I am currently grading exam papers from my past OB course. One of the questions that I asked during the exam was the following:
- Refer to a particular job or profession and a) explain how and to what extent it could be regarded as sex-typed, b) explain what consequences this sex-typing has for men and women working in this job/profession, and c) explain what consequences this sex-typing has for men and women, who aspire to work in this job/profession!
I expected students to become explicit in terms of arguing why the job/profession is sex-typed, hence, seen as either male or female job/profession. It was not enough simply stating that there are more women or men working in this job/profession. Rather students had to come up with particular male/female attributes that are associated with the job/profession. For quite a few students it proved to be difficult writing about consequences for both men and women working in the particular job/profession that the students decided to address. However, as this are first-semester students, I regarded this as a good way urging them to reflect about the consequences of sex-typed jobs.
Some of the students did very well answering this question, providing fascinating insights. Let me share with you two examples:
“a) The job as a kindergarten teacher is mainly done by females, only in the last years, the number of males in this job increased, but still it is mainly a job done by females. The expectations of this job, which employees should fulfill are tender, attentive and sensible. It is a caring job, which should be done in the same way, as a mother cares for her child at home. These expectations mainly fit in the gender type of females. Also in the traditional gender role the mothers care for the children, it is also a kind of tradition that caring jobs are done by women.
b) In Germany, the job as a kindergarten teacher is not acknowledged in the same way as for example a primary school teacher, even-though the two jobs have a lot in common. Kindergarten teachers get a much lower salary, which in addition makes it an uninteresting job for men. In 2001 there was the ,PISA Schock” (PISA shock). It describes the time, when the first PISA study was released, which showed, that the German education system is much worse than they thought, in comparison with other countries. Since this time the job as a kindergarten teacher got more interesting for men, because it was planed to have more education in the kindergartens. Men, who especially work with young children, are often seen as unmanly, this work is seen as a typical job for women in the major part of Germany and men doing this job are not taken serious by this people. It is known, that it is important for children to have contact to both, men and women, while their development, especially in families, where the child only lives with one, mother or father. The children need a male and a female example. When men work in a kindergarten, they often expect, or are expected to do the men-typical tasks with children, for example playing football or cavorting with the children. It is also hard for male kindergartners, because some parents have prejudices concerning sexual abuse, when men take the caring parts of the job. These prejudices are rarely seen towards female kindergartners. Also it is very often seen that women go back to the stereotypes, when they work together with males, for example they often call the men when there are technical problems or something broke. Both men and women have to reflect their attitudes concerning gender roles.
c) As already mentioned above, the consequences are, that there are mainly female kindergarten teachers and this leads to not optimal education for children. Also, when it doesn’t change, that there are more men in kindergartens, the prejudices are kept alive, so there won’t come many men in future to do this job. Still it is a job which attracts women, but men get more in this job and I think, the more men work in this job, the more attractive does it get for other men.”
AND, another one
“The job I want to pick is the job as a security guard, which tends to be more a men dominated job, which, to me, makes no sense. So why is it, that a security guard all ways is seen as a man? Lets take look at the human body for a second. The man, a proud statue with tons of muscles, a long beard, a warrior, a king, a gentleman, a fearless person, someone to look up to, rough, dead on target, the guy who gets the money home, the king at home sitting on his throne while he is drinking beer. The woman, a smooth flower in the wind, gentle, soft, strong, a mother, the one you saw the first time in your life, a life bringer, 90/60/90, the beauty that makes every man weak. Did you notice something? As you read my description of a man and a woman you automatically felt, that the man is the strongest amongst us all. But I am sorry to tell you, that is incorrect. History has made this kind of view and that is why we still have it today. Sex typing is everywhere, but most affected is the working sector. Men tend to get the jobs with the higher wage, when women wont be able to even try to get that job. That is actually happening if you want to be a security guard. This job is sex typed. Of what do you think when you are thinking of a security guard? Do you think about the muscular guy of your first night at a club, disco or bar? Yes, I do it too, and he really was no friendly person, I can tell you that. But why? It makes no sense, because men aren’t the only ones who can be scary and strong. Yes, even women can be very scary and very strong too. Take a look at the Olympics and watch these women do things even you couldn’t imagine to do at anytime. And now imagine these women as the security guard in front of your local club you keep to go to. Now it is the same as if a man would be at that point. But why does have to be a muscular women to make us run in fear? That is the sad way the society looks upon women in some jobs or professions. With this, there are many consequences included. First of all guess what your manly friends would think of you as a woman, when you tell them that you applied for a post as a security guard. They wouldn’t take it seriously and laugh at you. On top of that you will have many colleagues who are men, which could come to the point that you will be underestimated and suppressed by them because they simply think that they are better than you. You could nearly call it mobbing, but stick to your type of gender. Shouldn’t the workplace be seen as something asexual which is not linked to sex or any feeling or emotions? The consequence is, that women who want to do this kind of job will not be able to do it, because they are afraid of the disrespectfulness and underestimation from the society. The consequence for the men working in this job will be, that they only meet manly colleagues and their social contacts will tend to be only men. So, it is the same for women who aspire to work or are working as security guards. They will be meet underestimation, men domination and disrespectfulness from their colleagues, friends, clients and society. But that is something society needs to change, has to change, because it isn’t only the security guard who experiences the sex typed working spot. You will find it everywhere, at any job you pick and it can even be men who are the ones getting sex typed.”
Yet, there were also other answers like the following one:
“The sex-typed pilot: Pilots have a big responsibility on their shoulders and they have to be ready take decisions under pressure. The passengers’ life depends on the pilot, which makes it hard because the pilot has to be able to respond quickly but do not stress and keep calm. The pilot have to be very observant and detail orientated and even though it is him who is controlling the plan he have to be good a cooperating with his crew. As men are described as ambitious, resolute, forceful, good at leadership and willing to take risks this job is very much sex typed as a male job. As women are seen as sensitive, understanding and kindly it is hard for them to master this profession and can course serious troubles. That is why we nearly do not have any female pilots. Because they can get confused and nervous in tough situations and take wrong decisions in life threatening situations.”
I believe I have to ‘work on this student’ a bit more…