What Social Theory Explain Gender Inequality?


Jane Flores

What Social Theory Explains Gender Inequality?

In today’s society, gender inequality remains a pressing issue. Despite significant progress in recent years, there are still noticeable disparities between men and women in various aspects of life, including education, employment, and social status. To understand the root causes of gender inequality, social theorists have proposed several explanations that shed light on this complex problem.

Social Constructionism

One influential theory in explaining gender inequality is social constructionism. According to this perspective, gender is not biologically determined but rather socially constructed through cultural norms and expectations. Society assigns specific roles and behaviors to individuals based on their gender, reinforcing stereotypes and perpetuating inequality.

For example, women are often expected to prioritize caregiving roles while men are encouraged to pursue careers. These societal expectations limit opportunities for both genders and contribute to an imbalance of power between men and women.

Feminist Theory

Feminist theory takes a broader approach to understanding gender inequality. It examines how patriarchal systems perpetuate discrimination against women and advocates for the empowerment of women to achieve equality.

There are several branches within feminist theory that offer different perspectives on gender inequality. Liberal feminists focus on legal reforms and equal opportunities for women in the workforce. Radical feminists argue that the root cause of gender inequality lies in patriarchy itself and advocate for a complete overhaul of existing systems.

Intersectional feminism recognizes that individuals experience multiple forms of oppression based on their intersecting identities such as race, class, sexuality, and disability. This approach highlights how different aspects of identity interact with one another to shape experiences of inequality.


Structural-functionalism, another social theory that explains gender inequality, examines how gender roles and expectations contribute to the stability of society. According to this perspective, gender inequality serves a functional purpose by maintaining social order and stability.

For instance, women are often assigned domestic roles to ensure the smooth functioning of households and the reproduction of future generations. Men, on the other hand, are expected to be breadwinners and provide financial support for their families. These traditional gender roles help maintain a division of labor that is seen as essential for societal stability.

Conflict Theory

In contrast to structural-functionalism, conflict theory views gender inequality as a result of power struggles between different groups in society. According to this perspective, gender inequality is not functional but rather an outcome of unequal distribution of resources and opportunities.

Conflict theorists argue that men hold more power and privilege in society due to historical and structural factors. This power imbalance leads to the marginalization and subjugation of women. Conflict theory highlights how economic systems, political institutions, and social structures perpetuate gender inequality.


In conclusion, various social theories offer insights into the causes of gender inequality. Social constructionism emphasizes how cultural norms shape our understanding of gender roles.

Feminist theory focuses on dismantling patriarchal systems and empowering women. Structural-functionalism highlights the functional purpose served by traditional gender roles while conflict theory emphasizes power struggles as a key driver of inequality.

By examining these theories, we can gain a deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding gender inequality in our society. Only through this understanding can we work towards creating a more equal and just world for all genders.