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The impact of gender inequalities and discrimination on the contemporary workforce in the United Kingdom

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Research Title

An assessment of the impact of gender inequalities and discrimination on the contemporary workforce in the United Kingdom        

Research Questions

1.      What is the impact of gender discrimination and inequalities to the perceptions of women being inferior in the UK workplace?

2.      Are women discouraged from pursuing higher positions in the UK workplace?

Literature Review

According to Sanghani (2014), women working in UK offices continue to face and experience rampant discrimination and inequalities due to motherhood and maternity leave. These factors have significantly hindered their career progression and opportunities for promotion. Research has demonstrated that more than 25% of women in the working population have encountered one form of discrimination or the other within their working environment. From a study population of about 1500 working women in the UK, 26% of them stated that having children was directly linked to backward career progression (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2011). Moreover, 19% of them felt they were denied promotions due to requesting maternity leave, while 27% asserted they encountered gender discrimination. This implies that gender inequalities and discrimination cases are still prevalent. Other surveys also illustrated that 27% of women managers were reluctant to hire female employees who were within the childbearing age (Sanghani, 2014). This survey demonstrates that employers are still discriminating women because of their choice to become mothers while also pursuing their professional careers (The Guardian, 2014).

The term gender makes reference to a wide range of traits associated or use to differentiate between men and women (Minh-Tam Thi & Permpoonwiwat, 2015). In relation to the context, some of these characteristics may encompass sex, social structures based on biological factors such as social and gender roles, as well as gender identity. Gender roles refer to personal and cultural social structures. They guide how men and women are taught to think, dress, speak, and interact in public places (Mandel & Semyonov, 2014; Abraham, 2017). Gender roles are acquired through socialization and learning, which explains why they are deeply embedded in the cognitive framework of the society in relation to what distinguishes masculine from feminine roles. Gender inequality makes reference to unfair treatment or perceptions directed at individuals in society based on their gender (Ince Yenilmez, 2015). It originates from disparities in socially grounded gender-roles that are socially or empirically constructed. Finally, gender discrimination refers to segregation based on gender or sex (Mandel & Semyonov, 2014). It is a prevalent civil right violation that manifests itself in diverse forms such as sexual harassment, unequal for the same work done, as well as discrimination due to pregnancy.

The employment rate among women in the UK stands at 65%, which is relatively higher in comparison to the European Union average estimated at about 58.6% as at 2011. Nonetheless, women do not have access to the UK labour market to the same level that their male counters enjoy estimated at 75.2% (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2011). The disparity between male and female employment rates is approximated at 10 percentage points, which has remained relatively stable since the year 2002. However, the disparity in the rate of employment between men and women continues to rise with regard to age. Moreover, part-time employment rates in the UK tend to be higher in comparison to those in the EU. The number of women working on part-time arrangements in the UK is also higher 42.3% in comparison to the EU average 32.1% (Klasen & Lamanna, 2009). Even though the rates for part-time work are higher in the UK, there are huge disparities between what men and women are entitled to overtime.

Most social scientists advocate for meritocracy where the best candidate for any position should be selected. For instance, brain surgery requires exceptional skills, and hence any prejudice against selecting women to pursue surgery could deny a nation and its citizens the best medical care available. This implies that the most critical determinant of a nation’s competitiveness is anchored on its human talent, education, skills, and productivity (De Paola & Scoppa, 2015). This is supported by the results from a survey conducted by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (2011), which argues that the closing of gender gaps is not just an issue of human rights and equity, but also a matter of efficiency. Neoclassical economists espouse that competition often drives out prejudices since organizations that encourages discrimination of women will not have the ability to compete with meritocratic firms. Nonetheless, empirical evidence from research has demonstrated that there are high instances of inequality and discrimination against women in the United Kingdom.

According to neoclassical economists, productivity rather than gender is the main cause of inequalities and discrimination. This enhances the arguments of scholars who believe that perfect competition forces organizations to pay employees according to their productivity. However, differences in wages between men and women cannot be anchored on productivity differences because it is very difficult to differentiate the data available (Tolbert & Castilla, 2017). For instance, Fuhrmeister (2016) argues that male chefs are paid higher wages in comparison to their female counterparts. The question is whether men are better at cooking in comparison to women. Wage disparities between genders may or may not arise due to differences in productivity. Neoclassical economists have used the human capital theory to explain the causes of gender inequality in the contemporary workplace, which is a position supported by Arun & Borooah (2011) and Hirsh & Youngjoo (2017). However, other scholars espouse that the human capital theory only has the ability to explain inequality when labour is remunerated in relation to marginal productivity. Previously, women often left formal education earlier than men. This is a viable reason why the number of women currently employed in Britain is relatively low compared to men. However, in the contemporary era the disparities between the education of men and women has significantly reduced, but older women tend to have low educational levels in comparison to their younger counterparts.

In the educational sector, it is evident that men and women tend to pursue different courses and studies. For instance, while men often tend to focus on engineering and science courses, women usually pursue art based studies. However, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (2011) argues that in the field of employment, scientific and engineering course are most preferred by most employers, which explains why a majority of men in organizations earn higher salaries in comparison to women, and hence the wage gap disparities. According to the segmented labour theory, the emphasis is placed on institutional barriers that establish diverse segments such as high and low wages between females and males in employment. The theory holds that there are primary, secondary, and dual markets. Primary markets are characterized by relatively high wages, steady jobs, and secure employment (Hultin, 1998; Maddrell, Strauss, Thomas, & Wyse, 2016). On the other hand, secondary markets are characterized by job insecurity, volatile employment practices, as well as low wages. Dual markets emerge to fill the gap left between the primary and secondary markets. Segregation results from the evolving competition and product market, which implies that disparities in wages among men and women cannot be fully explained using their quality of labour.

Discrimination is also embedded in the market place and institutions all over the world. Economists perceived that competition would eradicate employment and workplace discriminations between men and women, but this has not been the case (Huffman, King, & Reichelt, 2017; Abendroth, Melzer, Kalev, & Tomaskovic-Devey, 2017). Rather gender inequalities and discrimination have been reinforced by free market policies that significantly favour men. Despite numerous surveys having being done on the impact of gender discrimination among women in the workplace, very few studies have been concentrated in the UK. In comparison to the European Union, the inequality in the UK appears to be very minimal (McDowell, Rootham, & Hardgrove, 2016).

From the literature review, it is evident that there are huge disparities between women and men in the workplace. To a large extent women are associated with low productivity and frequent absenteeism due to childbearing issues. This perception has significantly discouraged most women from seeking high positions within the organizations they work. Therefore, this study seeks to explore the factors that make women to be perceived to be inferior and those that discourage them from assuming higher positions within the UK context.

Research Methodology

Methodology

            This study will be anchored on a deductive research approach and will make use of both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Data will be collected from a pool of diverse respondents selected through random and selective sampling procedures. Since the research will be based in the UK, the sample population will be drawn from British nationals residing in the country. A deductive approach emphasizes on creating a hypothesis based on existing knowledge that would determine the manner in which a study can test its hypothesis (Kanire, 2012; Hammond & Wellington, 2012). The deductive approach has a bias of following logic in most cases, which implies that reasoning originates from a known theory and an attempt is made to generalize the theory to a greater portion of the population.

            This study will also be based on positivists approach. This is best suited to the study since it is informed by the need for the researcher to gain new knowledge through an objective scientific method of enquiry. Some of the methods associated with this research strategy include quantitative data collection methods and use of experiments. In this regard, a positivists approach necessities the use of various data and statistical analysis methods. The results obtained from such studies are often used to support or reject hypotheses developed in the survey. This implies that positivists’ approaches tend to be deductive in nature rather than inductive. A lot of emphasis is placed on measurement, which is done through experimental research designs, surveys and quantitative collection of data through questionnaires (Crowther & Lancaster, 2012). Therefore, to complement the deductive approach, a regression analysis will be conducted on the data collected to determine the correlation of the dependent and independent variables of the study. Regression analysis is a research tool used in quantitative studies when researchers are required to analyses the relationship of several variables. In most cases, it is used to derive a comprehension of the associations between the dependent and independent variables.

Research Methods

            The study will make use of both qualitative and quantitative data collection techniques. Some of the quantitative data collection techniques proposed for the study include the use of questionnaires that have structured questions. The qualitative techniques proposed include the use of focused interviews, which will specifically target company executives drawn in the sample. The quantitative data obtained from the questionnaires will be checked for validity and reliability by using the SPSS software. In addition, a regression analysis will also be conducted to ascertain the relationship between inequalities, discrimination, perceptions of inferiority, as well assuming senior leadership positions.

Sampling Strategy

            The study will have a sample population of 200 respondents drawn from both public and private sector organizations located in the UK. The sampling will be done using both random and selective sampling techniques (Som, 1995, Ochran, 2007). Random sampling will be sued to identify 100 subordinate workers, while selective sampling will be used to select 100 members of the management staff. A total of 100 questionnaires and 100 interviews will be issued and conducted respectively.

Ethical Concerns

            The APA code of ethics stipulates that researchers should inform potential participants about the objective of the survey, the procedures used and duration of the study, as well as prospective benefits. Researchers are also required to inform the respondents about the limit of confidentiality offered and when it can be broken. Therefore, before embarking on surveys it is critical for researchers to ensure that they have informed consent from the participants prior to recruiting them to the study. It is important that the respondents are given detailed information about their participation and the purpose of the study. After being informed the respondents will have to offer their signed consent before participating in the study. The researcher will also ensure that the information provided by the respondent is kept confidential and anonymous to protect the identity of the participants. Some information divulged by respondents could lead to sacking, unfair treatment, as well as segregation in the workplace.

 

Timescale

 

Gantt chart timeline

Year

2017

2018

Activity

Resources and skills required

July 2017

Aug 2017

Sep 2017

Oct 2017

Nov 2017

Dec 2017

Jan 2018

Feb 2018

Mar 2018

Apr 2018

Proposal

Library- journals, books, etc. consent from regulatory bodies.  Informed consent from participants

                   

Literature review

Library-books journals, etc

                   

Methodology

Journals, books, etc.

Tutorials on data analysis software.

                   

Data collection.

formulating questionnaires and interview questions, printing papers, interview venues, research assistants

                   

Data analysis and discussion of the results

Data entry to database, quantitative data analysis software (SPSS), notify respondents of results, and concluding paper.

                   

Drafting the final dissertation

advice  from supervisor, proof readers

                   

Final report presentation

Time and venue

                   
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