend to the work context where women and men are believed to have different characteristics and are therefore treated differently. The pervasiveness of workplace gender differences influence hiring practices, salaries and career growth opportunities for women. Gender-based work behavior differences are perceived to be much greater in male dominated professions like the police. While research suggests that there is no evidence that policewomen perform differently from their male counterparts in their day-to-day activities of police, negative male attitudes towards women in police significantly obstruct the advancement of policewomen. Induction of women in the police service in India is a recent change. This paper analyses the beliefs and unique experiences of women in a police department in Delhi, India. Using a comparative perspective, it examines the issues and challenges relating to women in police and the concomitant experiences of policemen, posed by the more recent entry of women in the service. Quantitative data, supported by in-depth interviews are obtained from a large sample of women and men from the rank and file of the police. The data suggest that gender based work behaviour differences are perceived to be predominant. Women are assigned peripheral roles and are yet to be integrated with the mainstream. These findings have significant implications for developing relevant human resource policies in police departments to deal with the changing demographics and for building a gender-inclusive organisation.

Keywords: Gender, Discrimination, Perception, Police

Context

Gender roles and identities are learnt within complex family relationships and get reinforced through the socialization process, where socially ascribed behavior and responsibilities conform to the norms of each society (Dick and Cassell 2002, Ball and Wilson 2000, Karreman and Alvesson 2001, Chakravarti 1995). These socially constructed beliefs and expectations that people hold about the roles of men and women in society are seldom neutral. They are essentially an outcome of power relations that characterize society, where some are privileged while others may be suppressed or even marginalized. Underpinning these assumptions is the view that women and men are believed to have different characteristics and are therefore perceived differently. They further facilitate in creating occupational identities that are dominated by members of either gender. As a result, gender stereotypes pervade male-female relationships influencing the ways in which members of each sex are expected to behave and the ways in which their behavior is interpreted (Cohen and Huffman 2003, Knights and Richards 2003, Millward, Bryson and Forth 2002).

Theories of gender at workplace lay emphasis on the processes that sustain the status quo on gender (Acker 1990, 1999a). At the organizational level, these processes encompass construction of divisions, symbols and interactions between groups that result in gendered social structures and practices. However, ethnographic research suggests that organisational members also contribute in creating asymmetries in power between men and women (Ogasawara 1998, Britton 1997, P. Martin 1996, 2001). P. Martin (1998a, p 324) elucidates the significance of 'framing men as agents who actively create gender hierarchy at work'. Collinson and Heam (1994 p.5) mention the need to 'make "men" and "masculinity" explicit [and] to talk of men's power'. Workplace discrimination is also explained by the context in which people operate. McDowell (1997) states that to a large extent, women face work related problems in cultures that promote masculine values and traits which prevent women from being perceived, as well as perceiving themselves, as fitting in the system (Knights and Richards 2003, Katila and Merilainen 2003, van Vianen and Fischer 2002). …

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