So what is gender-based inequality in the workplace? As you might’ve guessed, it is the bias and discrimination between people in the workplace on basis of gender. This could come in many different forms, some of which are:
- Unequal pay between genders.
- Diminished responsibility.
- Positional bias.
- Outdated views.
- Sexual harassment.
Please consider answering the questions of the polls down below to see how you are answers differ from other answers, and to explore the wide array of where the discrimination comes from.
The issue of gender-based inequality in the workforce has been and still remains a universal controversy that spans all countries across the globe. In most cases, men typically dominate the workforce, relegating women to lower-paid jobs which make them more vulnerable to further humiliation and inequality. It is very important to know that gender inequality is typically directed against women, but men can still be subjects of the same discrimination as well. While women in the past 5o years have been pushing through all the obstacles posed to them by their men counterparts to achieve equal representation in the workplace and to seek identical treatment, a great deal of inequality still exists between the two sexes. The degree of severity of the problem is different from a country to another, and it, of course, depends on the certain factors which the issue is centered around or impacted by (like culture, tradition, patriarchy, etc.).
Gender inequality occurs when people of different sexes are treated differently, unfairly, and with prejudice. Not only is this wrong, but it is also against the law imposed by most governments worldwide. I started to become aware of the issue in my country when I noticed that women were virtually excluded from certain jobs, allowing for the male patriarchy to predominate most of the industries and thus causing the so-called gender inequality. In this conference, I will be examining the degree of gender inequality, particularly in the education system in Jordan, by interviewing educators and faculty members at my boarding school to see what they think of gender inequality in the country. Since my boarding school is international and attracts many foreign teachers and workers, my interviews will essentially focus on comparing and contrasting the different views and insights of both foreign and Arab teachers, and faculty members. In this way, I am able to develop a very fair judgment of the issue based on not only what domestic educators have to say, but also on what westerners/foreigners concluded from their stay in the country.
King’s Academy is an independent, co-educational boarding and day school for students in grades 7 through 12 in Madaba-Manja, Jordan. It is named in honor of King Abdullah II of Jordan and seeks to fulfill His Majesty’s vision of producing “a new generation of enlightened and creative minds.” The school is part of the G20 association whose member schools all claim to have a commitment to excellence and innovation of some sort. I’ve included a brief introduction to my school because I will mainly be analyzing the issue within the campus, and then take it on to draw conclusions from there (Wikipedia).
This is my first year at King’s and it’s wonderful. I wasn’t very much aware of the issue at the beginning of the year, but after I took the gender-studies course, I became more educated about gender inequality in the workplace and its implications. From what I usually observe on my daily routine in the school, I see both women and men working as janitors, doctors, teachers, cooks, gardeners, and athletic coaches. This gave me a good insight into what the social atmosphere is like at King’s and also gave me a good impression of the school’s vision and the progressive ideology that it follows. I don’t know much about the wage gap and/or if differences do exist, but I hope that interviews will make all of that more clear!
- I interviewed my Islamic Theology teacher, Mr. Bakir Mohammed, who is British-Lebanese and has a really great knowledge of such inequality issue within the context of religion and history. His interview showed a great deal of information regarding the stereotypes and social norms that exist in the Jordan and how they are different from the British norms in Northern England where he grew up.
Mr. Bakir’s interview describes how many people use religion to justify their views against gender equality in not only the workplace but also in their daily routine. He compares the level of development in this particular issue in Jordan with different countries like Lebanon, the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), and the UK. He talks about public and sector jobs and then compares their level of gender inequality. He concludes that Gender inequality isn’t very prominent at King’s, mentioning that they distribute equal and fair payments to female, male, and homosexual staff and faculty members, but stressing the point that it still exists outside of King’s Academy boundaries.
- My second interview was with my Arabic teacher, Mrs. Ezdihar Zayyad, who worked in the education sector for more than a decade, contributing to the education schemes in both public and private schools. Since the interview was in Arabic, I have translated her responses and inputted them in form of a Q&A:
A: My name is Ezdihar Zayyad, I am an Arabic teacher, I got my bachelor degree from Damascus University, and my masters from the University of Jordan. I’ve worked in the education sector for more than 30 years and I love my job.
Q: Can you please describe your past experiences in work?
A: I started working at the age of 23 at the ministry of education schools until I finished the period of time that qualifies to retire. It was a fun experience but really primitive if we compare it to how education looks like right now. I taught at the school that I graduated from for 2 years, and then I moved into another public school and worked there for 13 continuous years where I told myself that I will retire. Later on, I worked in the private sector at different private schools around Amman where I taught Arabic for different international programs (IGCSE, IB, American, etc.) in addition to the national curriculum.
Q: Do you think workplace inequality is existent in Jordan? On what basis? Have your experienced or witnessed it yourself?
A: To be honest, I have never felt like it exists in my working years. At the beginning of my career in public schools, there was a ladder to salaries that was pretty obvious and I don’t think there was a gender-based bias between males and females in that regard, except for maybe in something called a “wife’s or children” allowance that is given to married men as means to help. I also never felt like there was a bias in terms of responsibilities and duties given to men and women at schools. I still participated in workshops, in extracurricular, and so forth.
Q: Do you think Arab women are treated differently than foreign women in terms of income/benefits?
A: If you want to take about that in Jordan, then I honestly don’t have the slightest idea. But if you want to take about it in the Western world, then we know that the European women have jumped to a better, relaxed level of social equality in all facets of life in comparison with the past, and I also hear that men could get maternity leave in addition to the mom. But I honestly don’t know how it works and I could tell you that maybe my job as a female teacher in the education sector may not reveal such information in other fields of work. Like I said before, I don’t feel the bias in my job, maybe because both females and males are given an equal number of working hours and same contribution to the excellence in education.
Q: What do you think we could do to rectify the issue?
A: In some male-dominated jobs, women can jump into the workforce if they proved themselves as qualified workers for that particular job. When someone proves him or herself in a particular field, I don’t think anyone can say that he or she is unsuccessful and can never be a suitable fit for the job. Everyone stands respectful of those who prove themselves and I don’t think the doors are closed to anyone, but they just have to give it a shot.
- My third interview was with my Chemistry teacher, Ms. Lara Al-Masri, who worked as a science teacher in many different schools across Amman for over 20 years. She is the head of Eco’s and Green’s club at King’s and she has an ample amount of experience with different managers and bosses in her educational career. Her interview reflects on how she has experienced gender inequality, and she also reflects on what students and others should really be doing to eradicate this issue. Therefore, her knowledge and perspective are integral to my project. I believe that her personal beliefs will provide a great insight for my audience.
Ms. Lara’s interview shows evidence of inequality from her personal experience working at different schools in Jordan where less qualified people were given the same salaries as her. She mentions that Jordan is progressing and pushing towards equal representation in the workplace, but it’s not quite there yet. There is a difference between the degree of the inequality between public and private sector jobs, but that doesn’t mean the inequality doesn’t exist at all in the private sector. She concludes that bias is often times existent for domestic people, whereas expatriates are more favored and are typically given a much better degree of economic and social equality at the workplace.
According to the Arab Human Development Report (AHDR), the Arab world has shown “the fastest improvements in female education of any region and women’s literacy rates have expanded threefold since 1970.” These advances, however, have been offset by prevailing ‘gender-based attitudes which have left more than 50% of Arab women illiterate. The exclusion of women from decision-making processes, inequality of opportunity, oppressive social and cultural practices have exacerbated gender-bias in the Arab world. However, the current illiteracy rate stands at an average of 10% for both males and females, but even in light of this achievement (lowest illiteracy rate in the Arab world), women’s role in the workforce is still impacted by the bias in education which is based on discrimination in minority education, societal gender roles, and stereotypes in the curricula that is taught to the youths at schools.
For example, many females in Jordan receive a good education which makes them more than qualified for many male-dominated jobs either in the government, the public, or the private sector. But because many useless government agencies exist (which take up a good portion of the country’s budget), and because the government imposes minimum wage regulations on private business owners, there’s pretty much not enough money circulating in the government and the private industry which could contribute to labor unions and other programs that secure employment, policies, and solutions for women. Moreover, the presence of cultural norms displayed through pictures in children textbooks (just like the ones below) implants the idea of the gender binary in their mind, and as a result, when the children grow up, they have this idea that some jobs are solely for men and women are not welcome and vice-versa.
According to a survey done by Bayt.com and YouGov. almost 75% of Jordanian working women believe that the “Kingdom have reached the same level of workplace equality as women in Western countries,” while the other 15% still believe that Jordanian labor laws are unfair and biased. Both of Ms. Lara and Mrs. Ezdihar had contrasting views, with Ms. Lara being one of the 15% who thinks the laws and treatment could be better, and Mrs. Ezdihar being one of the 75% who thinks gender-inequality doesn’t exist just like it “doesn’t” in Western countries. Regardless of these perspectives, another survey found that only 23% of Jordanian women have jobs, so the 75% of that 23 % don’t necessarily represent most of the nation’s opinion. Because only 23% of women are working in Jordan, it is easily deducible that gender inequality still exists and is based on many reasons (families thinking women should not work for example!). It is surveys like these and the interviews that provide great insights into what is working well and where organizations may need to improve.
So, How Do We Solve It?
Please let me know how you think we could bring this issue to a permanent halt by answering the poll below, or by commenting your thoughts and ideas 🙂
Al-Mahadin, Salam. “Jordanian Women in Education: Politics, Pedagogy and Gender Discourses.” Feminist Review, no. 78, 2004, pp. 22–37. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/3874404.
Metcalfe, Beverly Dawn. “Women, Management and Globalization in the Middle East.” Journal of Business Ethics, vol. 83, no. 1, 2008, pp. 85–100. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/25482355.
Celeste, Andrea. “Low Women Participation in Labour Market Hampers Economic Growth – Experts.” Jordan Times, 9 Oct. 2017, jordantimes.com/news/local/low-women-participation-labour-market-hampers-economic-growth-—-experts.
Alayan, Samira, and Naseema Al-Khalidi. “Gender and Agency in History, Civics, and National Education Textbooks of Jordan and Palestine.” Journal of Educational Media, Memory & Society, vol. 2, no. 1, 2010, pp. 78–96. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/43049341.
JT. “’Most Jordanian Working Women Believe They Have Same Workplace Equality as Western Women’.” Jordan Times, 19 Dec. 2017, www.jordantimes.com/news/local/most–Jordanian-working-women-believe-they-have-same-workplace-equality-western-women.’
“National Report Progress of Jordanian Women: In Pursuit of Justice, Participation and Equality 2010 – 2011.” The Jordanian National Commission for Women (JNCW), http://www.women.jo/EchoBusV3.0/SystemAssets/02b39415-b28a-4461-96b2-1ec68cb83fa0.pdf