Issues in Behavioral Science
Western Governors University
Gender discrimination is a social problem that is facing the contemporary United States. Gender refers to the social, psychological, and cultural attributes of masculinity and femininity that are based on previous biological distinctions (Tischler, 2013). Discrimination is the treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit (Collins, 2012). Men and women are treated different from birth based on gender which affects one’s personal, social identity and self-esteem. Sex and gender are different concepts that are often confused as the same. Sex is the biological identity of male and female, whereas, gender relates to culturally learned attributes of what society deems appropriate for male and female. In the United States and other countries, we see gender discrimination every day in education, the workplace, social roles. Gender bias in education occurs when assumptions are made about students relating to behaviors, abilities and preferences as early as preschool. Students who do not match their gender roles subsequently face bias and discrimination in the classroom. For example, girls are expected to “act like a lady” being quiet, polite, studious, exhibiting better social skills than their male counterparts. In the same respect, males are expected to be naturally boisterous, exhibit unruly behavior, excel academically, and be assertive. Therefore girls who are assertive, boisterous, and unruly; boys who are quiet, studious, and social may experience gender discrimination and be misunderstood by teachers and be labeled as problem students or learning disabled. As education evolves through junior high and high-school, many of these same discriminations hold true. Prerequisites for college majors such as engineering and physics are dominated by men, as few as 25% of high school students enrolled in physics are female (Scantlebury, 2009). Moving toward college, the gender gap lessens. Between 1970 and 2006, the percentages of advanced degrees awarded to men versus women are practically even.
Gender discrimination is most apparent in the workplace. Women are consistently hired for jobs with lower prestige than their male counterparts even though qualifications are similar; they receive less money for the same position as their male counterparts, and are frequently overlooked for promotions. Men also face discrimination in the workplace. Men are often required to work longer hours, are expected to take fewer sick leaves, do not receive leave of absence for the birth of a child, and are expected to climb up the ladder into management positions at a faster rate than women. Gender discrimination is also apparent socially for men and women. Even with the successes of suffrage, the gay rights movement, and equal pay for equal work; women are still expected to unfairly balance education, work, and family and men are expected to maintain a consistent career path regardless of their requirements to family outside of work. Women often make sacrifices with years of gaps in education and work to rear children and give birth. Men also make the sacrifices of missing important family events and milestones due to work requirements. The sociological functionalist theory can help us to understand the foundation of gender stratification. Functionalists believe that society consists