Gender equality remains an elusive objective for many societies around the globe and sometimes it could seem to be complicated to achieve soon. Gender equality presents the argument that men and women should be treated in the same manner and that gender-based discrimination should not appear in the modern world. The key question that remains unanswered is if gender equality will ever be attained. Despite the progress made so far by various groups and individuals, the answer to this question remains negative, as the world is yet to realize equality between men and women. One crucial factor that has acted as a constraint to the achievement of gender equality around the world is gender roles, which are typical determiners of masculinity and feminity. According to Risman and Davis (2013), gender roles have denied humanity in gender equality. This essay argues that the realization of gender equality is a losing battle because of the specific emphasis on gender roles in the society.
The argument in support of the idea that gender roles continue to prevent gender equality begins from examination of gender roles in the person’s childhood. Alesena, Giuliano, and Nunn (2013), show that gender roles are primarily determined from an early age. It is common for mothers of new-born babies to receive gifts in the colors of blue and pink. A male child is usually presented with gifts in the color of blue while a female will be given pink colored presents. Blue is perceived to present masculinity. On the other hand, pink is given to females as it appears to be soft and tender. Notably, these roles are engrained in children from the age of infancy. These gender roles teach them that they are not equal and boys cannot do what girls do and vice versa. Alesena, Giuliano, and Nunn (2013) continue to explain the perception of gender roles. According to them, inequality of genders has been reinforced by positive and negative sanctions. For instance, a girl who attempts to engage in male dominated sports such as football is frowned upon. Sanctioning therefore pushes men and women to conform to their gender roles thus promoting concepts of gender inequality.
It is the above deep-seated perception over the role of men and women that has caused a lot of women to be denied equal rights at work. Firth (2012) affirms that women have made dramatic progress in attainment of education and other qualifications that have led to many of them joining the workforce. According to Ryan (2013), in the United States women have surpassed men in educational achievements. Companies have made lengthy commitments in ensuring gender equality at work, too. However, this is yet to be fully attained as women continue to experience gender inequality at work. This has been manifested in the form of salary gaps, promotion opportunities, and leadership positions which have confirmed that there is still a gender gap that needs to be rectified. Ryan (2013) reiterates that female gender roles have caused them to be perceived as meek, fearful, unsure, and even weak. Women are therefore denied good salary packages as they are thought of as meek and fearful to complain. Additionally, they are denied leadership posts as they are perceived to lack proper leadership capabilities and characteristics. Their male counterparts are therefore offered leadership positions at work as it is believed that their gender roles as fathers and heads of the family afford them necessary leadership skills.
Gender roles continue to prevent gender equality and, as identified in the above case, women continue to be the victims of this fact. For instance, women careers are considered to be a source of conflict in many homes. Risman and Davis (2013) show that currently the role of the woman in the home continues to be perceived as that of a home maker. Despite men’s contribution to household work and child care rising over the years, it continues to be far below women’s contribution. Consequently, today’s woman continues to hold two jobs; one at her workplace and another at home. As children care givers and homemakers, women are not able to put in long hours of work as their male colleagues do. It is therefore not surprising for company management to perceive male workers as more hardworking as compared to their female colleagues. As full time working professionals and mothers, women find it difficult to balance these two jobs. Difficulty in finding quality childcare has further complicated the issue of gender equality at work. According to Risman and Davis (2013), women who chose to spend fewer hours at work in order to devote more time to taking care of their children risk falling behind competitively with their male colleagues. Once again the issue of gender roles as contributed to gender inequality confirms that equal rights and privileges among men and women are yet to be achieved.
The focus of gender roles on gender inequality in the society is not directed to women alone as men too feel its pinch. Cuddy, Crotty, Chong, and Norton (2010) affirm that gender roles have created certain societal expectations of the man and manhood itself. Many of these expectations are rigid and narrow in nature bringing about gender inequality. For instance, in the traditional concept, a man is expected to play the role of a leader and decision maker with a strong personality. Men are not expected to show any emotional fragility. Achievement of gender equality has been further made difficult by the burden of providing for the family placed on the shoulders of the man. This should not be so as wife too is obligated to assist her husband in providing for their family and other matters of the home. This is because leadership in any capacity is not an easy role. Showing emotional fragility is an aspect of being human which helps to gain emotional relief during hardships. It is normal for a man to express how he feels. The perception that the burden of providing for the family is a male responsibility alone further highlights gender inequality.
There are those who insist that gender equality has been achieved. This is seen in the increased participation of women in fields that were initially considered to be men’s. They claim that women today are in a better position to compete with men at work. The question to pose towards such thinkers is if this can be true for conservative nations in the Middle East. These countries have a long way to go before ever achieving gender equality. Despite women being considered important in these countries, they are prevented by strict religious laws from acting in any way that will portray them as being better than men. Wives are supposed to do as their husbands say and not think in their own capacity. Attainment of basic schooling is a big challenge for women in these countries. It is imperative to note that achievement of gender equality has failed all over the world and not just in these conservative Middle East nations, and gender roles have been the biggest hindrance to this process.
In conclusion, gender roles continue to act as a constraint to the achievement of gender equality. Despite the efforts being made, it is imperative to accept and realize that gender equality is yet to be achieved. The perpetuation of inequality between the genders by the effect of gender roles should be the first issue to be considered by those who are calling for equality. Therefore, the first step to be taken in an attempt to close in the gap of gender inequality is breaking the connection between gender roles and gender equality. It is advisable that the world realizes that gender equality is yet to be realized and thus should stop ignoring the issue. The persistence of gender inequality as a result of gender roles has affected female gender the most because people tend to undermine them.