The goal of this study was to analyse the perceptions of Spanish women taking occupational training courses and of gender equality experts with respect to the relationship between initial formal education, occupational training, continuing education and employment, as well as the role played by the family in this relationship, in order to elucidate conceptions of women’s social reality in the fields of education and employment.
A qualitative methodology was employed, consisting of semi-structured, in-depth individual and group interviews with women taking occupational training courses. Interviews were also conducted with experts in gender equality. Working women’s conception of the relationship between training and employment is heavily influenced by the effect of gender socialisation, which leads them to assume the role of carer in the family.
Despite institutional declarations, women still rank second in key areas of society related to employment. Women’s choice of training presents a clear gender bias that directly influences the jobs they hold. In many cases, these comprise subsistence activities that coincide with traditional female roles. However, women with a higher education present less dependence on gender roles. Socialisation in gender stereotypes is evident in working women’s discourse, and generates frustration at the impossibility of reconciling all the areas of responsibility assigned to them, leading them to relinquish any expectations of professional or personal development.
Initial and continuing education is mediated by gender stereotypes that steer women’s learning paths towards careers related to the provision of care and affect their position in the labour market: women with a university education are more likely to fulfil their employment expectations in relation to the education received, whereas women with a basic or secondary education sacrifice their vocational aptitudes in order to devote themselves primarily to family care, accepting subsistence jobs traditionally associated with the female role. All women evidenced the impact of gender socialisation in the assumption of family responsibilities as their primary role in society. This stereotyped orientation generated frustration in the women, who felt that it was impossible to reconcile work and family life without renouncing their aspirations as regards personal and professional development.
Such discrimination and inequality entails a high opportunity cost for society, which loses skills that possibly only women, with their perspective, can contribute, relegating them to the role of providers of care for the family. The education system should focus from earliest childhood on correcting this imbalance, and the public authorities and society in general must adopt measures that empower women and leverage their intellectual, emotional and social skills in all areas of life, both in the public sphere of work, civil society and politics, and in the private sphere of family life.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at Women’s Perceptions of Training and Employment | Blanco-García | Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences