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Gender Roles in Society, Essay Example

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Essay

Traditional gender roles in society are different in today’s world than in times past, when women were predominantly seen as homemakers and child-rearers (Burgess, 1994). Additionally, Burgess (1994) states, women’s roles in society have evolved significantly over the past few decades, and this is partly due to changing social and economic conditions in this country. These changes continually facilitate the need for women to contribute to the family’s income and hold employment outside of the home. However, gender roles in society are not only confined to the subject of employment. As it relates to what is deemed appropriate for the roles of men and women, society often debates about equality between the two.

Society has long been aware that the role of women in leadership positions is just one subject of inequality among gender roles. For example the United States has never had a female president or vice president, and it is a fact that most of the CEOs of the largest companies in America are men. An article in Forbes magazine reports that there are only 20 women CEOs of the largest firms in America and that equates to only about 4 percent (Howard). These are examples of an unequal divide between men’s and women’s access to power and prestige in leadership roles, and this is called gender stratification, which is inequality in societal status on the basis of a person’s sex. In regard to this, it is apparent that gender classifications exist in this country and this can affect people’s lives and how they live (Henslin). Consequently, society, as a whole, is affected in some way by this because there are preconceived notions about appropriate male behavior and female behavior. This often leads to specific attitudes about gender roles in society. For example, the role of a firefighter is normally a job for men. However, there are women that have this job as well. Society may see this as a conflict because firefighters live together while they are on duty, and it may be seen as inappropriate for a woman to live in that type of a situation. She may be viewed as not being in her “place”.

According to Henslin, male dominance came about because men are physically stronger than women, which gives way to the idea of a biological purpose for gender roles in society. However, feminists believe this to be wrong and this began the feminism social movement, in the early 1900s, to demand social change. One significant change that came about because of this movement was women’s right to vote in 1920 (Henslin).

As it relates to men and women being equals in society, Henslin points out that women in college tend to choose feminine fields of study, while the men tend to choose masculine fields of study. This may be because of the common stigmas in society about women’s roles. It is also noted that women are unequally represented in health care and in the workplace. In health care, women are more often encouraged to have surgeries than men. In the workplace, women are often victims of the glass ceiling concept and are held back from reaching top positions in their companies. Additionally, women subject to lower pay and are more likely to be subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace (Henslin).

In light of the above-mentioned facts, it seems that inequality of gender roles in this country may not change much in some aspects such as male domination in the workplace; but, it also seems that gender roles will continue to slowly change to meet the needs of an ever-changing society.

Works Cited

Burgess, Norma J. “Gender Roles Revisited: The Development of the “Woman’s Place” Among African American Women in the United States.” Journal of Black Studies, (24)4, (1994): 391-401. Print.

Henslin, James M. Essentials of Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach, 7 ed. Allyn & Bacon, 2006. Print.

Howard, Caroline. “The New Class Of Female CEOs.” Forbes. Web. 26 Nov. 2012 Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinehoward/2012/08/22/introducing-the-new-class-of-female-ceos/

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