Gender Divisions of labor in the 19th Century was based on the skills level attained by particular group, but women by all concerns in the French setting were constantly relegated to the unskilled category, without any consideration given to the fact that in some cases that share skills with men, according to Braverman (1974).
The reason for this skill differentiation , according to Chenut (2006),was the fact that the philosophy of the social critics were embedded in the 19th century workplace mentality, in conflicting relationship between capital and labor, as well as the construction of multiple social values that was mediated on by family, communities and society at large.
Women suffered as a result of skills being used as a marker for social class and upward mobility, and as such they have to constantly affirm to their employers that they were of equal status with men, who on the other hand simply had to align themselves with each other and the community standard acceptable for male models (Chenut, 2006).
Discrimination and devaluation of women in comparison to men were strongly evident in this period according to Chenut (2006), in that they were made to work alongside men in trades, used as auxiliaries and contingent workers by mill owners, but always not being afforded any recognition symbolic of power and authority, despite making considerable contribution to the increased productivity of companies.
At the turn of the century, after gender and class relations were differentiated between skilled and unskilled labor on the basis of historical forces peculiar to the French industrial experience, the prestigious position of men began to be viewed differently ,m even to the point of approaching obsolescence, according to Chenut (2006).
This was reflected by the actions of the French unions who began protesting that the male identity was being undermined by technological advances as well as feminization in the workplace.
It could be argued that the mill owners during this period began using their economic advantage and social power to manipulate the situation and earn more profit by embarking on a de-skilling strategy, in which more women than men were employed to do highly skilled work, and with the inclusion of technology, they would be able to significantly reduce their overhead costs. In addition to this strategy, these employers were only acknowledging the women engagement in hand skills and artistry aspects of hosiery as being their only highly skilled component that deserve recognition Chenut, 2006).
Skill definitions were also saturated with sexual bias during this 195t century period according to Phillips and Taylor, and this was the reason they purported why the work of women were constantly deemed inferior and caused them to carry subordinate status on to their jobs to define it, in the eyes of employers, social critics, trade unions as well as their male counterparts at the workplaces (Chenut, 2006).
A critical factor why women in Western economies like Britain and Germany were neglected as important component of industrial capitalism, according to Bari Boxer, Quataert (2000), was the fact that the spread of industrialization was regarded as a monolithic occurrence by the intellectuals, governments and influential employers of the day. By this concept the labor force or factory workers were made up predominantly of men, with little attention given to the domestic industry or the women who worked at home.
In Great Britain for example, little values were apportioned to the contribution of women, and they were treated with little regard in conditions where market variations, seasonality, and profit motives were deemed more important than the wages paid for their services (Bari, et al. 2006). These women were employed when needed and terminated after they were exploited to the maximum by greedy and uncaring employers.
The 19th century image of women as mothers and wife maintaining their places in the homes rather than competing equally with men on the factory floors were used against them by men and the trade unions in particular, with the latter for survival and insecurity reasons often bitterly critized them for being poorly skilled and a liability to the achievement of the competitive advantage that companies need to have on the production floor.
Women place in the industrial arena was also limited by the enacting of laws like the Factories Amendment Acts of 1844 as well as others to ensure men maintained dominance and achieve the benefits available during the industrial advancements of the 19th century (Bari, et al. 2000).
However, according to Bari, et al. (2000), many of these women devised ways and means that were adaptive, preservative and flexible, by constantly making adjustments to cast of the image and discriminations against their gender by the industrialized industrial giants of the day, but could have advanced substantially, had they not been viewed in such negative and counterproductive light.
In closing, the divisions of labor in the western industrialization process of the 19th century was skewed highly in favor of men by the social critics which include intellectuals, employers, trade union organizations, and actions of males employees, together with the historical imposition of societal values on norms. Sexual prejudices, skill perceptions, insecurity, market variations, greed, manipulation of power, as well as bias legislations, also played significant roles in determining how women and men were viewed and treated differently, during this period of economic and social development.
Had the perception of women not being widely portrayed by many stakeholders, for mostly and selfish economic reasons, as being mothers and wives working tirelessly in their places in the home, rather than competing equally with men on the production floors, as is currently happening in still limited but improved ways in several modern economies, the world perhaps would have been a better place, with more productivity, higher profits and less poverty and reduced unemployment.
Bari, B.F., Boxer, M. J. & Quataert, J.H. (2000). “European Women in a Globalizing World, 1500 to the Present” 2nd edition Oxford University Press New York, NY
Chenut, H.H. (2006).” The Fabric of Gender Working Class in Third Republic” The Pennsylvania Press, PA
Braverman, H. (1974). “Labor and Monopoly, Capital” New York, NY