IE Grapevine Updates

Sweeney: Gendered jobs hold society back

Katlin Sweeney

“Women in the workforce.”

The subsequent dialogue to that phrase typically revolves around the amount of money a female makes for a job compared to her male counterpart. The debate over dollars and cents is indeed important, but it tends to dominate the entire conversation centered around women and their jobs.

Many people are conditioned from childhood to work their whole lives towards graduating from college and then securing a high-paying job. Aside from the salary, jobs tend to be scrutinized based upon whether they are “suitable” for the employee. The fundamental principles for some of the backlash people face is garnered towards what are traditionally considered gendered jobs.

This animosity is often deeply rooted in the idea that certain positions are inherently masculine or feminine. When we think of “female jobs,” the positions that come to mind are traditionally schoolteacher, nurse, and secretary. In contrast, “male jobs” are historically viewed as construction worker, businessman, or doctor.

As we have transitioned into a relatively more open-minded period of time in contemporary America, an increasing amount of people are releasing their grasp on traditional beliefs and perceptions. However, some folks are still stuck in early-twentieth century ideologies and are convinced things will not be changing.

Consider for a moment the binary of doctors and nurses. Historically, the general public recognized a doctor as a masculine role while nursing was considered feminine. The assumption by some contemporary Americans that all nurses remain female is rooted in part to the societal construct that considers women natural caregivers rather than men. Similarly, the United States saw many women become nurses during wartime while many men fought in the armed forces, notably in WWII. This could be one of the factors that lead people to assume that nursing is a strictly female profession.

However, there has been a small yet steady increase of male nurses emerging in recent decades. According to the American Community Survey Highlight Report entitled “Men in Nursing Occupations,” issued in February 2013, “there were 3.5 million employed nurses in 2011, about 3.2 million of whom were female and 330,000 male.” While this may seem like an insignificant number of males, it demonstrates the gradual shift of away from nursing being a solely feminine gendered field.

The report also showed that the amount of male nurses was 9.6 percent in 2011, an increase from 2.7 percent in 1970. This particular expansion signifies that while women still largely dominate the nursing field, more men are becoming interested in becoming a nurse rather than a doctor.

In the same gendered shift, more women have studied to become doctors rather than nurses. According to The Wall Street Journal article entitled “Women Now Constitute One-Third of Nation’s Ranks of Doctors, Lawyers,” the 2012 US Census reported that “the share of female physicians and surgeons increased to 32.4% in 2010 from 26.8% in 2000…in 1970, women were 9.7% of the nation’s doctors.”

Doctors and nurses are only one example of shifts in recent decades. The 2000s have seen more women becoming interested in business and construction jobs, while men have expressed an interest in jobs like elementary school teaching and secretarial positions. While these fields will remain heavily gendered for some time, the possibility of breaking these societal molds opens countless opportunities up for generations to come. The continuous breaking down of stereotypes and societal expectations will allow for the eventual dismissal of stigmas surrounding genders in particular positions. We should be encouraging people that are gifted in medicine, education etc. to pursue what they excel at, not forcing them to find another interest because of their gender.


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