Social Construction of Gender

Why does woman’s career take a backseat?



Today careers for women have emerged as one of the most significant areas of concern for those who advocate education for women’s equality. Traditionally men have been performing the role of bread winners and women the role of home-makers. But with the passage of time, due to education and opportunities, the role of women has changed as they have come out to play their role in the outside world.
But   with the changing role of women, the role of men did not change. Man continues to play the dominant role of a bread winner and decision maker. He is not supposed to help in performing the domestic tasks, while as woman’s role has changed into the role of a worker and a house-wife performing multiple tasks.   This is the social construction of gender where additional burden has always been levied upon the shoulders of women.
 Today’s woman is termed as the superwoman as she performs all roles i.e. the role of a worker,   mother, wife, daughter-in- law, relative and a neighbour. In our society both boys as well as girls perceive occupations in a sex stereotyped fashion. The development of these occupational biases is the result of role learning process which starts in early childhood. First of all it is the family which is responsible for this sex stereotyping because as a child a girl is always taught to be a best home maker. Her domestic role is always preferred over her career. Then in educational institutions   gender bias is prevalent in curriculum and overall activities of the institutions. The textbooks are projected in a biased way. Here men are portrayed as doctors, engineers and scientists and women are portrayed as cooks, sweepers, housewives and nurses etc. Once inculcated, these biases become part of the behaviour of   children.  In this way, the quality of girls’ education does not match with their personal development. Educational institutions also do not play a constructive role in reducing the gender bias. These biases act as barriers in the development & pursuing of careers of girls. Economic compulsions and lack of exposure to information technology also come in the way of career of women.
According to latest UNESCO data, women scientists across the world constitute: Grade A – 15%, Grade B – 32% and Grade C – 42%. Women’s share in total number of researchers from Japan is 70%, Russia 45%, South-Asian region except Srilanka 30%, while as in India the population of women in scientific field is negligible. India’s women scientists constitute less than 20% in scientific establishments like CSIR. The underutilisation of knowledge of women in science is a serious threat to the scientific community. The professionals engaged in the service sectors (doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, nurses, bureaucrats) hardly make up 8-9 % of the total women workers and only one percent of the female labour force. The socialisation process in our society gives rise to the discrimination and gender gap between men and women. Our women play a subordinate role and most women who acquire academic qualification give in to the demands of the society and suppress their intellect.  
In the formative years of their careers, they devote themselves to the domestic roles and their professional opportunities get curtailed. Women taking up careers aspire to have economic independence, recognition, freedom from the shackles of the household chores and the drudgery that goes with it. But when they gain entry into careers, they face the reality of competition with males, stagnation due to male domination and patriarchal attitudes. If they are single, they have necessarily to sacrifice for their careers, their biological and emotional needs.
Career development of girls is determined by parents, social attitudes, economic background and other cultural factors. A majority of girls, with an excellent educational background, give up their education due to early marriages which are still prevalent in our society. With the result they remain less educated and less skilled and end up working in the informal sector. The girls from lower socio- economic backgrounds and other disadvantaged sections of society have least opportunities of pursuing their higher education or career goals. Research conducted so far reveals that girls from better socio-economic backgrounds and educated families opt for higher education and better careers. The entry of women has been maximum in medicine and fairly low in engineering based courses. The participation of women in technical and professional education continues to remain stereotyped. Women’s polytechnics show an enrolment of 16.8% while as in IITs the participation of girls is nearly 13%. On the whole, women have not been able to make enough inroads into the areas of science and technology which should be a cause of concern for the policy-makers and educators.
Men need to develop a positive attitude towards the career-development of women as it would benefit the family in particular and the nation in general. The intellect of women needs to be enriched   to provide the long lasting solutions to the social problems. The need of the hour is to make conscious efforts to develop gender friendly and gender sensitive attitude across cultures.
Author is Senior Lecturer in Commerce, Govt. Girls HSI, Amirakadal, Srinagar   and recipient of   National Best Teacher Award, 2011.

Lastupdate on : Thu, 15 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Thu, 15 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Fri, 16 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST

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