Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Democracy and Gender Inequality in China

Academic journal article Journal of Research in Gender Studies

Democracy and Gender Inequality in China

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. The theory that I shall seek to elaborate here puts considerable emphasis on the translation of women's human rights rhetoric into concrete action, the nascent women's movement in China, China's gender and law initiatives, and the size and determinants of gender differences in cognition. This study is grounded in the considerable body of scholarship examining the huge gender gaps in the literacy rate and educational attainment, the emergence of new attitudes toward women and their role, the mobilization of women's groups to work together towards shared goals and catalyze action, and the burgeoning gender and law movement in China.

Keywords: China, democracy, gender, inequality, education, discrimination

1. Introduction

Hie mainstay of the paper is formed by an analysis of the underlying reasons for gender differences in cognition in the Chinese context, the propensity to gender-target ads, the narrowing of the gender gap in educational attainment, and gender discrimination in the form of discrimination against mothers and potential mothers. In this paper I am particularly interested in exploring advertised gender discrimination in China, the gap in the literacy rate or in educational attainment between the genders, legislative changes in the realm of employment rights and legal services for women, and manifestations of gender bias against women in the employment sector.

2. Gender Segregation in the Workplace

Derichs problematizes the conventional concept of transition, attempting a gendered conceptualization, drawing from studies and fieldwork during the periods of political transition in Indonesia and Malaysia, and addressing the impacts of transition on women. Conceptual reflections of transition need to integrate a gender-sensitive perspective. A gender-sensitive approach requires to take the pluralism and heterogeneity of "women" and "men" into account.1 Banskota writes that the constitutional democracy brought the question of gender equality2 in the forefront of public attention in Nepal: democracy requires the empowerment of women so that they can establish new knowledge and means to assert their rights, voice, and participation in the equal world, legal equality would be useless if actual inequalities in practice continue to discriminate women in everyday life.3 Schröter puts it that women's organizations have established advocacy units and women's shelters in Indonesia, promoting a nation-wide campaign against domestic violence. "Gender mainstreaming" connects women's activism to democratization, liberalism and pluralism.4

Kuhn and Shen hold that explicitly discriminatory actions, such as posting a job ad which states that a particular race or gender is preferred,5 is both legal and accepted in many of the world's labor markets (explicit advertised gender discrimination is commonplace). The share of ads favoring men versus women is roughly equal: when it is legal to express gender preferences in job ads, a significant share of employers uses gendered ads to solicit women as often as men (as a job's skill requirements rise, the share of ads stipulating a preferred gender declines). There is no strong relationship between a firm's size and its propensity to gender target its job ads. A majority of the variation in advertised discrimination occurs within firms. Chinese employers' preference for men relative to women increases strongly with a job's experience requirements.

We may sum up by saying that differences in offered wages across education groups account for a substantial share of the negative effect of education on gender targeting. Kuhn and Shen maintain that the strong effect of experience is an artifact of how firms' gender preferences vary with the worker's age. Foreign-owned firms' preferences lean towards women, while SOEs lean towards men. There is a strong interaction between employers' preferences for gender and for workers' age, height and physical attractiveness. …

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