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21st-century globalization impacts on gender inequality in the United States

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Globalization’s impact on gender inequality in the 21st century in the US and around the world has surfaced as a contentious issue. While some argue that globalization is beneficial, it is also claimed that not everyone is benefiting from globalization equally. In particular, females often do not benefit to the extent of their male counterparts. Contemporary globalizing forces such as the World Bank and the United Nations have worked to deconstruct the barriers of inequality and existing gender gaps. As a result, this article is focused on the 21st century economic transformation that has emerged through globalization as it has impacted not only global markets, but also, the overall landscape at an individual level. At the same time, there is a need to present the various struggles and existing realities of gender inequality in America’s workforce, which still finds itself on the path towards full equality.

Economic opportunities[edit]

Globalization has brought increased access to economic opportunities. Most of these opportunities have come as a result of trade openness and the spread of information and communication technologies (ICTs). This has led to an increase in women's access to economic opportunities and in some cases increased their wages relative to men's. More specifically, the World Bank claims, “trade openness and the diffusion of new information and technologies have translated into more jobs and stronger connections to markets for many women”.[1] Increased access to information, primarily through television and the Internet, allows the general American public to learn about social mores in other places, which can change perceptions and promote the establishment of egalitarian attitudes. Instead, egalitarian attitudes are currently hindered by the existing reality of woman making up the majority of the low-wage workforce industry. More specifically, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), in a recent report shows that “in 2010, women constituted 59 percent of the low-wage workforce”.[2]

Globalizing organizations and institutions such as the United Nations, and the World Bank have worked to promote gender equality. The task has not been easy given the need to undo many institutionalized and systemic influences on gender equality. Thus, the ability to override these forms of oppression stems from spreading awareness. Globalizing institutions have used increased awareness to shed light issues of gender inequality, particularly in the work force. For example, “The Beijing + 5 process provides an opportunity to reflect on the impact of Globalization in determining further actions and initiatives for the full implementation of the Beijing commitments”.[3] Furthermore, the ability to promote awareness is by default facilitated because, for example, in the nonagricultural sector, the total share percentage of women employed is at 48% from a 2012 report. Thus, when the gender binaries of male and female in the U.S. constitute half of the entire workforce respectively, the females that receive unequal treatment have the ability to speak out against the cause with the understanding that a high proportion of the public backs them.

Public perceptions[edit]

Public opinion in the US on globalization and its impacts on gender inequality has been shaped by denial of basic human rights in the workforce abroad. The World Bank states that “Public opinion in developed countries generally connects globalization with sweatshops where child labor is common and workers are denied the most basic rights”.[4] Similarly, the issue of sweatshops is acute in the informal sector. For example, the arrangements such as sub-contracting and outsourcing have become an integral part of the contemporary market economy. Thus, issues of unfair pay and poor working environments are commonly interpreted as issues abroad. However, there remains high contestation[clarification needed] against transnationals that allow these issues to happen in the first place through the act of shifting their manufacturing bases away from the US and into other countries with lenient regulations and restrictions.

Gender roles in industries[edit]

Globalization's impact on gender inequality has also had its fair share of benefits in the U.S. to the extent that the “demand for female workers in the export and ICT-enabled sectors has increased, and as women have filled these new jobs”.[5] The U.S. has been on the forefront of the technological advancements around the world. As a result, the ICT industry impacts and reflects both a benefit, and a hindrance to gender inequality. This is mostly due to the reality that forces of globalization are real and their influences are felt everywhere. More specifically, the Inter-agency network on women and gender equality by the United Nations claims, “Equitable access to information and Communication technologies can be an important tool for empowering women.” ICT can empower women through increasing their activity, as well as help reduce gender inequalities by “reducing women’s and girls’ time demands, increasing their access to income-generating activities, and allowing them to benefit from technological advances”.[6] However, it is also argued that ICT sectors have not necessarily helped women. Instead, “women are under-represented in ICT decision making structures including policy and regulatory institutions”.[7] Thus, the workforce continues to fluctuate between becoming increasingly viewed as supportive of gender equality as well as the belief that it has promoted precisely the opposite.

While there is a strong concentration around the role of women, they are the ones that mostly suffer from gender inequality. However, there are also masculine organizations that also promote the need to fix the issue of gender inequality. There is an existing belief that “Men and boys are thus, in several ways, gatekeepers for gender equality and should be targeted and included in efforts to promote gender equality so as to ensure men’s support and partnership”.[8] It is only through a collective effort that gender equality can flourish. However, it should be noted that the reality of gender inequality in the U.S. is one where men also “face vulnerabilities because of gender inequality, such as experiencing stress from being regarded, and regarding themselves, as the main breadwinner”.[9] Moreover, failing to get a job, or losing their job and the inability to earn enough money can also lead to an erosion of their self-worth as men.

Continuing inequality[edit]

There are various studies available that depict globalization as a hindrance toward gender inequality. For example, shortly before the transition into the 21st century, “recent studies such as UNCTAD’s Trade and Development Report (1997) and the UNDP’s Human Development Reports (1997 and 1999) suggest that economic growth fostered by recent liberalization policies can be accompanied by increased inequality and a decline in living standards".[10] However, on the other hand, positive effects may include “increased employment opportunities for women in non-traditional sectors” thus enabling them to earn and control income" [11]

While the US serves as one of the key players in the international system it is affected by gender pay gaps that exist around the world. The great recession and financial crisis of 2007-2008 demonstrates the reality of these inequalities given that men and women were affected differently. Statistically, in the US men lost more jobs than women in the recession. Men also experienced a steadier recovery.[12] The overall unemployment rate for women is lower than men’s and they are also less likely to be among the long-term unemployed.

21st century globalization and its impact on gender equality remains highly influenced by the past. The World Bank indicated the influence of the past by claiming, “even among those who have benefited from higher access to economic opportunities, old patterns of employment segregation by gender can emerge”.[13] Furthermore, the ability to undermine these old patterns is by continually raising awareness. The ability to raise awareness and counter old patterns is prominent in the US and visible through globalizing organization-sponsored groups. WomenWatch is a United Nations inter-agency website on gender equality working to[vague] reducing women’s and girls’ time demands, increasing their access to income-generating activities, and allowing them to benefit from technological advances.[14] Their mission is to shed light to the ways gender equality can become a reality if everyone’s concerns converge and coalesce.[citation needed]

The globalization process as a whole offers both opportunities and challenges for human development. Consequently, a collective effort implies an understanding that “the specific gender-related needs of men are overlooked, as well as the important role that men can play in achieving gender equality and empowering women”.[15]

References[edit]

  1. World Bank, 2011, 'Globalization's Impact on Gender Equality: What's happened and what's needed', in World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality, World Bank, Washington DC, Ch. 6. 254-277.
  2. United Nations. http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/beirutglobal.htm. Web. January 16. 2014.
  3. United Nations. http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/beirutglobal.htm. Web. January 16. 2014.
  4. World Bank, 2011, 'Globalization's Impact on Gender Equality: What's happened and what's needed', in World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality, World Bank, Washington DC, Ch. 6. Pg. 267
  5. World Bank, 2011, 'Globalization's Impact on Gender Equality: What's happened and what's needed', in World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality, World Bank, Washington DC, Ch. 6. 254-277. Pg. 254
  6. United Nations, September 2005, ‘Women2000 and Beyond: Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women through ICT’. Pg. 2-35.
  7. United Nations, September 2005, ‘Women2000 and Beyond: Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women through ICT’. Pg 9
  8. http://www.ilo.org/gender/Informationresources/WCMS_232755/lang--en/index.htm. Web. January 16. 2014. page 5.
  9. http://www.ilo.org/gender/Informationresources/WCMS_232755/lang--en/index.htm. Web. January 16. 2014. Pg 7
  10. United Nations. http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/beirutglobal.htm. Web. January 16. 2014.
  11. United Nations. http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/csw/beirutglobal.htm. Web. January 16. 2014.
  12. http://www.ilo.org/washington/areas/gender-equality-in-the-workplace/WCMS_159496/lang--en/index.htm. Web. January 16. 2014
  13. World Bank, 2011, 'Globalization's Impact on Gender Equality: What's happened and what's needed', in World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality, World Bank, Washington DC, Ch. 6. 254-277. Page 268
  14. United Nations, September 2005, ‘Women2000 and Beyond: Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women through ICT’. Pg. 12 http://www.unwomen.org/-/media/headquarters/media/publications/un/en/w200009dot05icte.pdf?la=en&vs=956
  15. http://www.ilo.org/gender/Informationresources/WCMS_232755/lang--en/index.htm. Web. January 16. 2014


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