Equal Opportunities essay

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Women's work requires different kinds of skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions within different kinds of organizational structures. Unlike most male jobs, much of women's work involves switching from one level of task to another level and from person to person, often in ways that involve different methods of communication. It usually involves the provision of comfort, emotional support, and care. It frequently involves coordination and cooperation with others, under conditions where women have little formal authority. In many cases, precisely because it is women who do the work, the actual responsibility is very different from what is formally defined. This topic of equal opportunities for women in a workplace has only been seen as a legitimate object of enquiry since the fairly recent historical past. In traditional societies, the division of lab our between men and women was viewed as largely 'natural'. Even with the transition to modern industrialism, we have seen that the ideology of 'separate spheres' of masculine and feminine activity, reflected in the division between market work and domestic work, persisted well into this century. Indeed, in many of the relatively more affluent societies in the West, the heyday of the 'male-breadwinner' model of the division of lab our between the sexes might be seen as being during the period immediately after the Second World War. Relative affluence and increasing wage levels amongst the working class meant that the capacity to keep a wife (and children) at home extended further down into the social hierarchy than it had ever done previously.
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The male-breadwinner model of the division of lab our was reproduced by sociology in Parsons' ( 1949) functional theory of the modern family, in which the mother was the 'expressive leader' (that is, she was responsible for caring, emotion, and so on), and the husband/father was the 'instrumental leader' (that is, the breadwinner). In this structural functionalist approach, 'family' and 'economy' were viewed as distinct entities (or separate spheres), and the family was seen as carrying out specific functions (physical reproduction, nurturing) for the economy.

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Once the division of lab our between men and women was no longer seen as "natural", and/or as following from the imperative demands of the family, it had to be explained. "Second-wave" feminism, which developed from the 1960s onwards, was very important in developing this critique. Thus from the 1960s onwards it was argued that men had excluded women from the best jobs for their own advantage. Both Hartmann ( 1982) and Walby ( 1986) described this as an expression of patriarchy. Men were seen as having developed institutions and structures which directly excluded women, in order both to gain material advantage for men as a whole and to secure the use of women's lab our by individual men in the household. It was argued, however, that 'patriarchy' could not be used as a theory (that is, as a complete explanation of the situation of women). However, it is a useful term which describes men's subordination of women. ...

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