Foreign Domestic Work and Intersectionality – A Literature Review
Equal representation in various areas of society and the workplace remains a critical matter of concern for different populations today. From gender and racial perspectives, females and nonwhite workers laboring in the export factories represent today’s most dominant image of globalization. As the world becomes one global community, international business thrives to the advantage of multinational corporations. Therefore, corporations are taking advantage by relocating labor-intensive assembly operations to cheaper production sites, especially overseas. For ages, the question of gender roles, i.e., which gender does what while assigning men and women duties, has persisted. A similar question also arises when determining which race does white-collar jobs and which does menial jobs, notwithstanding the calls for equality. Different researchers present literature providing a critical understanding of foreign domestic work and intersectionality. Foreign domestic work and intersectionality is a major issue, especially among humanitarian professionals and equal representation champions.
As earlier mentioned, race and gender occupy a pole position in discussions around intersectionality and social integration of society’s diverse populations. As one would put it, race is a fundamental axis of social organization, not just any epiphenomena of some other category (Taylor et al., 2019). The ideology represented here is that race is not just an unstable decentralized complex social factor but one whose tenets are constantly changing and being transformed through the political struggle. The struggle for equality, especially before and after the Second World War, led to liberal politics emphasizing equality before the law. The politics, with the assumption of sameness in daily encounters, led to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and 70s. In providing an understanding of racial representation in the workplace, Taylor et al. (2019) discuss the ingraining of stereotypes within the fabric of the US and lately coincides with, if not supporting, the institution of slavery.
For ages, the US has struggled with the demonization of Black people, destroying the idea of self-concept for those trying to find a better place and better jobs. Interestingly, most of these stereotypes did not begin at the workplace since stereotypes have existed in the education system. A case in point is an example from the early days when the Brown v. Board of Education landmark case outlawed segregation in the education system (Taylor et al., 2019). Poor education is responsible for most racial minorities not getting better corporate jobs than their White counterparts. Some factors contributing to poor education include the unequal distribution of resources in racial minority areas. There have also been discipline gaps where roughly one in every two African Americans are suspended compared to one out of every five Caucasian males or 10 Caucasian females (Taylor et al., 2019). Such factors reduce the quality and rate of education, resulting in lower rates of African Americans getting employment in better places.
Regarding employment, there are stereotypes amongst the employers that lead to covert racism, especially in the hiring process. Other stereotypes are found in the criminal convictions, where white people experience fewer problems than black people. The labor stereotypes also feature in evaluations and promotions, with white people having better prospects for promotions and evaluations. It is, therefore, agreeable that racial stereotyping is one of the intersects affecting society today, especially in the corporate world.
The idea of cheap labor is a major issue that always arises when addressing gender representation in matters concerning employment. Before the beginning of the 20th Century, most women were not considered worthy of employment. However, the feminization of industrial work, as Caraway (2005) writes, began in developing countries during and after the Second World War. One would have easily thought such advancement was good for the women, only to realize that women were being considered since they could offer a cheap source of labor (Caraway, 2005). Employers willing to hire women only did so to exploit them since they could offer cheap labor. Most corporations have held a major argument that organizations seek to reduce labor costs; hence, they go for cheap labor, which is inhumane. Patriarchy and export-oriented industrialization (EOI) are the key factors in the feminization of industrial work. The two factors are also responsible for keeping women’s wages lower (Caraway, 2005). Most exporters only seek female labor to reduce labor costs and increase their power to compete in global markets. Employers have since changed their views regarding this ideology as shown by reducing gender divisions in workplaces.
In another study seeking to understand gender roles and female participation in the workplace, Cho et al. (2018) analyze the representation of women leaders in the corporate sector in South Korea- one of the global economic powers. According to the study, despite the massive advancements and steps that women have made in their country, most corporations and society still consider them as tokens (Cho et al., 2018). With the advancements in technology and global performance, only a few women have taken leadership positions in every corner of society in Korea, which is seemingly a true representation of the rest of the world. The study shows that about 280 companies affiliated with the top 30 leading companies have only 27.1% (accounting for 76 companies) representation of top female executives (Cho et al., 2018). The 27.1% only accounts for 1.83% (about 195 positions) of the total 10,647 executive positions as per a 2015 study (Cho et al., 2018). Korea is a good example of countries with the lowest female representation, especially in senior roles, boards, and executive committees. The situation in Korea reflects the rest of Asia and the world. Cho et al. (2018) reiterate what Caraway (2005) presented in her study, seeking to understand the political economy of feminization.
One critical aspect featuring in discussions about gender and racial representation in the workplace is the unionization of workers. This socialist movement began in the late 19th to the early 20th Centuries, seeking to fight for the equal rights of employees. One such union is the self-employed women’s association (SEWA), based in Ahmedabad, the largest city in India’s western state of Gujarat (Spodek, 1994). According to Rose, most unions fail to address issues related to female workers (Spodek, 1994). Since the inception of SEWA in 1972, the union has gathered over 30,000 members, with most being self-employed or poor (Spodek, 1994). The major goal of the union is to improve the status of livelihoods of most female employees and those living in abject poverty. Despite 55% and 50% of workers being entirely women in Ahmedabad and Kolkata, these women are still marginalized.
Most women, representing the rest of the world, struggle to survive, especially in securing jobs and caring for their families. Women have a higher advantage in making a living as they can simultaneously work multiple jobs and occupations to bring in cash or trade food, grains, and clothing to make ends meet. It is, therefore, alarming that women are still marginalized in workplaces in India and the rest of the world today when they have all these skills they could use to grow themselves and develop an economy. The findings of Spodek (1994) are the same as those of Cho et al. (2018) regarding how women have been segregated in workplaces, employment, and executive positions in global organizations and businesses. It is shameful that many women are forced to become stay-at-home spouses or enter foreign domestic work when they could be lending their skills to businesses and growing exponentially in the highly competitive global markets. Groups like SEWA continue to grow and develop worldwide to champion equal representation of women, fair wages, and the general development of the female population in the workplace.
Race and gender play a critical role in assigning duties and activities within a workplace and filling top positions in the global markets. The globalization of work fundamentally altered how labor markets are organized worldwide. Research has found that globalization should take an approach that allows gender analytic thinking when giving out roles and positions. The heterogeneity or homogeneity of work and promotion should be solely based on the ability of an individual to perform duties, rather than focusing on race. Mirchandani (2004) analyzes the gaps, cracks, and ironies found in transnational call centers in India. The call centers discriminated against some groups, especially women and people from certain parts of India, including Punjabi (Mirchandani, 2004). Language has played a critical role in determining which individual assumes what role and the acceptable accent in call centers. This study presents the idea of accent neutralization- Americanization of call center operators to ensure they meet global standards (Mirchandani, 2004). This study has also established that unlike the popular opinion defending multinational corporations as having strong alliances with their home countries, most of these corporations only seek profits, regardless of the opportunities they may deny several deserving people (Mirchandani, 2004). Therefore, just like gender and race, social and language skills also determine the placement and promotion of individuals in the workplace.
Much needs to be done in terms of globalization, equal representation, and inclusivity. Gender and race play significant roles in the employment or consideration of individuals for top leadership and management positions. An individual’s background places them at an advantage or a disadvantage for a prospective position. It is important for stakeholders, therefore, to continue developing ways of addressing the gaps and cracks that not only deny several people equal opportunity but also continue to place society at a greater intersection and disintegration. It is time corporates, and national leaders collaborated in finding solutions to address all these forms of segregation and allow everyone the opportunity to have better livelihoods.
Caraway, T. L. (2005). The Political Economy of Feminization: From “Cheap Labor” to Gendered Discourses of Work. Politics and Gender, 1(3). https://doi.org/10.1017/S1743923X05050105
Cho, Y., Park, J., & Park, H. Y. (2018). Women Leaders in the Corporate Sector. In Korean Women in Leadership. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-64271-0_7
Mirchandani, K. (2004). Practices of global capital: Gaps, cracks, and ironies in transnational call centers in India. In Global Networks (Vol. 4, Issue 4). https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1471-0374.2004.00098.x
Spodek, H. (1994). The Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India: Feminist, Gandhian Power in Development Coping with Seasonality and Drought. Martha Alter Chen Where Women Are Leaders: The SEWA Movement in India. Kalima Rose. Economic Development and Cultural Change, 43(1). https://doi.org/10.1086/452141
Taylor, E., Guy-Walls, P., Wilkerson, P., & Addae, R. (2019). The Historical Perspectives of Stereotypes on African-American Males. Journal of Human Rights and Social Work, 4, 213–225. https://doi.org/10.1007/s41134-019-00096-y