Tile Attack on Sexist Institutional Practices

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Tile Attack on Sexist Institutional Practices
Two recently published books illustrate two different approaches to the question, "Why do so few women become corporate executives?" One, Genning and [Hardin's  all [1977], written in .1 pop psychology style, . assumes that executive promotion is now equally open tu women and concludes that women's own behavior is responsible for their lack of success. While this may be true in some-cases, this superficial treatment overlooks the many traditional and structural barriers to women's executive career. Although condemned by serious scholars as misleading and pernicious [Patterson and Loose, 1978; Rubin, 1978], this book sold very well, as is often true of books which tell people what they like to hear in a way which sounds authoritative.

Elisabeth Moss Ranter's Mlle , of the Corporation [1977), which gives a balanced analysis of the processes of female executive mobility, reveals the many subtle ways in which the traditional structure and operation of the corporation has discouraged female executive promotion. Although highly praised by reviewers as a major contribution to our knowledge of sex mobility [Patterson and Lose, 1978; Rubin, 1978), it sold poorly in the mass market. Our institutions arc saturated with sixes mrotten so deeply buried and so heavily with tradition as to be unnoticed. Institutional titles arc often sexist, from "freshman" to "master's degree" and from "workman" to "chairman." Most personnel policies have been based upon the assumption that men's career interests arc primary and enduring, while women's career interests lire temporary and secondary to their other interests. The "old-boy network" of personal acquaintance and friendship is most important in locating vacancies and gaining  commendations in education, business, and the professions.

This network has usually bypassed women [W alum, 1977, p.  60J. It is only recently that women have been hired for executive-track positions or been sent to conventions and training seminars. Over one third of the masters of business administration candidates are now women, but the Business:' Round table, the most prominent organization of business executives, has yet to accept its first female member [Tillie, April 19, 1982, p. 6S]. And, although female executives in the plus bracket are become far more common than some years ago they are disproportionately in "public relations:" where they have high visibility but little. power [Business Week, May 8, 1978, p. 122f. In still more subtle ways a male bias pervades institutional practices. Women maki a complaint seem to be more likely than men to receive a series of irrelevancies and evasions known as the "cooling out treatment." Business and professional societies (and until. recently, academic meetings) usually arrange innocuous diversions to occupy the members' wives while the men do something important.

When a woman answers the phone in an executive office, she is assumed to be a secretary: a man answering is assumed to be an executive. In blue-collar jobs, male resentment and "hassling" is a problem, while the lack of women's toilets and locker rooms is a , handy excuse for rejecting women. The idea that women arc unfitted by nature for most traditional mule jobs is no longer have not generally performed well. For example, a national survey of senior medical students reports that nearly all accepted women as fully competent, but nearly -one-half rejected the idea of women in leadership positions in medicine [Scanlon et aI., 1982]. Even as coal miners and loggers, women perform adequately but face unequal treatment and severe hazing from resentful male workers [Blundell, 1981; Hymowitz, 1981]. Women are still a long way from acceptance as equals .