Gender shapes the lives of all people in all societies. The term ‘gender’ refers to the social construction of female and male identity. It can be defined as more than biological differences between men and women. It includes the ways which those differences, whether real or perceived, have been valued, used and relied upon to classify women and men and to assign roles and expectations to them (http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Gender_and_development). Gender influences our lives, the schooling we receive, the social roles we play, and the power and the authority we command.
Population processes – where women and men live, how they bear and rear children, and how they die – are shaped by gender as well (Riley, 1997). Several theories of gender development have generated most of the research during the past ten years: social learning theory, cognitive-development theory, and gender schema theory. Proponents of social learning theory believe that parents, as distributors of reinforcement, reinforce appropriate gender role behaviors.
By their choice of toys, by urging boy or girl behavior, parents encourage their children to engage in appropriate gender-related behavior. Thus children are reinforced or punished for different kinds of behavior. They also learn appropriate gender behavior from other male or female models such as those in television shows. A second explanation, quite popular today, is found in cognitive-development theory, which derives from Kohlberg’s speculations about gender development.
It is known that from Piaget’s work that children engage in symbolic thinking by about 2 years of age. Using this ability, Kohlberg believes, they begin the process of acquiring gender-appropriate behavior. A newer, and different, cognitive explanation is called gender schema theory. A schema is a mental blueprint for organizing information, and children develop gender identity and formulate an appropriate gender role. Consequently, children develop an integrated schema or picture, of what gender is and should be (Elliott et al. , 1996).
Gender and Power Gender refers to the different ways men and women play society, and to the relative power they wield. While gender is expressed differently in different societies, in no society do men and women perform equal roles or hold equal positions of power. Power is basic fabric of society and is possessed in varying degrees by social actors in diverse social categories. Power becomes abusive and exploitive only when independence and individuality of a person or group of people becomes so dominant that freedom for the other is compromised.
Women and children have open been on the abusive sides of power. Some causes that are often referred to are: the greater the physical strength that men tend to have creates the imbalance of power between men and women resulting from social structures and historical practices in regard to finances, education, roles of authority and decision making; the abuse of power by men and the failure of cultural pressures to prevent such abuse; and distorted view the sexuality and the objectification of the female.
Max Weber in his ‘Essays in Sociology’ defined power as the likelihood a person may achieve personal ends despite possible resistance from others. Since this definition views power as coercive, Weber also considered ways in which power can be achieved through justice. Authority, he contented, is power which people determine to be legitimate rather than coercive. As a group, women are at a distinct advantage when considering both power and authority.
Several factors act as determinants of the amount of power a person holds or can use in his/her relations with others: status resources, experience, and self-confidence. Males and females traditionally have had differing amounts of power at their disposal. By virtue of t6he male’s greater ascribed status in society, men have more legitimate power based on rank or position than do women. The serious social issue today is the relative inequities in social power between men and women. The issue of women’s power, relative to men, is not merely academic.
Gender differences in power have real consequences for women. For example, although women have made significant gains in the workplace, with more women working than in the past and women possessing approximately a third of all management positions, women continue to experience wage discrimination, be excluded from the most powerful executive positions, advance more slowly in their careers, and experience fewer benefits from obtaining education or work experience, and are included in fewer networks and exert less authority (Colwill; Lyness and Thompson, 1997) than men in similar positions.
A number of researchers have linked career advancement and access to benefits and resources within organizations to an effective use of power. An understanding of women’s power, relative to men, is therefore essential to overcoming women’s disadvantage in the workplace and other domains (http://www. find articles. com/p/articles/mi m0341/ is 1 55/ai 54831711). Gender and Education The past decade has witnessed a significant increase in the importance accorded to education, with both instrumental as well as intrinsic arguments made for increasing financial investment and policy attention to education provision.
Investing in education is seen as one of the fundamental ways in which nation states and their citizens can move toward long-term development goals and improve both social and economic standards of living. The education of women is seen as providing the key to securing intergenerational transfers of knowledge, and providing the substance of long-term gender equality and social change. Although significant gains have been made in women’s education as a result of global advocacy, more often than not the gains are fragile, vulnerable to changes in economic and social environments, and lagging behind in male rates of enrolment and achievement.
Achievements are particularly visible in the primary education sector, whereas gaps are still large in the secondary and tertiary sectors (unrsid. org/inrisd/website/nsf). Schools also reinforce gendered social roles. Researchers have documented the differential treatment accorded males and females in the classrooms that reinforces a sense of inferiority and lack of initiative among female students (Sadker and Sadker, 1988). Boys are far more likely to be given specific information that guides improvement of their performance (Boggiano and Barrett, 1991).