Category Archives: gender segregation

“ Leave that damned crown in the garage”

Yuyang Zhang

Indra Nooyi was told by her mother to “leave that damned crown in the garage” and tend to her household responsibilities even though she was the director of one of the most important companies in the world (Friedersdorf, 2014).

— Professional womenWhere to go

A survey by Mercer found that in 2020, only 23% of women were in executive positions, while 47% worked as support staff (Catalyst, 2020). As support staff, women are exploited as there are no defined working hours or employee benefits, which can lead to job satisfaction. Aside from this, irrespective of their job profile, women end up going through some shared workplace experiences, such as patronizing behavior of men, male-oriented corporate culture of the suppressing of women’s opinions and lack of safety standards, making women more vulnerable to harassment (WHO 2011).



The 2020 pandemic has made it worse by including homeschooling and care for the elderly in the list of household chores. Mothers were more than three times more likely than fathers to do most of the housework and care during the pandemic (Huang, 2020). The data collected from interviewing 800 Italian households during April-July 2020 also revealed that the changing patterns of lifestyle did not influence men as much. Although both husbands and wives were doing work from home, the former mostly performed their professional responsibility. On the other hand, the women had to do the office work as well as the domestic work. As a result of this, women were left overburdened.

Source: Women in the workplace 2020, LeanIn. Org and McKinsey, 2020


— Work-Life balance: Double pressure

Professional women are under tremendous pressure to develop a career as powerful as men, whilst also trying to maintain an active participation in their personal lives. A study on Work-Life Balance in Working Women (Delina and Raya, 2013) pointed out that it is difficult for married working women to balance work and life. Compared with the 30-40 year-old age group, married professional women under the age of 30 have more problems with work-life imbalance, while married professional women over 40 have a relatively better work-life balance. In terms of spouse’s occupation, respondents with the most serious work-life balance were those whose spouse’s occupation was in business, followed by spouse’s occupational marketing.



In addition, balancing family and work becomes a huge challenge for single mothers, as most of them have no support at home. According to a 2018 study by the China Women’s Development Foundation of nearly 2 million single families in China, as many as 80% of single mothers cannot obtain enough payment from their ex-husbands for the upkeep of their children,and nearly 90% of single mothers act as the major role in raising a child after divorce. In September 2019, 76.1% single moms were employed, which declined to 67.4% employed single moms with children younger than 18 years of age – within the six months since the onset of the pandemic (Pew Research Center, 2020). The 9-point drop is a largest employment gap among all parent groups, single or partnered.

Source: Unpartnered mothers have seen bigger drop in the share at work than other groups of parents.


Whether it is family division of labor or professional competition, the difficulties and challenges faced by women are once again presented in the face of this epidemic, and they bear greater pressure than ever before. Although it has been advocated that all women enjoy the same equality as men’s. However, there are in fact many difficulties to be overcame in order to realize this claim. And women can achieve their real equality only if the deep-rooted opinion of gender responsibility has been transformed, where men would be more willing to invest their energy into the family and the society offer more comprehensive system to protect their rights.


— What can we do?

With changing times, especially in the post-coronavirus era, considering the amount of energy women spend switching between office work and home, businesses and organizations need to adopt policy measures to enable men and women to balance work, family and life. In addition, organizations should also provide companies with childcare services, such as setting up childcare centers near the workplace, in an attempt to help them get some respite from their stressful lives (Sandberg and Thomas, 2020).

Perhaps the road to breaking the working woman’s predicament will require more protracted struggles and efforts. However, in the pursuit of gender equality, as individuals, families and societies, we hope that the crown of women deserves to be seen by more people.

Further reading:

Delina, G. and Raya, R. P. (2013). A study on work-life balance in working women. International Journal of Commerce, Business and Management, 2(5), pp.274-282.

The Office

“The term ‘sex’ should be understood as an individual’s biological make-up and ‘gender’ as culturally learnt and enacted by individuals”. (Oakley, 1985)

If you were to picture in your mind, a typical office setting, what would it look like? I bet you pictured something a little like this: several desks with computers on and staff members sat at them, as well as a few separate offices for managerial staff. Having imagined this, what sex are the staff members sat at the desks and the managerial staff in separate offices? If you imagined the desk staff as female and managerial staff as male, you imagined correctly, or at least how I expected you to anyway. This is something Blackburn et al (2002) deem as vertical segregation, as a hierarchal arrangement within an occupational setting, particularly in the case of the sexes.

It is precisely for this reason that I invited you to engage in the previous hypothetical situation, as it is one that is similar to my own workplace; the place that I work weekly alongside my University studies and on a full-time basis during holidays. I have worked at this Wholesaler and family-run company for nearly five years and have always been consciously aware of how the company is segregated on the basis of sex, but only now have I began wondering why this segregation has persisted.

For the purpose of my case study, we are going to focus on the telesales and area sales representative staff of the company. In the telesales office, there are ten individuals; one manager and nine whose responsibility it is to deal with customer queries and process orders by answering and making phone calls. The responsibilities of the six area sales representatives involves the managing of customers and acquiring more business, with the office being at their disposal to use.


Out of the telesales staff, three are males, with the office manager being male. Out of the six area sales representatives, all are male. Therefore, we are presented with figure 1. Given these observations, you would think that my office is relatively symmetrical in terms of sex distribution. This is not the case, well not in terms of the roles that are performed by each staff member anyway. For example, all seven superior roles are those that the office manager and area sales representatives occupy (figure 2).


Why is it then that my workplace assigns females in different positions than their male counterparts? I have a few suggestions for you to ponder your thoughts upon.


In figure 3, it is shown that all staff members, excluding two, work full-time.

Ironically, both these individuals, one male and one female, occupy the more passive roles within the company. Often, it is argued that women occupy more part-time roles than men and thus accounts as to why so few have managerial roles within the workplace.


On the contrary, Hakim (1995) argues that part-time roles are accredited and account for individuals such as students, not just exclusively women. This example shows that if women occupy part-time roles, there are often explanations as to why they do – being a student myself is living proof. Although, this is not to say that all women have the same experience.

I will now focus on a broader and more prevalent issue: patriarchal society. This society inevitably generates norms and values that individuals adhere to, which remain engrained into their consciousnesses. Though progress has been made, the fact is that men continue to be viewed as the superior sex, which applies to my workplace, given the lack of female authoritative figures within it. Building upon this view, West and Zimmerman (1987) describe ‘gender’ as a set of normative conceptions of appropriate attitudes and activities, i.e. we are likely to view traits of leadership and confidence as qualities that men tend to adopt; to be empathetic and nurturing on the other hand, are qualities that we would associate with women. Despite both sexes having the capacity to adopt both sets of traits, the first are deemed as inherently male and more valuable within the workplace. From this, gender can be seen as constructing an individuals’ position in the social structure (West and Fenstermaker, 1995).


Overall, one may argue that certain individuals genuinely possess more desirable attributes that a position requires, and this may very well be the case as to why men and women differentiate in their job prospects and positions. However, I do not believe this to be the case in my workplace. Without any disrespect intended, but the females, including myself, are just as capable of performing the senior roles that the males occupy.


At the end of the day, it is about being more accepting and willing of individuals by not limiting them to positions based on their sex or their ‘gendered’ qualities.


*NB: if you are interested in the issue of sex segregation, look at this report by the European Institute for Gender Equality:

Photo by from Pexels


Emily Atkins



Blackburn, R., et al. (2002) Explaining gender segregation. British Journal of Sociology. 53(4), p513-36

Hakim, C. (1995) Five Feminist Myths about Women’s Employment. The British Journal of Sociology. 46(3), p429-55

Oakley, A (1985) Sex, Gender and Society. Gower: Maurice Temple Smith

West, C., Fenstermaker, S. (1995) Doing Difference. Gender & Society. 9(1), p8-37

West, C., Zimmerman, D. (1987) Doing Gender. Gender and Society. 1(2), p125-51.