Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Ralph Matthews




This study is an attempt to understand the division of labour according to sex which stubbornly presists in "advanced" industrial societies such as Canada. In searching for a suitable explanation for this social phenomenon, some of the works of recent "feminist" authors, anthropologists, biologists, psychologists, as well as sociologists were reviewed and assessed.

It was then suggested that the possession (vs. non-possession) of specific value orientations may be of key importance in maintaining the sexual division of labour in Canada. Parsons' theory of social stratification was utilized in order to explicate this process. Briefly, his theory maintains that the American (and by extension, Canadian) system of stratification is centred within the occupational realm, which is said to be based upon "instrumental" patterns of action. Based on this, it can be seen that people's value orientation are likely to be as important factor in influencing their ability to achieve occupational "rewards" within our society. This has serious implications for the sexual division of labour, especially when we consider recent findings among socialization researchers, which indicate that the socialization of males is different from that of females in our society, and that this difference is associated with value orientation differences between the sexes. As such, the conclusion is reached that observable value orientation differences between the sexes are likely to be an important factor in maintaining differences in the sexual distribution of occupational prestige.

Residents of a small suburban town near Hamilton, Ontario were interviewed in an attempt to substantiate the above ideas. The results by and large agreed with the theory, but for one possible discrepancy: due mainly to sampling imperfections, we were unable to determine the extent to which females approximate males in the degree to which their occupational "success" depends upon their value orientations.

However, an observable value orientation difference between males and females was noted; a fact which could have important repercussions for the male-female equality question. In the case of males, empirical results essentially substantiated that there is indeed a close relationship between one's value orientations, the instrumentalness with which one approaches one's work role, and the various occupational rewards accrued to individuals. As a consequence of these two findings, it was concluded that value orientation differences between the sexes act to place females at a distinct disadvantage in competing for high prestige jobs. As such, the prospects for change in the sexual division of labour must remain slim unless socialization patterns are radically altered.

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