Gender stratification is a very serious problem the world over. However, it is a more serious problem in developing countries. It is through stratification that some opportunities are provided to members of one sex and not the other. This paper sets out to show that gender stratification in developing countries negatively affects women while positively impacting on men.
Gender stratification arises out of gender differences. These differences are often conceives d from the physical differences that are inherent in the genders. The most affected spheres are education, employment, leadership and sports. Women are often left out when tasks are being assigned owing to their feminine characteristics. Information to prove the validity of this information is often provided during national censuses and demographic data. In most countries, censuses are held every ten years.
While modern practices of social stratification give one sex more economic opportunities than the other to only one gender, traditional practices curtail these opportunities to both sexes mainly lack of emphasis to any formal education (Williamson, 1999). In these societies, it is difficult to identify social stratification if education is chosen as the only reference point. In these same societies, one may be cheated by the illusion of lack of gender stratification.
One of the most important questions that gender stratification researchers pose is the amount of social, economic and political privileges are offered to members of one social group and not the other. Since the main reference point in this case is disparities in provision of opportunities and challenges on the basis of sex, focus will be on the marginalization of women in the developing world.
Gender affects the way in which transfer of resources along intergenerational lines takes place. In many developing countries, many parents are very comfortable when leaving all their inheritance to men but they are not comfortable when leaving it in the custody of women (Brinton 1986; Marini & Brinton 1984).
An important question to address in gender stratification research is one that relates to whether the economic resources that women happen to have are utilized for the benefit of men or fellow women. In developing countries, it is disturbing to note that women tend to contribute to gender stratification practices that work against them by transferring custody of the property they happen to have been entrusted with by circumstances to men. They do this after some time. A single mother with several children, among them girls, would rather leave the custody of her estate to the boy who she is confident will take care of his sister with the use of the economic resources and opportunities that have been provided.
The illusion that men are the ones who should take care of women is the main cause of negative effects of gender stratification. In most cases, men do not take care of their women the way the societies seem to suggest. If help means marriage, then these societies may perceive men to have done their best to benefit women using the economic opportunities that they have.
Transfer of economic power from women to their male kin is a very common scenario in Kenyan societies (Blumberg, 1984). In these societies, women have not succeeded very much in converting economic power into real privileges that can benefit the other generation of women. In societies where this happens, scholars are quick to point out that the practices are not sustainable since they marginalize one gender at the expense of the other. In a sense, these scholars rightly imply that some time in the future, gender stratification dynamics might change and men might be on the disadvantaged end.
The prospect of men becoming sufferers in the gender stratification is a very new concept in developing countries. It is so new that there seems to be consensus that men will never be disadvantaged through gender stratification; that control of economic opportunities will never be out of the control of men and into women’s control. This assertion presents a very grave problem to women, who seem on the receiving end of every developing country’s economic injustices.
Gender stratification theory, economic power transfer from one gender to another seems to focus on the manner in which women or men pass on opportunities for better life to men only in the hope that these men will ensure that women benefit in the process. This is a power-based conception that has worked very well in ironing out the main gender stratification challenges that developing have to contend with all the time (Malhotra & Mather, 1997).
The dynamics of gender stratification are best assessed when three main areas of economic power are assessed. These areas are technical expertise as it relates to the traditional conception of division of power, paid employment and inheritance rights (Blumberg, 1984). Blumberg refers these sources as macro-level identifiers of economic power. It is interesting to note that the manner in which these privileges are distributed affects the manner in which education is offered. This brings about cross-cultural and cross-sex effects which Blumberg (1984) says are inclined towards benefiting men at the expense of women.
The main problem for women who are interested in inculcating gender equity values is the fact that it is difficult to separate issues of gender stratification from cultural roots. Developed countries seem to have succeeded in disentangling culture from issues of gender stratification because of the liberalization forces that come with globalization.
The worst form of gender stratification presents itself through coercion, exploitation and political marginalization. In most case, men in developing countries find themselves in a tricky situation where they have to balance between the needs of globalization and reinforcement of traditional structures of power. In this case, women find themselves on the receiving end of coercion, brutality, economic exploitation and power of ideology as the existing political leaders continue to maintain their hold on power.
According to Blumberg’s gender stratification theory, economic power is strongest variant that determines the extent of gender-based privileges that exist in every society. There is tendency to disentangle other variants from the gender debate. Among the issues where the gender debate does not feature a lot is the manner in which goods and services are provided to both genders. This view encourages the transformation of women as a consumer social group while men are made into producer group. Therefore, provision of goods and services, while seeming to solve gender stratification in one way, seems to creating long-term gender-based stratification.
When structural conditions are imposed on women in developing societies, the view that is commonly held by policy makers is that women are the ones who will benefit from this censorship. When the same conditions are imposed on men, basic human rights are perceived to have been violated. This mindset upsets whatever gains that equality advocates may have achieved previously and this means they have to go back to the basic and advocate for legislative amendments.
In many developing countries, legislation is one thing, implementing the provisions of the legislation is a completely different thing. Although women have fought for and achieved much in terms of ensuring that they are allocated resources and opportunities just like men, this has not prevented men from consolidating power that ensures that whatever women get still remains in the hands of men. In other words, men seem to be giving with hand then taking with the other.
Whenever technical expertise is directed towards members of one sex only, it becomes difficult for members of the other sex to progress in certain careers. This reduces the likelihood of women rising to leadership roles through those career paths that have been traditionally associated with men. This presents developing countries with a very challenging task of harmonizing traditional practices with the needs of the modern world for the benefit of both men and women.
Problems arising from gender stratification cannot be solved through provision of expertise per se. there is need for bargaining power. In developing countries, women form the highest percentage of workers. Yet lack of bargaining power constrains women to unchallenging positions that have no promise of career progression and rise to leadership.
Within the last decade, various legislative mechanisms have been put in place in an effort to discourage exploitative gender stratification practices both in the public and the private sector. The enactment of these affirmative action mechanisms is an indication that women face many problems just because they are women and not because they do not work hard.
Gender equality researchers often assess the basis of gender stratification by assessing the ideological, cultural and biological variables that have always been used to place women below men in terms of access to social, political and economic power. Changing these variables without careful thought has aggravated rather than solved the gender stratification problem. Towards this end, the concept of relative control over important factors of production arises.
Focus among policymakers has been elevating the woman in developing countries from the domestic to the state setting. However, as much as this has been seen to work magic in terms of giving women more opportunities to ascend along power ranks, the issue of relative macro and microeconomic power holds women from ascending to leadership and helping liberate fellow women who continue to suffer from economic and political marginalization.
Relationships between opportunities given to men and those that are given to women show that women can extend influence at the state level if they are economically empowered. Although existing research is not conclusive, the drift of the argument is that whatever resources that empowered women have tend to find their way into the domestic rather than state front. This arises from the ideological, socio-cultural and biological constructs that tend to depict women caregivers as opposed to policymakers.
Social and organization dimensions in the developing countries offer interesting insights into the extent of gender stratification. The general consensus among people in developing countries is that the only place where women maintain autonomy is the domestic front. However, indications offer hints to the contrary. In a research done by Mark Mather and Anju Malhotra on women in the Sri Lankan household setting, it was noted that women could only maintain control on only one aspect of domestic influence. They had to relinquish other areas of control to men.
Women continue to suffer from the effects of social stratification. In order to solve this problem, there is need for legal frameworks to be set up and to be implemented in all developing countries. Women need to be given opportunities in order for them to be able to compete with men for power.