Gender inequality and androcentrism (practice of privileging males over females and feminine traits) were a significant issue for centuries (Hegarty and Buechel 2004). Women were in a subordinate social position for many centuries in human history with a significant presence of hegemonic masculinity (promotion of idealized male behaviour). Situation has changed in the last 40-50 years, but men and women are not yet equal nowadays.
We can find many examples of disadvantaged position of women and marginalization (social exclusion) throughout the human history. Archeology and cultural heritages provide us a great global historical perspective on reality of men’s and women’s position. Mostly they are revealing perspective of women’s subordination and oppression within the structure of domination of males (patriarchy). However, they are also showing women’s persistent effort in resisting the oppression (Rowbotham 2014). Women were not allowed to work, they were not allowed to participate in any kind of social life and their only duty was to deliver and raise children. Woman’s position has been changed in modern societies and they are more present in social life, are employed, they may participate in a political life, but they are still not totally equal to men. Example from the Utah public school is actually a good experiment which demonstrates inequality in salaries between males and females and reactions of people to a different price of the same bakery product based on their salaries reflects clearly the level of social awareness about gender equality.
Even in modern and advanced western societies we can still observe hegemonic masculinity and offering important managerial and executive positions to males. In the UK Royal family it is essential the birth of a male child who will inherit a royal throne and it is a good example to what extent the androcentrism is still dominant in very developed western countries. One extreme example of male dominance and social exclusion and marginalization of women in 21st century is a position of women in some Arab societies. Women are not allowed to work, drive, or participate in social and political life (Guity and Tucker 1999).
In Canada there is a good balance and gender equality is not a significant issue. However, we can still find employers who will be reluctant to hire woman for a certain position because of maternity leave and possibly more absence from work because of child care. There are also good examples of husbands who are taking now maternity leave to support their wives’ professional career. Women can opt now a wider variety of career choices, but due to a power structure (different types of hierarchies placed by the society) they are yet not able to get promotion in certain fields and reach the highest positions in military, in political life and the highest paid executive positions.
How to fight with gender inequality nowadays? In order to establish gender equality it will be essential to decrease level of gender polarization (societies expected spectrum of behaviour applied to each gender) during upbringing and throughout the school years. Some actions should be taken on the governmental level and it is important to work on further sophistication of the documents pertaining the human rights and gender issues, to develop policies and procedures and get some advancements in legal system to better regulate gender inequality issues. Another even more important segment of actions is increasing the awareness of the importance of equal and healthy relationships between males and females with mutual respect and dignity. Personal qualities and individual capabilities must not be assessed or judged based on the gender. There is still a lot of misconceptions about the gender relationships and prejudice about male and female capabilities inherited from the past and influenced by different religions, but increased collective awareness of human rights and different norms and values in modern societies can help in getting a more optimal level of gender equality. Finally, gender study programs at the universities such as our program can have invaluable role in fighting with a gender inequality.
In conclusion, gender equality has been a hallmark of contemporary societies devoted to respecting human rights and civilization advances. The influence of cultural and religious factors in some of non-western societies may have negative impact on a women’s position, gender relationship and it may foster androcentrism and women marginalization. In Western countries there is still an evidence of remnants of past and misconceptions about personal and gender values and capabilities that may influence negatively educational and job opportunities for women as well as their chances to get leadership positions. There is a number of possible ways to improve position of women in a modern society and get a higher level of personal growth, personal maturity, more healthy type of gender relationships, and a higher level of maturity of the society in general. This is a process in time, but all factors that may facilitate this process, such as increasing awareness about the gender problems such as gender study courses in schools and universities, should be developed worldwide.
Hegarty, Peter, and Carmen Buechel. “Androcentric reporting of gender differences in APA journals: 1965-2004.” Review of General Psychology 10.4 (2006): 377.
Nashat, Guity, and Judith E. Tucker. Women in the Middle East and North Africa: restoring women to history. Indiana University Press, 1999.
Rowbotham, Sheila. Women, Resistance and Revolution: A History of Women and Revolution in the Modern World. Verso Books, 2014.