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Emily Gasper Intro to Sociology Professor Stephen Sweet Paper #4 – Nov. 5, 2009 Section 2 At this point in my college career, a professional occupation that I plan to explore and possibly adopt as my own is public relations specialist. I am interested in communications, human interaction, and helping other people. Public relations specialists encompass all of these characteristics. According to the Occupational Employment Statistics compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public relations specialists “engage in promoting or creating good will for individuals, groups, or organizations by writing or selecting favorable publicity material and releasing it through various communications media.” This career will tie in my communications background with my desire to help people in the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there is a significantly higher percentage of women PR specialists, as compared to men in this particular field. These proportions are shown in the chart on the left. The results were not particularly surprising to me because almost 60% of all Communications degrees go to women. The percentage of women who obtain degrees in Communications is proportional to the percentage of women who are occupied in public relations – they are both around 60%, so the connection is comparative. Another reason why there are more female PR specialists is because women tend to identify with professions that allow them to nurture or help others, as PR specialists do. Stereotypically, this is why many women in history have become teachers and nurses. Also, PR is not socially portrayed as a particularly male-dominated career, as is auto-body repair or carpentry, for example. These occupations, among others, exemplify traditional gender roles that we are socialized and structured into thinking are the norm for males. I believe that women tend to sway themselves away from these types of professions, and toward the more passive roles, as as mentioned earlier. It is not because women are unable to perform the “masculine” jobs (though this sometimes may be the case), but it is because of the way society shapes our image of traditional gender roles. For example, many cultures emphasize from the time we are young that men are traditionally bold, strong, and powerful breadwinners, while women are gentle, passive and dependent. From the time that we are children, these images of men and women are portrayed through books, toys, TV, and even our religious beliefs. So generally, women tend to gravitate toward occupations where their work can meet society’s standards and expectations of women’s roles. Because of the gender stereotypes that are embedded into our social system, it is difficult for women to integrate the male-dominated workforce. On the other hand, men face what is called the “glass escalator” effect, which allows them to quickly ascend the organizational hierarchy in typical female occupations. Women face the “glass ceiling”, which prevents them from doing just that. This illustrates that professionally, men and women are not on level playing fields. The inequality between men and women in the workforce is apparent when you examine the compensation between men and women in a given occupation. As is illustrated in the graph on the next page, male PR specialists make significantly more money than women with the same education and qualifications. In fact, men make an average of almost $15,000 a year more than women performing the same exact job. If these women have the same credentials as the men, then why is there such a gap between their levels of compensation? At face value, it seems common sense that men and women’s salaries in this occupation should be more equal, but society prevents this from happening. Women entering the workforce is a relatively new concept in the United States. Before World War II, women were mostly housewives, mothers, and homemakers. As high percentages of women enter the professional field today, 60 years later, they still face inequality to men. On average, women make 75 cents for every dollar that men make. In society, “women’s work” is culturally devalued, and women are generally compensated less. Women are seen as second-class citizens as compared to men, because men have always been the “providers” and laborers in the family. The belief that women have a lesser ability to carry out certain tasks is considered du jure discrimination. This type of discrimination is intentional. It is reinforced by the negative images of women that are prevalent all over society. Similarly, women face statistical discrimination, which is characterized by making predictions about a particular group’s productivity. A third type of institutionalized discriminated that women deal with is de facto discrimination, which is not intentional, but just as important. Statistically, women around the world perform 2/3 of the work, and receive only 10% of the world’s income. It is true that historically, women’s roles typically involve raising children and tending to the housework, but this does not mean they should not be able to have a successful professional career as well. Because of the discrepancy in pay between men and women that exists in society today, the cycle will continue the way it has been going. According to Ballantine and Roberts, if women are paid less than men despite equal levels of education, “they are likely to have less access to expensive health care or be able to afford a $20,000 down payment for a house unless they are married.” This prolongs the cycle where women are dependent on men, and will never get themselves equal or on top. All in all, the differences between gender representation and compensation in the career of public relations are neither fair nor completely justified. We can observe the extent to which these discrepancies exist based on facts and data. Personally, I was not surprised to learn about the proportions of men and women in this field, nor was I surprised to see that men were compensated a large amount more than women. After researching and analyzing these differences, I am rethinking my aspiration to possibly become a PR specialist after I graduate. Although I would have an advantage to getting a job as a PR specialist because I am a female and in the majority, I feel as though I deserve a higher salary. But based on my knowledge of occupational gender stratification, I can conclude that a salary equal to that of a man in any particular field will be difficult or impossible to find.
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