Globalisation and gender

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A survey of the globalization process, gender scholarships and theorists who study this phenomena and its effect on gender system is presented in this paper. Authors who deal with economic globalization and women's productive work argue that markets are gendered and the multinational corporations derive benefits from low paid women's work. In addition, a global feminized care work, migration, and political and cultural aspects of globalization from a gender perspective are also presented.

Globalization is affected more negatively women than men, although all women are not the victims of globalization and all men are not the winners. The global process changes the gender system, roles and relations and strengthens gender inequalities. It can also be said that globalization means degradations in relations to women.

Global world from a gender perspective

In this lecture we will focus on globalization processes and aspects of the global world from a gender perspective. First of all, let me define gender. Gender means culturally formed characteristics and behavior associated with and learned by women and men (feminine/masculine). While sex is a biological characteristic, gender is socially constructed and is culturally relative; it means that its manifestations differ according to time and space in history and various cultures. In this text following issues are addressed: How is globalization gendered? How do globalization processes change the gender systems, relations and roles? How are women and men affected by globalization? How are the theories of globalization gendered?

Interdisciplinary theories of globalization usually leave gender aspects aside. And this is particularly true in the Czech theorizing of globalization. However, as Peterson and Runyan (1999) argue, gender is an important perspective in analysing globalization. It identifies global agents, characterizes state and non-state activities, frames global issues and thinking about possible alternatives.

Neglecting gender in mainstream globalization theories goes hand in hand with masculine dominance in this scholarship. Bergeron (2001) and Freeman (2001) show that especially the macrostructural models and „grand narratives“ of globalization are masculine. These are criticized for focusing on impersonal flows and not on real people (Afshar and Barrientos 1999). Gender scholars understanding of the impacts of globalization focus on the actual people and especially women. For instance they analyze the effects of structural adjustment programs on lives of women (Rai 2002; Starr 1994). The authors explain that globalization in not an inevitable and irreversible process, but they see globalization as a deliberately constructed project, a neoliberal development based on pro-free market ideology.

A large part of the scholarship is focused on global inequalities. Gender inequalities in the contemporary global world are especially striking. According to United Nations data, women compose one-half of the world´s population but perform two-thirds of the world´s work hours, they own about 1-2 % of world´s property and are poorly represented in positions of power (about 13% in parliaments and 4 % of head of states). On the other hand, 70% of poor people are women, and women constitute about 80 % of refugees and 70 % of the illiterate population (more Women Watch, United Nations

While globalization affects negatively women more than men (we will look more specifically at how later in this paper), the scholars stress that it is not only important to “add women” into the theory of globalization. The relations between men and women globally and changes of gender systems by globalization have to be addressed (Walby 1997). Not all women are victims and all men winners of globalization. It is important to analyse the differences and inequalities among women (and men), based on class, race/ethnicity and location in the global economy. While many women in the global North have advatageous positions, and few women have been successful in politics, other women still struggle for survival.

According to Marchard and Runyan (2000) and Pyle and Ward (2003) the global processes both change gender systems, roles and relations and strengthen gender inequalities. Globalization processes break dichotomies of the masculine and feminine world by bringing more and more women into former male dominated realms, especially production in factories and migration (Freeman 2001). As Walby (1997) points out, femininity is not defined only by motherhood or domesticity any more. On the other hand, globalization processes are rooted in gendered reality and ideologies, for instance gender stereotypes are used to justify paying women less for their work than men doing the same work. So, gender influences globalization and globalization reinforces gender formations.

Global hegemonic masculinity

Globalization processes create two dichotomous areas from a gender perspective: one is a world of global finance and postmodern individualism associated with western capitalist masculinity; while the other is based on gendered and racialized subordination and low-paid, unskilled labor which is done by women (Momsen 2004). Enloe (1990) pointed out that these two spheres are interdependent. Masculinized domains of global high politics and finances are interconnected with feminized cheap labor. Without unpaid and lowpaid women’s work, the global economy would not function.

Theorists of men’s studies show how globalization is changing masculinites and how men and masculinities are shaping global processes. Connell (1998) analyses globalizing masculinities using terms “neoliberal masculinity” or “transnational business masculinity”. “The hegemonic form of masculinity in the current gender order is the masculinity associated with men who control world’s dominant institutions: the business executives who operate in global markets and the political executives who interact, and in many contexts merge with them” (Connell 1998: 16). He argues that the hegemonic global masculinities of business men and politicians are characterized by flexible, calculative egocentrism, no sense of responsibility for others, no stable commitments, technical rationality and free sexuality.

Danner and Young (2003) call these two contemporary forms of hegemonic masculinity “Davos Man” and “Big Brother”. Davos Man represents global elite business masculinity. Big Brother is military and surveillant masculinity, reinvented after 9/11, in the era of global war on terrorism. These two models can be contradictory, but work well together in both sides of globalization: neoliberal economic restructuring and military dominance and security. Also Benería (2003) uses the term Davos Man, under which she understands not only businessmen, bankers and politicians, but also officials and intellectuals who share beliefs in individualism, market economics and democracy. The Davos Man means contemporary global elites.

Kimmel (2003) analyses how the global hegemonic model of masculinity is opposed by local or national subordinate men who are trying to strenghten their masculinity and foster local patriarchy. While refusing globalization and spread of western or multicultural values, they try to make “their“ women subordinate and traditional again. He gives examples particularly of neo-nazi nationalist movements and the islamist men of Al Qaida.

Economic globalization and women’s productive work

Globalization has opened markets; however, as Rai (2002) argues, not all markets were deregulated in the same way. Finances can flow freely all over the world, but flows of human labor are restricted. Both these markets are gendered: the trade and finance worlds are masculine, and labor markets are now being increasingly feminized by women entering the workforce. There has been a significant rise of women’s employment in the last half of the century; worldwide from 46% in 1950 to 81% in 2000, and mostly in export production (Rai 2002). On the other hand, due to production for export, there has been increased demand for flexible and cheap labor, which is feminized (Afshar and Barrientos 1999). As labor becomes more feminized, it has also become more flexible and informal. (Ramamurthy 2001).

Opening up markets in the global South led the multinational corporations to build their factories especially in Latin America and South East Asia. Development of economies of the Third world countries is made possible by the growing export industry. In these „“export processing zones“ (EPZs) the corporations employ mostly women because they believe that women are suitable for these jobs – women are docile, often young, often of rural origins from developing countries, have nimble fingers, accept low wages, and are patient enough to do monotonous work (Benería 2003; Renzetti and Curran 2003). Also, the corporations derive benefit from women‘s non-participation in unions. Global actors deliberately use gender stereotypes for their own profits, in many cultures women’s income is understood as an additional supplement to the male breadwinner’s one.

These jobs are characterized by low wages, sometimes under the level of a minimum wage guaranteed by the state, which also means below subsistence level. In addition, the working conditions in factories are often unhealthy or dangerous and women are objects of sexual harassment and even physical punishment (Featherstone and USAS 2002). Although it has been argued that globalization benefited women, because it increased their employment opportunities and economic independence with their own source of income; scholars usually speak how these advantages are balanced by many disadvantages. Women gained employment but feminization has been associated with the deterioration of working conditions. Also, besides factory jobs, there are not many other employment opportunities; usually only prostitution or migration to richer countries is available (Pyle and Ward 2003).

Corporations seeking even cheaper labor, increasingly use a method of subcontracting. They do not have their own factories but agreements with local firms who run smaller shops or employ women who work at home. Balakrishnan (2002) calls this form of work “hidden assembly line” because this work is in the informal sector, where wages are lower, there is less security, no labor legislation, no formal contracts and no social benefits. Women usually work more hours than in the factories and are controlled through piece-rate. Subcontractors prefer women with children for this work, because of their limited mobility, high self-discipline, and need for some kind of income for raising their children.

In subcontracted work at home or small shops that involve family members and neighbors it is difficult to organize against exploitative working conditions. Besides familial bonds in the shop, the workers do not know against whom to organize. They do not have information about the corporation that subcontracted their work (Balakrishna 2002). The employers are usually in a different country. Big companies do not have responsibility for the working conditions, but only buy products from subcontractors. Furthermore, women are atomized in individual households or in small shops where collective action is difficult to organize. On the other hand, in the factories of multinational corporations, unions are usually prohibited. If they can organize, they are male dominated and do not pay attention to specific women’s problems (Freeman 2000).

The practices of subcontracting in smaller sweatshops can be however found in the heart of the West too. Louie (2001) has documented that women in the garment sweatshops in the global cities, such as New York and Los Angeles, have even worse working conditions than in the EPZs in the Third world. The sweatshops employ undocumented immigrant workers with no rights and force them to work long hours for very low wages.

The globalization processes change gender systems and relations. Momsen (2004) shows that the traditional gender contract based on men’s breadwinner role in the family is being eroded. The feminization of work and increase of the informal economy reflects a rather weakened role of men than higher economic opportunities for women. Women are overworked by the double burden (work both in and outside of the home) and men feel useless and degraded because they cannot maintain their dominant position at home. These changes of gender identities are resource of anxiety both for men and women. Paid jobs for women do not automatically lead to social empowerment or gender equality. Even when women work and are successful, it can cause crisis within family; and sometimes woman’s independence can end in violent reactions from men.

Global feminized care work and migration

Two interconnected phenomena, care work and migration, are both feminized on a global scale. Care work or domestic labor done by women from developing regions in Western Europe and the U.S. is characterized by long working hours, low wages and a high level of abuse. Immigrant women, some of them illegal, are preferred over local women for this job because they can be paid less and exploited. Parreňas (2001) recognizes these types of domestic work: childcare, housecleaning, and elderly care. She points out that women migrants doing this “unskilled work” often have college degrees, but their income is higher than in the home country in their profession. As Sassen (2002) argue, this type of work is not unionized and workers have no rights, such as taking sick leave. Authors of Global woman (Ehrenreich and Hochschild 2002) argue that there is global transfer of care and love from the Third world to developed countries. Hochschild call this process explicitly as a “care drain” and a “global heart transplant” (2002:17, 22). Women from poor countries migrate to work as nannies and maids, to middle class families where both partners work. Migrant women surrogate the care that affluent mothers can not give to their children. Most of migrant women leave their own children at home, do not see them for many years, usually only send remittances to support them, and finance their education.

According to Hondagneu-Sotelo (2001) globalization has resulted in the increased migration of women. Migration flows are oriented mostly towards the U.S., Western Europe, but also to new industrialized countries in Asia (such as Taiwan) and the oil-rich Middle East. Migrating women are mostly Filipinas, Caribbean, Mexican, Central American, Peruvian, Sri Lankan, Indonesian, and Eastern European. The key factor influencing the migration is the wage inequalities and wealth difference between regions. Some developing states are dependent on remittances sent home by women migrants. According to Ramamurthy (2001) states rely on this income as a development strategy. Promoting migration of care workers and also sex tourism is a way to deal with unemployment and paying off debts.

Not only developing countries in the Third world are dependent on this “invisible” women’s work, but also, according to Sassen (2002) and Parreňas (2001), the whole economy of postindustrial society would not function without domestic servants, nannies and sex workers.

Twofold factors influence migration of women to get these jobs – on one side it is poverty in their home countries and on the other is the “care deficit” caused by employment of middle-class women who are not able or willing to care of their own children and elderly relatives (Ehrenreich and Hochschild 2002). Life in global cities such as New York and London where highly educated professionals living in two career households with children are concentrated is dependent on services of low-wage immigrants working in restaurants, hotels, households, in child care.

As Hondagneu-Sotelo (2001) and Ehrenreich and Hochschild (2002) have pointed out the care work still rests on women’s shoulders, it was only replaced by other women subordinated by class and race. Men have not started to share more domestic responsibilities. Not only men do not spend time and effort taking care of children but also states, and especially the U.S., offer minimal public child care.

This is associated with the overall diminishing role of states under globalization and especially breakdown of welfare state caused by imposed neoliberal policies. Women are affected by cuts in social services, and it is women who replace the social services. As Ramamurthy (2001) or Litt and Zimmerman (2003) argue, it is especially the structural adjustment policies that were harmful to women. Another effect of the welfare cutbacks on women is that women are affected as the majority of recipients of welfare benefits (Pyle and Ward 2003). Women’s struggle for survival also causes more health problems that are no longer treated by state medical care (Denis 2003). Women in many countries were also state employees working in social services, and with the reductions in social services they are losing jobs.

Political and cultural globalization and gender

Although political aspects of globalization are less examined within the discourse on gender and globalization, some authors focus on positions of power in the global world, role of the state and democratization from a gender perspective. According to Kelly et al. (2001) democratization is still a goal to be achieved, because women and men are not equal globally. Even after 200 years of women’s political mobilization, there are still only few women in politics, and in some countries there are none. Authors criticize the neoliberal project of economic globalization for not being associated with processes of democratization; economic liberalization can be joined with various political regimes including military dictatorships. On the other hand, Walby ((2000) argues that there is a rise of women in parliamentary politics worldwide (in the last fifty years from 3 % to 13%). However, her understanding of politics is very narrow; she defines democratization only as participation of women in parliaments and only in democratic countries. According to Peterson and Runyan (1999) and Rai (2002) women are absent in the most important positions of global power. It is not only leadership of states, but also of international institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF, corporations and media. Global institutions are still dominated by men.

Cultural aspects of globalization are not very much addressed within the discourse on “gender and globalization“. Among the exceptions is Wichterich (2000). Her argument is that globalization has gender aspects also in the cultural sphere, for instance in spreading the western notion of feminine beauty and role to the global world through media (fashion magazines such as Cosmopolitan, soap operas as a women’s genre, beauty contests etc.). These western influences are met with conservative reactions in various regions of the world – muslims protest against “Miss“ contests and so on. Women’s traditional clothes become a symbol for conserving local culture and resisting globalization (more in Wichterich).

Gender roles and expectations

Change in Gender Role in Slovenia at the beginning of 21st century

Term gender in the process of the globalization includes the expected social position of men and women, meaning the ascribed roles and expected behavior of the individual that is considered to belong to the category man or woman. Roles, relations and expectations are different in the different times, space and cultures. They are also depending on the level of the development of social relations between men and women and the social status of men and women. How did roles and expectations to women and men changing - change in gender roles, especially in the economic field and to which stage are developed?

Gender, Theories,Inequality


These links provides information about gender, inequality, gender differences, gender role and studies. Link to the Sylvia Walby page, British sociologist, gives us also a view to an international network, the aim of which is to reduce gender inequality. We can also realize the term "Sexism".

Gender is commonly used to the general differences between women and men, sometimes also to the independent concept. Gender inequality - disparities based on gender - is present in the workplace and at home. Despite we put a lot of efforts to reduce unjustness based on gender and despite a greater increase in awareness on this topic, we can also perceive some kind of worsening in some fields. We can also argue that globalization in same places and in someone`s eyes means degradations in relations to women.


External Links

  • Gender[1] in Wikipedia
  • Gender inequality[2] in Wikipedia
  • Gender differences[3] in Wikipedia
  • Gender role[4] in Wikipedia
  • Gender studies[5] in Wikipedia
  • Sylvia Walby[6] in Wikipedia
  • Sexism[7] in Wikipedia

Economic and Market


These links provide information about Feminist economics, Feminization of Labor and Women in the workforce.

The expansion of trade, capital flows, and technological advances have resulted in a sitation when more and more women entere in the workforce. This feminization of labor is from the multi national perspective welcomed, but this brings more and more discriminations, violence and harassments.

Link to Economic inequality from gender point of view, take us to the idea of the gender gap which demonstrates gender inequality in income disparity or wage gap. Women for the equal work do not receive the equal wage like men.


Gender and the global labour market

External Links

  • Feminist economics[8] in Wikipedia
  • Economic inequality[9] in Wikipedia
  • Feminization of Labor[10] in Wikipedia
  • Women in the workforce[11] in Wikipedia

History in women`s right


These links provide information about Women’s rights, Women’s suffrage and give us information about the oldest women's peace organization in the world Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

The term women’s rights refer to the freedoms inherently possessed by women and girls of all ages. The term women's suffrage refers to the economic and political reform movement aimed at extending suffrage — the right to vote — to women. Nowadays, we can't even imagine that in the past women has no right to vote and must fight for this and the other rights.


External Links