Inequality in Business Organizations

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Introduction

For centuries, unfair attitudes, discrimination and bias were common phenomena in the workplace. Women, elderly people, the disabled, racial, political, sexual, religious minorities, and so on were subjected to bitter effects of this bad practice. Even though, nowadays, considerable progress has been achieved in reducing inequality in the workplace, there are still many problems related to it. In the following paper, the question of whether it is possible to reduce inequality in business organizations will be addressed. The argument will be initiated by addressing the problem of gender bias based on Ainsworth, Knox and O’Flynn (2010), Jonnergard, Stafsudd and Elg (2010), Pocok (2005), and Dipboye and Halverson (n. d.) works. Generally, these papers identify the significance of the problem of gender discrimination that women face, show some positive trends in overcoming gender inequality, and offer further possible solutions for this problem. Then, the problem of ethnic- and racial-based inequality will be considered based on Dipboye and Halverson (n. d.), and Konrad (2003) works, which observe the major developments in this area during the past few decades. Next, the problem of discrimination of the disabled and elderly, and its possible improvements will be addressed, based on Strachan, French and Burgess (2010), Morgan and Spicer (2011), and Watson (2003) arguments. Finally, the other patterns of inequality in business organizations will be discussed along with the possible strategies of overcoming these inequalities based on Habbis & Walter’s (2009) paper.

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The Problem of Gender-based Discrimination and the Possibility of its Overcoming

Despite the considerable efforts of Australian high officials and human rights activists, women’s working capacity and inner potential have been long time ignored due to impediments of different kinds including “social, structural and systematic” ones (Ainsworth, Knox & O’Flynn 2010, p. 659). Even the adoption of EEO legislation did not change the situation for the better, which can be seen in the following comment by Ainsworth, Knox and O’Flynn (2010, 659): “typically, the findings regarding women’s progress have been disappointing: women’s employment opportunities and outcomes have not improved significantly, despite the existence of EEO legislation”. Gender inequality can be seen in a variety of areas in business organizations, beginning from women’s payment, which is significantly lower even when it comes to fulfilling the same work and ending with workplace programs, organizational policies and statements such as maternity leave policies, and statements about workers’ pregnancy. Women continue to be underrepresented in many higher-paid occupations and continue to have fewer opportunities for promotion and professional growth than men (Habbis & Walter 2009; Jonnergard, Stafsudd & Elg 2010).

Nonetheless, numerous specialists are positive regarding women’s potential to acquire equal opportunities at work. For example, according to Ainsworth, Knox and O’Flynn (2010), even nowadays women can apply for jobs, transfer, promotion, additional professional training, participate in development programs, and have additional holidays equally with men. This shows that managers and state officials have already achieved a lot in reducing gender inequality in business organizations in Australia. In addition, modern social canons go through remarkable changes in the countries of the western world including Australia. In this vein, women’s role in the family has undergone remarkable changes, which can be seen from the following comment by Pocok (2005, p. 36), “putting together the changing story on family structure and patterns of paid work, we can see the declining role of the traditional breadwinner model of family/work-life”. As a result, women have obtained more career opportunities.

It is also expected that women themselves will make their contribution to the improvement of the situation with gender inequality at work. For instance, particular areas of employment and promotion opportunities have always been considered only opportunities for men because women did not demonstrate important qualities that are necessary to qualify for those opportunities. Thus, women should continue working on their inner potential to demonstrate such important character features as an initiative way of thinking, proactivity, emotional intelligence, ambition, and commitment. In addition, women need to work on their qualification levels and skills availability. Moreover, the state of affairs in a variety of areas shows that the majority of women lack proper motivation for professional and career growth, and thus, they lose their opportunities for promotion. Therefore, women need to continue developing their inner potential as this will become a critical point in overcoming gender bias at work.

The Problem of Ethnic- and Racial-based Discrimination and the Possibility of its Overcoming

The worldwide statistics have widely identified the problem of racial and ethnic bias in the workplace, which is faced by ethnic and racial minorities. For example, according to Dipboye and Halverson (n. d., p. 134), in the United States, “the unemployment rate in 2002 for whites was 4.2 percent compared to 7.7 percent for blacks and 6.1 percent for Hispanics”. In addition, whites are more likely to have better positions at work than blacks or Hispanics as whites are usually employed as managers and office workers, and blacks and Hispanics usually work as cleaners, handlers, laborers, and so on (Dipboye & Halverson n. d.). According to Konrad (2003, p. 9), “when African Americans predominate in lower-level organizational positions whereas managers and professionals are almost exclusively Anglo, organizational boundaries underscore the historical disparity between these ethnic groups”. In Australia, Indigenous people remain heavily disadvantaged on a labor market. According to Habbis & Walter (2009, p. 167), “in 2006 Indigenous unemployment stood at around 14 percent”. Thus, the state of affairs with ethnic and racial bias is the most complicated both in the world and in the country.

Solving the issues that are rife with the ethnic discrimination is a complex objective. First of all, managers should do their best to develop a positive microclimate for employees, belonging to racial minorities. However, the efforts of managers will not be enough as society should change its way of thinking regarding people, belonging to ethnic minorities. This is very important because managers usually make their decisions regarding their workers on the basis of opinions of customers, and if these customers have a biased attitude to “colored” employees, managers go on with them. Therefore, reducing ethnic and racial inequality in business organizations is not only a problem that managers have to work with; it is also one of the major social objectives that governments of the world should strive to realize.

How the Disabled and Elderly Face Inequality. Possible Solutions

According to Strachan, French and Burgess (2010, p. 21), in 2008, only 8.2 percent of the employed population in Australia were “within the 55-59 age group”, and only 20% of employed population had a certain type of disability. These statistics show that generally, elderly and disabled people face inequality when they apply for a job in Australia. Despite the efforts of the government, aiming to create additional working positions for the disabled, company managers tend to make their decisions regarding employment in favor of healthy people. Even the governmental subsidization for employers, who have disabled workers within their collective bodies, does not change the situation with discriminating people with a measure of vulnerability.

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To reduce the level of inequality in employing the disabled and aged people, managers should undergo significant changes in their way of thinking (Morgan & Spicer 2011). They have to understand that it is unethical to show bias to people with infirmities. Of course, several working positions in companies require excellent health and great working capacity. However, there exist many areas in business organizations, where the disabled and elderly people will demonstrate good performance. Besides, employees with such specifications as being aged or disabled are generally more grateful to their employer, which contributes to their excellent results at work. Therefore, managers should not avoid employing such candidates. Hence, the solution to the problem of bias in dealing with the disabled and elderly in business organizations is connected with sticking to the exalted ethical standards in business (Watson 2003).

The Other Patterns of Inequality and What Can Be Done about them

In Australia, facing inequality in the workplace is not only connected to such factors as gender, race, ethnicity, disability, and age, but it can be connected to other circumstantial factors as well. For example, just as in the other parts of the world, people, belonging to different kinds of minorities such as political, religious, sexual, etc., are subjected to discrimination. In addition, among the other inequality factors are geographic and qualification ones. The research studies, held in recent years, identified that people from Central Australia have fewer opportunities to be employed than people from Coastal Australia (Habbis & Walter 2009). In addition, individuals with lower educational and skill levels only have chances to find work in casual areas, and they usually tend to have part-time and short-time contract jobs. According to Habbis & Walter (2009, p. 163), “Australian and international research continually link lower levels of education to labor market disadvantage and marginalization through such factors as unemployment, low labor force participation and part-time and casual work with lesser conditions or pay”. Thus, young people, who decide to have a low level of professional skills and qualifications or leave school earlier than the twelfth year of education, are at the risk group to face inequality in the workplace.

Reflecting on the above-discussed factors that may also contribute to inequality in business organizations, it is important to note that at times, not only managers, but people as well are responsible for overcoming the problem of bias at work. In particular, all people need to do their best to acquire the necessary skills and qualifications to have equal chances of being employed, and having further career-growth opportunities. Of course, some factors are difficult to overcome. For instance, the geographic factor requires moving to areas with better employment chances. This factor should be taken into consideration by managers as well. Particularly, when they have an option to decide where to locate the new production facilities, they need to consider placing them in territories, distant from the coastal line (Morgan & Spicer 2011). This will assist the development of the industry in the country and the improvement of living standards for citizens in remote areas. Of course, when it comes to such a discrimination factor as belonging to a certain kind of minorities including political, religious, and sexual ones, a response is needed from managers as they are the main people in the collective body, responsible for the favorable atmosphere and healthy relationships at work.

Conclusion

The progress in the area of minimizing the levels of inequality in the workplace is evident nowadays. Still, much is to be done by managers in order to considerably reduce inequality in business organizations. In particular, women, the disabled, aged people, racial, political, sexual and religious minorities continue suffering from discrimination and bias at work. Therefore, managers in business organizations should develop new strategies of cooperating with the categories of employees, who are subjected to the effects of inequality. First, managers themselves should develop a new way of thinking regarding these workers as they often appear to be the source of the unfair attitude. Managers should reconsider the codes of business ethics, and make the necessary corrections in their way of thinking. Also, they have to influence the rest of the workers in their business organizations to help them develop a new way of thinking regarding women, the elderly, the disabled, racial, ethnic, political, and other minorities. In addition, people, who face bias in the workplace, should make their own contribution to changing their situation for the better. For instance, women may continue working on improving their professional skills and developing important business qualities such as ambition, commitment, and proactivity. Thus, it can be said that reducing inequality in business organizations is possible, but it requires much work on the part of managers, and also cooperation from the groups that are subjected to the effects of inequality.

References

Ainsworth, S, Knox, A, & O’Flynn, J. 2010, ‘A Blinding Lack of Progress’: Management Rhetoric and Affirmative Action’, Gender, Work and Organization, vol. 17 no. 6, pp. 658-678.

Dipboye, R & Halverson, S n. d., “Subtle (and Not So Subtle) Descrimination in Organizations”, in R Griffin & A O’Leary-Kelly (eds.), A Dark Side of Organizational Behaviour , A Wiley Imprint, Australia, pp. 131-158.

Habbis, D & Walter, M 2009, Social Inequality in Australia: Discourses & Realities, Futures, Oxford University Press, Australia and New Zeeland.

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Jonnergard, K, Stafsudd, A & Elg, U 2010, ‘Performance Evaluations as Gender Barriers in Professional Organizations: A Study of Auditing Firms’, Gender, Work and Organization, vol. 17 no. 6, pp. 721-746.

Konrad, A 2003, ‘Special Issue Introduction: Defining The Domain Of Workplace Diversity Scholarship’, Group & Organization Management vol. 28 no. 4, pp. 1-17.

Morgan, G & Spicer, A 2011, “Critical Approaches to Organizational Change”, in The Oxford Handbook of Critical Management Studies, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 251-266.

Pocok, B 2005, ‘Work/Care Regimes: Institutions, Culture and Behaviour and the Australian Case’, Gender, Work and Organization, vol. 12 no. 1, pp. 32-49.

Strachan, G, French, E &Burgess, J 2010, Managing Diversity in Australia: Theory and Practice, The McGraw-Hills Companies, Sydney.

Watson, T 2003, ‘Ethical choice in managerial work: The scope for moral choices in an ethically irrational world’, Human Relations, vol. 56 no. 2, pp. 167-185.

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