As much progress as women have made in the workplace the sad reality is that, at least on the international stage, there are still jobs that they are not permitted to do. These barriers are due to a number of factors including: religious, cultural, ethnic, tribal, and others.
Most of the industrialized nations of the world have adopted anti-discrimination and equal opportunity measures in an attempt to close the pay gap between men and women. Laws of this type are carried by such countries as the United States, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, Japan, Greece, Denmark, Sweden, Turkey, Finland and Belgium.
Bounds of Gender Equality
There are many reasons for implementing and enforcing barriers to gender equality in business. These are not always matters of direct discrimination due to sex, but are based on practical considerations that have been reinforced in the cultures. These include:
- Education. One of the most important factors in determining the ability of women to work on an equal level with men is education. Plainly put, an educated woman has more confidence, is harder to intimidate and bully. Men in many foreign countries consider this a grave offense. Closely aligned with education is illiteracy, which is as high as 2/3 of women in the developing world. Of course, as women become better educated, their prospects for jobs increases, but this does not necessarily make things easier in the jobs department.
- Separation of Sexes. The norm of separating the sexes is another important barrier to women who want to work in these countries, whether their origins are there or not. The truth is, separation of the sexes acts to reinforce and perpetuate gender stereotypes, which negatively affects women and their ability to do jobs. Unfortunately, even in cases where a woman has the training to accomplish a job, her gender will be a huge negative influence on her ability to earn a living. A good example of this would be a woman who is a physician in a Middle Eastern country. A female physician would only be allowed to work on women, effectively taking her out of contention for many medical specialties.
- Equal Work, Unequal Pay. Many jobs are gender attributed. As a result, job worth has less value. And this is not confined to women in the Middle East. In Europe, for example, despite the fact that many more women are entering the workplace in order to make up for the losses of jobs due to the economy, women are forced to take lower paying and less prestigious occupations. Women tend to work in unprotected industries such as out work and work at home jobs.
- Insufficient Child Care. In many countries of the world, whether developing or not, care of the home and children are seen as the primary responsibility of women. In these countries, it is only after these responsibilities are satisfied that women are considered to be able to work. And when women are entering the workplace despite these limitations, difficulties present themselves when there is the problem of a lack of child care.
- Sexual Harassment. When most people think of sexual harassment they think of sexually based advances, whether they are accepted or rejected. The truth is, sexual harassment is much broader, to include the creation of an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment. In the United States these types of actions are illegal, but in other countries, actions that might be considered sexual harassment are culturally defined. For example, an action that might be considered sexual harassment in one country might not be considered so in another country. Another problem is when sexual harassment might be expected, such as is the case in Russia, where more than 71 percent of those who are unemployed are women, and if a woman wants a chance to advance in her job she needs to be under the age of 25, attractive, and willing to sleep with the boss.
- Accepting Assignments. According to a recent study completed by KPMG Peat Marwick, most multinational companies are sending their employees on international assignments in greater numbers than ever, but people who are willing to accept global assignments, especially among women, is not growing at the same pace.
As already demonstrated, there can be great differences in gender equality especially in the role women take, the value placed on women and the amount of respect shown to women. This, of course, has a serious adverse impact on women and their ability to do jobs in these foreign cultures. Research, however, has shown that women can work successfully in cultures where the status of women is considerably lower than in their own.