A National Examination of Gender Equity in Public Parks and Recreation

By Anderson, Denise M.; Shinew, Kimberly J. | Journal of Leisure Research, Fourth Quarter 2001 | Go to article overview

A National Examination of Gender Equity in Public Parks and Recreation


Anderson, Denise M., Shinew, Kimberly J., Journal of Leisure Research


Introduction

Within the United States, women comprise roughly 52% of the adult population (www.stats.bls.bov/opub/ted/2000/feb/wk3/artO2.htm). According to the 1998 United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 59.8% of women over age sixteen are members of the workforce, and over 75% of women ages 25-54 are in the workforce (www.stats.bls.bov/opub/ted/2000/ feb/wk3/ art02.htm). Although progress has been made in several areas (McDonald, 2000), the statistics regarding women's progress in the workplace continue to be quite startling .... 28 million women in corporate America ... 3 female CEOs in Fortune 500 (.6%) . . .7 female CEOs in Fortune 1000 (.7%) ... less than 5% of senior managers at the level of Vice President and above are women (Thompson, 1999). Interestingly, these statistics remain despite research that suggests that women may be more capable in today's changing workplace. For example, a 1993 study by Hagberg Consulting Group in California, found that women scored higher than men on management criteria (criteria included leadership and problem solving skills) (Thompson, 1999).

Shinew and Arnold (1998) found in their study of gender equity in Illinois public recreation agencies that while 54% of middle managers were female, only 11% of executive level professionals were female. Although this percentage is higher than many other industries, it is still disconcerting. Their study also uncovered a number of other areas of inequity such as promotion opportunities and perceptions of gender discrimination among women. To date, research on the issue of equity between men and women in the field of public parks and recreation has been limited. Allison (1999), Arnold and Shinew (1997), Frisby (1992), Frisby (1992), Frisby and Brown (1991), Henderson (1992), and Henderson and Bialeschki (1995) have all examined women's career issues. However, a recent national examination of equity perceptions held by female public recreation professionals was needed, and thus this study attempted to broaden earlier research and provide insight into issues of equity in the field of public parks and recreation. Further, a study that examines the impact such perceptions have on workplace behaviors and attitudes was needed. Public parks and recreation agencies are designed to serve all people; they profess to be a harbor of social equity. Social equity within organizations that serve the public involves an obligation to represent all groups within its constituency through the agency's actions. Therefore, to be socially equitable, the field needs to be representative of the population that it serves at all levels of management. Given this, the purpose of this study was to explore perceptions of workplace equity among men and women in public parks and recreation. The impact these perceptions have on workplace behaviors and attitudes was also explored. The behaviors and attitudes studied included organizational citizenship, organizational commitment, and job satisfaction.

Women's Status in the Workplace

As previously indicated, inequity issues are not unique to the leisure services field. Many private businesses continue to perpetuate gender inequity. Despite the fact that over 50% of entry-level accountants are female, only 13% are partners, 35% are managers, and less than 5% are senior partners. In addition, less than 20% of women hold top manager positions in the "Big 6" accounting firms (Hayes & Hollman, 1996; Hooks & Cheramy, 1994; Kretz, 1997). A committee established to examine issues that affect female accountants found that women face a number of obstacles in their quest for upward mobility (Special Committee Examines, 1997). Obstacles include a lack of societal support and approval for women in professional careers, sexist attitudes within management and among peers, prejudices and stereotypes of pregnancy as well as combining family and career, women's lack of understanding of needed career advancement elements, the absence of flexible work schedules, and perceptions that women are not serious about their careers (Special Committee Examines, 1997). …

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