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Women in Politics and Gender Equality

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Functionalist Perspective
  3. The Conflict Perspective
  4. Symbolic Interactionism Perspective
  5. Conclusion
  6. References


The issue of gender equality has been one of the prevailing contentious debates in the nation. According to the Foreign Affairs Minister from Canada, Chrystia Freeland, she is among the first 26 people to hold such positions across the globe, in a world that has more than 195 countries. The numbers as compared to the national tally are shocking. More than 65 percent of countries in the world do not have options to send women representatives in various councils across the globe. The statistics come only a few years after the United States’ Millennium Development Goals deadline has been met (Iversen, 2012). The next fifteen years are a trying time not only for Canada but also for other nations in analyzing how they will plan for the coming years. Most of the political leaders assert that women representation has been emphasized in their constitution as well as provided in other areas of employment. However, facts show that the number of women that participate actively in the political sector of the nation. The World’s governmental heads is a proof that women are still underrepresented, having less than 10% of the heads of states and governments represented.

In Canada, the political posts that women hold are scarce. A similar case goes for women that are appointed for cabinet secretary position (Iversen, 2012). The statistics are unlike the national tally, which shows that the number of voters has a slightly higher male percentage as compared to the women. One of the main reasons explaining the instances is the stereotypes that exists in various countries. Multiculturalism and other agendas have arose, where the mixed culture system differ on ideas based on women rights.

In the political sector, the Canadian government has been historically neared the verge of collapse, where the progressive conservatives have lost votes only because they supported women candidates. Some women have lost official party status due to circuses that have been spun to influence votes against them. The only party that had ever elected a caucus of more than fifty percent female was in the Yukon General Election of 2011, where there were only six candidates. Other areas has seen a higher percentage of women without obeying the one-third consideration that has been allowed in the government (Iversen, 2012). The Alberta New Democratic Party has been one of the revolutionary parties where women hold 23 percent of the parliamentary seats.

In terms of gender equality, Canada is ranked at the 49th place, similar to countries such as Mauritania in Africa. The nation has had legislations to provide equal opportunities for all, but has lacked in providing affirmative action for assisting women in various programs. The history of women in the nation has had a dark past, whereby the elected members have been lower than others n the community. However, the leftist parties have continued promoting gender equality and women’s rights in the multicultural community (Brescoll, 2013). Canada has sworn to become on the first nations in the world to ensure that men and women have equal opportunities and that it is reflected in the electoral positions. The representation in powerful positions is predominantly occupied by men with women having a long way to go before achieving a balance. The United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals state that gender equality should be achieved in the world by 2030. However, statistics show that the reality in various nations makes it an impossible task.

The Canadian government has been slow to implement policies that promote gender equality. Recent efforts to cross the gap have been put in place such as investment in girls’ education and increasing funding for women’s organizations. The only way to address gender inequality is to ensure that women are put in places where they can influence a move towards gender equality. The G7 has put in place the Gender Equality Advisory Council, which has inspired women and girls to pursue leadership positions. A gender-equal society is safer and better, which brings better financial results in the nation. The cost of not addressing gender gaps are huge, with issues such as early marriages becoming a major hindrance for development in third world countries (Iversen, 2012). All countries should consider making electoral to ensure that women participate in legislation. Other solutions include educating the society on the importance of equality, giving opportunities to women in businesses and employment as well as translation of the proposals to action. It is also important to give women equal opportunities to ensure that they can compete with men without discrimination.

The Functionalist Perspective

There are various sociological perspectives that can be used to describe gender inequality. The first is the functionalist point of view. Functionalists assert that everything that exist in the society has a specific function. Similarly, gender roles are there to maximize social efficiency. The theory sees the society as a complex system. There are various parts that ensure that each cog runs smoothly (Brescoll, 2013). Everything is there to ensure that there is solidarity and stability among all members of the society. All items in the society exist such that there is efficiency and promotion of social welfare. The approach sees the society through a macro-level, focusing only on the large structures that shape the society as a whole. It does not consider individuals or small parts of the society but rather look at the world as a whole and all the parts that exist. On gender equality, functionalists insist that it is an efficient way to ensure that roles are divided to increase efficiency. Every person takes up a specific role, which avoids confusion. The roles control the division of labor and specialization in various fields, which guarantee that the social system is responsible for every aspect of the society (Puts, 2010). The theory also says that the social system forms segment without which the society will fail and chaos arise.

Functionalists act in support of gender inequality and says that it exists for a purpose. They say that the inequalities create crucial segments and is responsible for acts of labor. The labor acts ensure that women are offered an opportunity to carry out their roles, such as maternity leaves that are rarely offered to men. It is an efficient system that ensures that each person has a position that they occupy (Puts, 2010). The system offers a balance such that everyone is aware of their expectations. Gender inequality divides people in their respective roles and functions, which ensure that every vital task is undertaken. It guarantees continuity in the society. The issue of gender inequality came to be in the 1950s when women started movements and civil rights’ groups to fight for their rights (Brescoll, 2013). According to Herbert Spencer, a renowned sociologist, the society contains organs that work towards the functioning of the whole body.

In the 1950s, the functionalist perspective was highly articulated to define gender roles. Talcott Parsons gave a model of the nuclear family, asserting that each individual has their specific roles. He said that the gender inequalities create a social system where division of labor is and segmentation is responsible for the existence of the family. Equal positions would result to chaos and confusion in the family system. A structural functionalist view applies the division of labor as the main function. The roles that are created are complementary. Women take care of the home while the men provide for the families. Therefore, gender is a system like any other in the society that contributes to the stability of the system (Puts, 2010).. Equality would leave a gap and create chaos in families, since women would abandon their roles as mothers and caring for the children. Giving them positions of leadership would threaten the continuity of the due to a reduction in the number of births. Functionalists argue that men will work more efficiently since they will not demand leaves to take care of family matters.

In a functionalist point of view, the basic needs namely food, shelter, clothing and money are the requirements of every individual above the poverty line. It offers factors that allow the society to maintain a specific order. Gender serves structural roles, which ensures that there is stability by giving functional prerequisites. The theory has been heavily opposed by feminists, since it promotes gender inequality and allocation of roles (Brescoll, 2013). The rise of the feminist movement saw the decline of the functional movement, since functionalism neglects the discrimination and suppression of women not only in families but also in other areas in the society. It sees women as only fit to care for the children while men toil to provide for families. In reality it is evident in millions of families across the world that single mothers function as both providers and caretakers (Hewitt et al, 2010).. Feminists argue that functionalism should be abandoned, since it focuses on the past. Its justification is based on the past and does not describe the society clearly. However, functionalists say that there is a subconscious feeling among in every person that they are there to serve a specific function and take up certain roles.

The Conflict Perspective

Conflict theory is based on a balance of power. It asserts that there are dominant and subordinate groups in the society. A dominant group has more power, which gives it the ability to make choices and provide roles. The control ensures that there is a balance of power and stability. The theory has been used to describe gender inequality. Frederich Engles gave a comparison of the family to that of the capitalist system (Dolan, 2011). He said that there is the bourgeoisie and the proletariat in capitalism. The bourgeoisie are the owners of the factors of production while the proletariat are the workers. The owners have more power than the laborers, which gives them the power to dictate laws of labor. There is a balance in the system, whereby the proletariat work for a fee. Gender inequality can be described in a similar way. It says that women has less power than men, which makes their roles subjective. Men, like any other institution in the society, have more power and wealth advantage, according to the conflict theory. They have struggled to main the control of resources and positions of power (Cordier, 2012). The conflict between the groups have caused feminist movements, which are yet to succeed in implementing overall social change.

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According to the conflict theory, men control economic and political power, while women continue to fight to achieve such positions. The conflict between the two groups have led to movements, such as the Women Suffrage Movement, which has come up with laws to implement changes in areas such as elections and labor laws. The society is characterized by continued struggle for dominance. The social groups compete for the scarce resources. Conflict theory argues that gender can be understood by analyzing the conflicts. Men continue to maintain power and privilege over women. An example is the nuclear family, where in most cases women move to the man’s house during marriage. The man obliged to work hard and afford the house as well as the upkeep for the woman and children. In other nations, polygamy is legal such that a man can have several women under his control. It is unlikely to have a woman with several husbands (DeTrancisco & Palczewski, 2014). Therefore, men can be seen as dominant group, which works hard to maintain its power and status. The dominant group will work hard such that it remains above the subordinate groups.

Social problems can arise, according to the conflict theory, when the dominant group abuses its power and oppresses the subordinate groups. The theory is normative and advocates for a balance of power to ensure that men and women coexist peacefully. In most cultures, men have historically controlled most of the resources. It was not until recently that women in western cultures were allowed to vote or hold property (Cordier, 2012). They have been entirely dominated by men. In other countries, especially in the Middle East and North Africa, women have continued being oppressed and have been denied privileges such as voting or vying for political seats. The control has created chaos and given rise to movements that advocate for equal rights. Such instances show that oppression can be a cause of further conflict in the society (Dolan, 2011). Recorded history barely gives information on the plight of women and emphasizes more on men and their dominance. It has been transferred in the modern society where women continue facing oppression.

Various groups and movements continue fighting for gender equality, which is yet to be realized. Friedrich Engels uses the Marxist perspective to describe gender equality. The owner-worker relationship can be seen in households, where women have assumed a worker role (Hewitt et al, 2010). In the Marxist point of view, the works realize that they are being exploited and rally up against the owners, creating a balance of power. A similar case has been seen in matters appertained to gender equality (DeTrancisco & Palczewski, 2014). The women’s dependence on men is slowly ending. The contemporary conflict theorists assert that when women begin earning wages, they gain power in the family structure. The Western culture is one of such instances, where families coexist in a more democratic arrangement at home (Cordier, 2012). The women may still carry an extra burden but they have been continued adopting the fact that they are equal to men. In the past five decades, the number of women occupying executive positions and vying for political seats has increased dramatically. It has reduced the conflict in the society between men and women, leading to system that works efficiently on agreement basis.

Symbolic Interactionism Perspective

The perspective argues that gender arises and is reinforced through interaction as well as the use of symbols. Interactionism studies how individuals act within the society, which arises when they interact with each other. Scholars of the perspectives relate each behavior and form of interaction with how people associate. On gender stratification, they assert that it exist as people get a specific attitude towards others. It bases the position of each individual on where they are placed after social interaction (Cordier, 2012). The model is based on Cooley’s concept of “the looking-glass self.” It says that the individual understanding of each or her role is based on how the society perceives them. If one thinks that they are masculine, he will act and behave as masculine. On the other hand, if one has the perception of being feminine, their behavior and roles will be based on other people’s femininity. The areas that interactionism explore include identity formation, conflict and cooperation (Hewitt et al, 2010). They are the basis of human interaction and define how each person associates with the other. Each factor is responsible for gender stratification as it defines social interaction. There is an interpretive process that people make sense of what they can handle and where they are placed in the society.

The face-to-face process of interaction brings actions, reaction and adaptation between grow or more individuals or groups. The goals is to communicate with others in a specific language, including mannerisms and body language. The perspective was described the Goffman, who said that individuals attempt to control the behavior of other participants during social interaction (DeTrancisco & Palczewski, 2014). They also use the communication process to control the position of their image. If the interaction is dangerous, the person can end the process before the crucial steps are achieved. On gender inequality, social interaction is the basis of creating a gap between men and women. One of such instances is marriage proposal. In most societies, it is upon the man to propose to a woman. The marriage process also involves payment to the woman’s parents in most cultures. The process acts as a symbol on the position of both the man and the woman. One of them takes an unequal position, since the proposal came from the dominant party. Symbolic interactionism says that there are specific symbols when humans interact, which defines their roles.

A perfect example of symbolic interactionism is the discussion of femininity and masculinity. The characteristics of both parties are produced, constructed and reinforced during daily interaction. Assuming a person went to the bank to get a small loan, the person that they meet defines the mode of interaction (Dolan, 2011). A male officer would require arguing logically on the payment plan and how to use the loan. On the other hand, a female officer would most likely call for an emotional appeal, stating the family situation and how far the loan would go in solving the family’s problems. A similar case would apply when one visits a fitness center. It is very likely to see men in the weights section and women in yoga or aerobic classes. It is also probable that a man would interact with women offering help in specific workout routines. Such methods acts as symbols of femininity or masculinity and are subconsciously fixated in people’s minds (Dolan, 2011). The meaning and symbols are created over time, which gradually become norms and values.

The gender identity created during interaction defines gender roles and inequalities. The theory says that gender is what one performs rather than who they are. Symbols such as clothing and behavior give rise to the specific reactions (Dolan, 2011). The theory is criticized because it does not advocate for social change but rather says that the society is static and people are mere recipients. It does not say that individuals are social beings that differ in every form of interaction. It says that gender is not a trait, but rather a variable that is defined by what people do. In the socialization process, people receive and adopt ways that exist in the society without changing them. The theory, therefore, asserts that gender inequality exists because people were born in a society that had already adopted it (Hewitt et al, 2010).. Interactionism does not show a potential for change and struggle to achieve equality. It is fixated on the idea that people end up taking the social structure without a possibility of altering it. Therefore, women will remain under men’s control as long as they continue having similar interactions and reactions, which continues to define gender roles in the society.


There are many theories that can be used to describe the facts of the article that women are under-represented in both political positions and as executives in the corporate world. All attempt to explain phenomenon, which functionalists saying that the inequality serves a vital purpose in the society. The conflict theorists say that men are the dominant party in every conflict while interactionism assists that socialization and interaction allocates gender roles. The fact remains that women have faced oppression and denied opportunities across the globe. It was until six decades ago that women were allowed to vote in Western countries. Other countries still stick to traditional ways stating that women should be subjective to men. Despite the existence of the Women Suffrage Movement and other civil rights’ groups, there is less than 10 percent of women in elective political seats across the globe (Hewitt et al, 2010). In most countries, women are the majority voters. However, they choose to elect men, which begs the question of how equality can be achieved if women themselves do not express their voice through voting. The movements have been responsible for key changes in policies especially in Asian countries, where women’s voice is barely heard. Feminists assert that in all societies, men are valued and treated differently than women. It leads to unequitable role allocation and positions that women hold.

The feminist movement has been one of the most influential civil groups in the world. I states that many women experience conditions of oppression and subordination, which in most cases is inevitable due to the existing social structure (Hewitt et al, 2010). Therefore, gender is seen as social constructed and has specific consequences for both men and women. The institutions that exist are such that they limit opportunities and specific behavior for women. Feminist theorists analyze how gender, race, class and status are perceived as well as how they define femininity and masculinity. Michael Foucault came up with the post-culturalist theory, which asserts that people are positioned within and are produced by default. Gender positions individuals as either men or women, which constructs social norms and values in the discourse. Although feminists push for equality, one’s sex determines what they can and cannot do in the society. The fact that women give birth and take time out of work to take care of the child is inevitable. It does not matter whether there are policies advocating for equality, but the inevitable sense that one is placed in a specific gender defines the roles.

Modern scholars have said that gender can be described by performance (Puts, 2010). There is no gender identity behind the expression of one’s sex. The symbolic approach of what one does as well as basis of interaction will define who a person is. Symbolic interactionists says that social interaction is stable, but the modern sociologists say that there is not coherent self behind people’s performance since identity is contradictory, always in flux and fragmented. The performance shaped by discourse limits the possibility of one’s action and behavior, which is behind the construction of identity. Despite the theories justifying or analyzing gender inequality, it essential to maintain equality in the society to create stability and reduce oppression and discrimination (Puts, 2010). Most of the nations across the globe have put in place policies to stop discrimination against women and guarantee that they have equal rights and privileges to men.

Gender equality has been a contentious issue in many countries. Women have continued struggling to gain equal privileges and opportunities to men. In Europe, there are several female Prime ministers, which show that they have adopted a culture where prejudice, oppression and discrimination is over (Brescoll, 2013). Other countries such as the Islamic nations, the issue is still prevalent. They use religion to justify oppression and policies that place a woman as the lowest in social stratification. They are denied the right to vote, own property and even drive. Majority remain unemployed since they have no access to formal education or were victims of teen marriages. Civil rights activists and feminist movements have been on the frontline in addressing the issue of gender inequalities. They assert that one’s sex should not be the basis of determining which roles one can perform (Puts, 2010). People should be given equal rights and privileges and allowed to choose the life that they will live. There are also laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender. However, normative gender remains strong even in Western Nations, where women and girls still feel that they are limited by nature due to ideas of hegemonic masculinity.


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  3. DeFrancisco, V. & Palczewski, C. H. (2014). Gender in Communication: A Critical Introduction. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications, Inc
  4. Dolan, K. (2011-01-01). 'Do Women and Men Know Different Things? Measuring Gender Differences in Political Knowledge'. The Journal of Politics. 73 (1): 97–107.
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  6. Hewitt, W.E., White, J., & Teevan J.J. (Eds.) (2011) Introduction to Sociology: A Canadian Focus. Toronto, ON: Pearson Canada
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