Women are getting the more attractive jobs

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 1 February 2000




(2000), "Women are getting the more attractive jobs", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 21 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/lodj.2000.02221aab.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

Women are getting the more attractive jobs

Women are getting the more attractive jobs

Keywords: Gender, Labour market, Job satisfaction

It is generally believed that men and women are likely to work in different sorts of jobs, and that men have the better jobs. But is this really true?

An ESRC-funded team of sociologists at Cambridge University and Dalhousie University in Canada - led by Dr Bob Blackburn - have come up with some surprising results.

While it is true that in most countries there is a tendency for men and women to work in different occupations - a tendency known as "gender segregation" - this segregation is greater in more egalitarian countries.

The more opportunities women have to get good jobs, the greater is the gender segregation. This is exactly the opposite of what had previously been assumed.

Detailed study of the labour market in the UK indicates that it is not men but women who tend to have the more attractive jobs.

Blackburn and his colleagues have studied the occupations of men and women in 33 countries. They find that countries with higher scores on the United Nations (UN) measures of women's empowerment - the gender empowerment and gender-related development measures - also have higher levels of gender segregation. This is particularly clear for the "advanced" industrial countries of Europe, North America, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. This positive relationship between empowerment and segregation might seem to indicate that women have the better occupations. Yet the UN measures all show varying degrees of male advantage.

To understand these findings, the researchers used the idea of vertical and horizontal components of gender segregation: the vertical component measures inequality and the horizontal represents the difference. Then the only possible explanation is that as segregation declines, the vertical component increases and the horizontal one decreases, and vice versa. So in a highly-segregated country like Sweden, the strong tendency for women and men to be in different occupations means women are less likely to have to compete with men to get high-level managerial and professional jobs. Changing employment patterns in the UK between 1991 and 1996 confirm this pattern over time. There was a small decline in gender segregation and a modest increase in vertical inequality in this short period. Of course, this was not the pattern in all parts of the UK labour force, as the general trend comprises diverse patterns in the different sectors. Among full-time workers, there were general gains for women, joining men in the more desirable occupations, so that the level of segregation and its inequality component both declined.

For further information, contact Dr Bob Blackburn, Tel: 01223 334549; e-mail: rmbl@cus.cam.ac.uk

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