Studies have shown that majority of the culprits of workplace gender discrimination are women. The underlying principle of the feminist legal school of thought is to establish the root cause of this problem in an attempt to empower the status of women workers in a male dominated corporate world. Though the various feminist jurisprudence models have registered remarkable progress in the empowerment cause, there are some limitations to their approach to the same. A discursive analysis of three feminist legal schools of thought –liberal feminism, black feminism and sex-difference model shows how their approach in handling this problem, their progress and the subsequent limitations to their cause. Feminist legal theory and workplace discriminationIn an attempt to tackle the issue of women discrimination at work, it is prudent to note from the onset, the root cause of this discrimination by comprehending the causal dynamics that breed discriminative attitudes, notions and behaviour.
Studying the fundamental cause of discriminative behaviour beats assessing the surface level indicators of the same. Like in all other forms of discrimination, traditional gender stereotyping triggers workplace sex discrimination.
Gender stereotyping takes the form of pre-existing notions that masculinity is the superior gender. It also results from men’s insecurities concerning the unknown productivity of women, which cause them to be intimidated (Moult, 2009). The liberal equality modelThe liberal feminist school was endorsed by inter alia Rebecca Walker, Stuart Mill, Betty Friedan and Mary Wollstonecraft. This school asserts equality of both genders. They insist on equality of opportunities for both men and women reiterating that women share the same capabilities as men. In the US, proponents of the liberal school relentlessly lobby for the ratification of the Equality Rights Amendment especially so to curb the issue of workplace sex discrimination.
Wollstonecraft insists that both men and women share the same credibility only that men get undue advantage to realise their full potential. She held that in the contemporary occupational setting, women experience sex discrimination through the covert acts of their male counterparts. They are denied mentorship, left out in informal workplace interactions and more demeaning, treated as sexual objects. John Stuart Mills, in defence of liberal feminism, noted that men are actually not superior to women.
He held that this traditional perception is attributable to the fact that most men are intimidated by women’s potential, which in turn leads to fears that women might turn out to be more productive than men do. Mills affirmed that, given equal opportunities, female workers show more dedication to work as they do to their domestic duties. Gender mainstreamingThis concept was coined during the 1985 Third World Conference on Women held in Nairobi, Kenya where it was described as “the public policy concept of assessing the different implications for women and men of any planned policy action, including legislation and programs, in all areas and levels” (Finley, 1989)Gender mainstreaming primarily aimed at alleviating economic, social and political disparities that women face.
The liberal school elevated this concept with the definitive goal of attaining gender equality. Liberal feminist theorists championed for reforms in the political, social and cultural realms as a means to realising women empowerment in the third world. The UN Economic and Social Council concurred as much and sought to make both genders’ concerns an integral element in the legislative policies, planned action and programs of member states.