Institutional Inequality of Women in the Workplace

Alinne Lopes Gomes:

Photo by Max Panamá on Unsplash
The precarious situation of women in the workforce and their importance on organized worker’s movement.
“According to M.S. Valdenízia Peixoto from the Federal University of Brasília, it is particularly hard for LGBT women to insert themselves as part of the work force; the heavier strain on transgender women manifests itself on the difficulty to deal with the prejudice from potential employers.”
The female’s role in society has directly resulted from the institutional inequality to which they are subjected; the construction of organized groups to fight for rights and better conditions has manifested itself in global history. Examples of the female empowerment in the civil standing for a social change can be referenced to the syndical organizations, feminism and the political aspects of female participation and the LGBT movement.
Celi Regina Jardim Pinto, PhD in Governance by the University of Essex and professor of Political Science at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, specialized in Feminist Theory and matters revolving around the evolution of the movement. She wrote in 2009 an article exploring feminism allocated in modern history, the institutional relations and how they are expressed between the women and power, shredding a fresh light over the necessity of new mechanisms to bring women closer to the political life and the decisional authority.
According to the professor, it is important to consider the feminist movement as part of a historical context; the political, social and normative struggles of the 19th century affected women in specific ways that weren’t shared by men. The first wave of an organized female group with active militancy on the civil life happened in 1913, in England, with the formation of the Suffragettes. It was the work of those women that brought the right to vote to English women in 1918.
In Brazil, women could only exercise the right to fully participate in the political life, by voting and being voted, after 1934. The right was formally instituted with severe restrictions in 1932 under the presidency of Getúlio Vargas. The feminist movement for the right to vote started in 1910 with biologist Bertha Lutz, one of the most important female figures in Brazilian history.
The political participation is a pillar in the female empowerment and recognition as first-class members of society; however, the syndical movements hold significant importance in how women are represented. The precarious work conditions both female and male employees were subject to in the factories are now considered as slave labor. In Brazil, it was during the Vargas government that the reunion of a series of laws protecting and regulating labor and workers was approved. The Consolidation of Labor Laws (Consolidação das Leis do Trabalho – CLT) was introduced in 1943 as a necessity after the creation of the Labor Justice, a specific judiciary organ dedicated to solving work disputes.
Women’s presence in the workforce has significantly shaped the political demands regarding labor rights throughout history. The strikes for better work environments, payment and overall safety and wellbeing of workers have been composed highly of female employees. In Brazil, the first general strike happened in 1917, 100 years ago, being composed mostly of female proletarians from a textile factory in São Paulo.
The 1917 strike lasted for 30 days and it demanded a reduction of working hours and an increase of salary. The movement started as a focused manifestation of unconformity to specific situations suffered by the 400 workers who initiated the strike; soon after it had acquired over 1.500 more workers, finally extending across the state. It is relevant to point out that the strike dates further back from the inauguration of the CLT.
The demands and problems endured by women in the work market have assumed different shapes, but remain present in modern society. According to M.S. Valdenízia Peixoto from the Federal University of Brasília, it is particularly hard for LGBT women to insert themselves as part of the workforce. The heavier strain on transgender women manifests itself on the difficulty to deal with the prejudice from potential employers. The Professor understands that while the existence of struggles suffered by women on the work sphere is universal, they tend to manifest differently; transgender women face a heavier immediate threat to their capability to find work due to institutional prejudice and a lack of preparation to accommodate their needs.
Data compiled by the National Transvestite Association (ANTRA) shows that a staggering 90% of transvestite women are working in prostitution; only the remaining 10% are involved in what is considered as formal labor. Daniela Andrade is a trans activist and member of the Sexual Diversity Commission of the Brazilian Bar Association; in 2013 she gave an interview to a prominent newspaper and exposed her personal experiences when trying to insert herself in the work force. She has conducted an experiment in which she sent a curriculum to recruiting companies under both male and female names; the male name received 11 calls back and the female only 6. The interviews to which she attended showed a predisposition to question her qualification once the interviewers found out she is a transgender woman.
Transsexual and transvestite women suffer an institutional problem that has dire consequences to their mental and physical health; the job opportunities are scarce and their presence at all levels of education comes as a constant battle. The prejudice to which they are subject makes everything harder than it is for a cisgender person; trans rights are human rights and revolve around human dignity. As a society, Brazil must improve largely on its treatment of these women to ensure that they are cared for and can assume dignifying positions inside the formal social standing.
It is necessary to create legislation and public policies to facilitate the inclusion of transsexual and transvestite women in the work force, while also addressing the universal gender demands, such as the pay gap and the harassment. That can be achieved by understanding the specifications of the individual difficulties and the sexism established in Brazilian society.
This article is extracted from the Research paper titled ‘LGBT Policies and Overall Safety in Brazil’  in Chapter 4 of the Safety Report by SAFIGI Outreach Foundation ‘Safety First for Girls’.


The Safety Report by SAFIGI is a two-fold Open research on ‘Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.’ The first part of the Safety Report is a Research Paper. The second part is a detailed Data Analysis.

The Safety Report Research paper is titled: ‘Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls in the Developing World.’ The paper starts with an abstract before focusing on subjects in the key regions of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. A total of 7 Research papers make up the safety Report (sans the introduction and conclusion), including:

  • The psychological effect of mass sexual harassment on girls in Egypt (P.24) by Heba Elasiouty.
  • Safety concerns in relation to social media: Growing up female in an increasingly digital world (P.45) by Karin Temperley.
  • Psychosocial challenges faced by parents raising children with physical disabilities in Oshana region (P.68) by Misumbi Shikaputo.
  • Gender-based violence and subsequent safety challenges experienced by Rohingya women (P.119) by Shucheesmita Simonti.
  • LGBT policies and overall safety in Brazil (P.141) by Alinne Lopes Gomes.
  • Silent voices‘: Violence against the female body as consequence of machismo culture (P.177)  by Steffica Warwick.
  • America‘s Public Policy on Sexuality: The Repression of Girls in Vulnerable Populations (P.208) by Dr. Christina Sisti.

The Safety Report Data Analysis is titled: ‘Core Issues Affecting Safety of Girls. Results and Outcomes based on Zambia, Egypt, USA, Tanzania, South Sudan, and Namibia.

SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd, a volunteer-based and youth led NGO registered in Zambia, implemented the Safety Report in order to understand the multifaceted concept of safety and how it applies to the female gender in diverse settings. And therefore, further prove safety is intrinsic, and that vices in society stem from an intimate level of the human being before its manifestation. This way, when we create safety solutions, whether it be in a developing nation, conflict zone, refugee camp, or patriarchal society, the problem is resolved from a deeply rooted cause. Such that, we treat the disease itself and not mere symptoms.

This study is as a result of collaborative effort pursued in the spirit of volunteerism via UN Online Volunteers.

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