Even in 2011, 50 years after the second wave of the feminist movement, there exist dramatic gender inequalities in the workplace. At this point, women and men participate roughly equally in paid labor, but the types of work men and women do are dramatically different. In this piece Sarah Michele Ford explores gender inequality in the workforce and asks are sociologists any better?
The feminists have won! 50 years after the second wave of the feminist movement, women make up just under 50% of the workforce!
Wait… does this necessarily mean that we have reached a point of equality in employment? Sadly, the answer is no. Across the board, men who are employed full time earn 17.6% more than women who are doing comparable work (Bureau of Labor Statistics); these differences are even more pronounced when we start taking into account differences across racial/ethnic lines.
Cleaning up messes is a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it, right? But just who has “gotta do it?” Who are these invisible workers? Have you ever looked at messes from a cleaner’s perspective? Perspective-taking is a critical part of developing a sociological imagination. In this post Sarah Nell argues that by learning to take the perspective of others, you can understand and appreciate them more as workers, citizens, and human beings.
Most likely, someone cleans the spaces you frequent: classrooms, dorm rooms, cafeterias, shopping malls, and so forth. But do you see them? Do you know who empties your trash and who mops the floor? Who replaces the toilet paper roll and who scrubs the toilets? Who changes the light bulbs and cleans up unexpected messes like vomit, broken glass, or spilled liquid? Depending upon where you live, this person is probably a racial minority and is also likely to be a woman. Do you know her name or anything about her? Have you ever thanked her or spoken to her? I ask you this because of something I observed recently while in Las Vegas for an ironically located sociology conference. Before you continue, I want you to take the perspective of others by imagining yourself as the workers in these stories.