Insights into “Women’s Work” and Men

During March, Women’s History Month, there is a lot of focus on gender equality. People are analyzing the role of women in history and in current society. There is usually a focus on the workforce, especially the pay gap. There is a lot of pride in the growing number of women entering STEM fields, which is definitely deserving of celebration!

However, we don’t always pay attention to the stereotypically women’s career choices and men entering those fields. These positions are normally direct service and care positions. An article by Claire Cain Miller in the New York Times sheds some insight.

She looks into the growing need for more workers in pink collar jobs. And, with blue collar jobs steadily dropping, men will need to take on these traditionally “women’s work” roles to maintain employment.

Women have always entered male-dominated fields — usually well-paid, professional ones — more than men enter female-dominated ones. There are now many female lawyers, but male nurses are still rare. One reason is that jobs done by women, especially caregiving jobs, have always had lower pay and lower status. Yet when men, especially white men, enter female-dominated fields, they are paid more and promoted faster than women, a phenomenon known as the glass escalator.

Much of men’s resistance to pink-collar jobs is tied up in the culture of masculinity, say people who study the issue.

It is this culture of masculinity that is hurting not only a growing career field, but many men who are finding themselves unemployed. In fact, it is these men that could be key in turning around this stereotype of care positions being women’s work.

If more men do pink-collar jobs, they could erase the stigma and turn them into men’s jobs, said Janette Dill, a sociologist at the University of Akron, at least for jobs that require less hands-on caregiving. “More men will go into care because they don’t have a choice, but they’re going to carve out spaces for themselves that feel less like women’s work,” she said.

While a job is not always a vocation, the idea of women’s and men’s work should not be a deciding factor in pursuing employment. We want both men and women to feel comfortable in all types of careers.

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