How Does Parenthood Affect Gender Inequality in the Workplace?
Gender inequality is present in most circumstances, and has been since ancient times. It is a theme that has been discussed thoroughly since the beginning of recorded interactions between men and women. Though at first sight it appears a sociological input, there are works that advocate for this matter to contain a sociobiological and evolutionary psychological background. Pragmatically, any idea is a product of education, so we shall consider how parenthood can contribute as a catalyst to this gender bias.
The classicist theories on gender bias undoubtedly play an expansionist role in the labor division of today’s society. Freud (2017, p.11) spoke about each of the human participants as bound to a continuous psychological scheme, formed of several milestones. Both boys and girls are to explore within themselves the values of being whether a man or a woman by gradually passing through certain periods that become determinant in their future representation as a capable person that is able to establish a loving relationship similar to that of their parents in a system of values. In this scheme he clearly divides both of the gender roles by the sense of their anatomy, where the boy is complete and the woman has to compensate a deficiency by becoming a wife. Later on, Erik Erikson (1994, p.42) consolidated this theory, describing that “something in the young woman’s identity must keep itself open for the peculiarities of the man to be joined and that of the children to be brought up…”
Further on the gender bias comes up to be strengthened by the evolutionary psychological perspective which offers as a criterium of appreciation the term of parental investment. It renders how genetically men and women are woven into this ball of thread in the hands of destiny, where they had nothing to do but to adapt to the natural habitat of that period (Buss, 1994). Females appear to invest more into parenting than males, as bound to the mammal specific features of fertilization and of providing nutrition until the offspring is weaned, in comparison to men whose investment is as little as the sperm produced during copulation, meaning that males are not essential due to the biological evolution of the offspring into reaching its adulthood (Geary, 1998). And that fundamentalist idea is kept as a labor distinction stereotype today. Nevertheless, the biologic determinism is opposed by the modern evolutionary psychologists, arguing that from this perspective human nature includes evolved psychological mechanisms that require input, such as cultural beliefs and social norms for their operation (Trivers, 1972).
Considering the current gender situation in the workplace, we have observed vast changes since the Victorian period and its determinist ideologies, but the inequality still persists due to the US Census Bureau report that scales women’s earnings to 80% of what men are paid. In a Q&A article, Mary Brinton, sociology professor at Harvard University, speaks about the nurturing seed of this problem, which is the fact that we all are prone to engaging in stereotyping. She offers a possible solution for this matter for the workplaces to accept the idea of adapting to “the whole person” both male and female and recognize the contributions that each individual, male or female, can make to the workplace and to relationships at home (Brinton, n.d.).
Parenthood doesn’t have much to do alone as an object of change in the workplace. First of all we are to deal with the roots that developed the idea of gender bias in labor division and that has started with the analytical thinking seen in the psychoanalysis of Freud and the evolutionary psychological perspectives of Buss and Geary. Though at their turn, they can’t be seen as false, as they contain academic truth that had offered support for further investigation of the cause, even if we may see this as determinist and unilateral by today’s standards. Their works surely have played a fundamental role in the interpretation of the society of men and women, which consolidated the idea of what we see today as the unequal labor division, but the new era came up with new professionals, such as Robert Trivers, in the domain that has balanced more or less the ideatic aspects of gender in society.
After all, as Brinton states, the focalization of the individuum should fall onto its contribution to the workplace, whatever the gender, rather than on its chronological adapted stereotype, rooting from its fundamental ancestral role.
1. Buss, D. M. (1994). The evolution of desire: Strategies of human mating. New York: BasicBooks.
2. Brinton M. (n.d.) Gender inequality and women in the workplace. Harvard Summer
School. Retrieved from https://www.summer.harvard.edu/
3. Erikson, E.H. (1994). Identity: Youth and crisis. New York: W.W. Norton.
4. Freud, S. (2017). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. London: Verso Books.
5. Geary, D.C. (1998). Male, female: The evolution of human sex differences. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
6. Trivers, R. L. (1972). Parental investment and sexual selection. In B. Campbell (Ed.), Sexual selection and the descent of man, 1871-1971 (pp. 136-179). Chicago, IL: Aldine.
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