Stereotypes still prevalent as male and female career paths diversify
The idea of the perfect nuclear family consisting of a mom, dad, two kids and a dog is a thing of the past.
More and more men and women in America, and around the world, are living their lives (and providing for their families) a bit differently.
Roles among men and women are changing. Women are becoming leaders in the political and corporate worlds, which are dominated primarily by men. Men, too, are handling more of the traditionally female-dominated areas of child rearing and household responsibilities than before.
Lynn Sweeney, a graduate faculty member in the psychology department, said this reversal, in gender roles has been a slow process throughout the preceding decades.
“Societal ideas and rules change very slowly,” she said.
She said young women still aspire toward traditionally female-associated jobs such as a teacher or a secretary.
“If you look at the kinds of jobs women have, they still favor stereotypes for women,” she said. “There are some stereotypes that still hold.”
Even so, America is seeing more and more women taking on different career paths than they are expected by society to undertake.
Newsweek featured a story about women in the workforce and the issues they face in the familial and career worlds today.
“As of 2012, women account for only 16 percent of partners at the country’s largest law firms and 15 percent of senior executives at Fortune 100 firms,” Debora Spar said in her Newsweek article titled “American Women Have It Wrong.”
As the career paths for women are changing, men are adopting to this change themselves by providing more help in the home.
“The big issue is how the roles in the family change as they devote more time to their careers,” Economics Faculty Richard Hill said.
Spar said it is not just a matter of who does what work, but how much work each person does in the household.
“Women account for only 50 percent of the population and far less than 50 percent of the decision-making seats in any organization,” she said. “If women want to change the world, men must help.”
One of Lake Orion senior Gabrielle Lawlor’s sisters is a teacher and Lawlor herself is in school to become a doctor.
“Ever since I was in sixth grade, I wanted to be a doctor and it was always assumed I would go to college,” she said.
She said men and women taking on careers they aren’t typically associated with is less of a concern now than in the past.
“I feel like in the past, it was kind of a stereotype,” she said. “As time has progressed, it’s less of a big deal.”
She said she is glad, as a woman, to be at the point she is at and freely be able to do what she wants to do with her life.
“Everybody has plans for what they want to do with their lives,” she said. “To get an education. To get a good job.”
Even though women are branching out to new career paths, their pay is still lower than men in certain fields.
On average women earn 77 cents to every man’s dollar, Hill said, citing the Newsweek story.
He said this amount should raise as time goes on but many women still face the notion of the glass ceiling when entering the workforce, especially those in higher level positions such as CEOs of companies.
“There’s a lot more pressure on a women in a higher level position because she’s a woman,” he said. “I don’t know that there’s any stigma at the entry-level for women.”
Sweeney, who teaches Psychology of Women, said the pay disparity between men and women is a product of many years of social stagnation in regard to equal pay for men and women who do the same type of work.
“One of them is working harder and being paid less,” she said. “When they get a title like the assistant manager title, they still might not get the same money or the opportunity than men.”
Grand Rapids senior Kevin Lutley said by not talking about the inequality issues among men and women in American society, it helps perpetuate the stereotypes and pay disparity even more.
“A lot of times, people don’t want to talk about it,” he said. “It’s not doing anyone any favors by ignoring it.”
He said he knows he has certain advantages in the workforce and in the home because he is a man but also knows this unequal footing is constantly being perpetuated, whether he is consciously aware of it or not.
“It’s difficult because you know there are inequalities present,” he said. “There’s the fine line between addressing the issues without feeling like you’re perpetuating them.”
He said people are constantly seeing the gender stereotypes being broken in different career and homemaking fields and ways of life.
“We’re constantly subjected to different people in the spectrum,” he said. “Different levels of masculinity and femininity.”
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