Let’s take a second, think about your “typical” family unit. You have a mother, a father, and at least one child… add in a dog or a cat if you’d like. Now think of who would be primarily working to support that family…most would immediately answer- the father. The breadwinner, the sole money earner of the household. The mother takes care of the child/ren, the house, the food, the teaching and raising of the kids. The mother most likely stays at home or has a low-income part-time job in order to make ends meet for their family. I personally never lived through this family dynamic, and although I started out my adult life having this dynamic, it is not a reality for most people in today’s society.
I grew up as an only child with my mom who was a single mother. My father was not involved and paid minimal child support. I watched my mother struggle over the years to make ends meet and try to advance in her career to no prevail. I graduated high school and moved to San Diego with my boyfriend at the time and he was active duty in the navy. A predominantly male society. I was in the process of earning my degree and working on base at the child development centers. It was fascinating to me to witness how polar opposite these two communities were. You have the Navy which is mostly run by all white males, and you have the childcare centers which is run by almost all white females. It was very rare to see even a male teacher working on base in this environment.
Working with mostly all females (Latinos or Asians) and compete to obtain higher status with other females in the centers was difficult. Even though I had married an active-duty officer, it did not give me any advantage in climbing up the chain to higher positions. I was competing with other women (some with only GEDs) who had been working at these facilities for 10+ years that had little to no education. These women were beating me to these positions due to their seniority, even with my college credits and status of a military wife. These women would stick together and chose their friends who they knew would work well with the standards they had in place and were in some ways threatened by my knowledge and the fact that I knew more about what it meant to be part of the military than they did. I ended up not getting a high position due to these facts.
My husband’s climb in rank, however, was totally different than mine. The higher-ups looked at my husband as a huge asset as he was young, would listen to whatever commands he was given, and was willing and able to be trained as they saw fit. My husband was able to quickly climb the ladder due to his conformability and eagerness to succeed and make money. Degrees did not matter in the navy, time did matter, but at the point, he was at, there were thousands like him, so he needed to stand out in order to succeed. There were absolutely no females at his command due to the fact it was Naval Special Warfare and “women were not allowed in these special commands”. Women were able to try and take the physical tests, but most did not make it, or the instructors made it so impossible that they ended up quitting, simply because they all believed it was not a conducive environment for a woman.
The gender and racial gaps in all three of these scenarios are “typical” and seen a lot. The single mom who wasn’t able to climb due to the fact that she was alone, could not work on her degree because she needed income for her daughter. The woman who worked in childcare with all women, most of the women being from other ethnicities, and this was a result of the region of the country she worked in (Southern California). And the white male who worked with all predominantly white males trying to climb rank where as long as you did what you were told and performed above par, you would be ok. No amount of knowledge or experience would help these three situations. Sometimes it is what it is and you can only work to prove yourself, or find another avenue to explore. The Gender biases were very much alive and problematic, as were some ethnic issues as well.
The Pennsylvania State University. (2020). Leadership in work: PSYCH 485 [Online course lesson]. Retrieved at: https://psu.instructure.com/courses/2045005/modules/items/28166514