Steinem Saturday

“Once any field includes “too many” women (usually when females become about a third of the whole), it is devalued, just as is the neighborhood into which “too many” families of the “wrong” race have moved, and for the same reason – exclusivity and bias…Whether in the United States or in the international economy, it’s a rule with few exceptions: Work is valued by the social value of the worker. A category of work is paid least when women do it, somewhat more when almost any variety of men do it, and much more when men of the “right” race or class do it. In a way, the ultimate proof of this rule is its reversability. When men enter a mostly female, “pink-collar” field, rare thought that might be, they tend to raise the status of the occupation and to be treated better than their counterpart females (including by those very counterparts), even though they may look odd for being there…Areas go up or down as the favored group enters or leaves.”

~ from Revaluing Economics, in Moving Beyond Words

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  One thought on “Steinem Saturday

  1. December 21, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    I couldn’t agree more.

    I’ve watched with interest as the fields of medicine and general practice medicine have become devalued over the last few decades as more women have entered those professionals while, by comparison, engineering and computer-related fields (and generally STEM careers) have increased in value and status.

    My advice to all young women I’ve mentored has been “enter a career that has a majority of men, and ignore those careers that are female dominated in order to gain access to a high income, stable career.” It seems as relevant now as when I first gave that advice two decades ago.

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    • December 21, 2014 at 9:30 pm

      I’ll have to disagree with your last paragraph – I never recommend to people based on their gender to enter a field based on the predominant gender within it. Neither women nor men should be picking careers based on that type of criteria. They need to feel free to explore any career they are interested in, regardless of the predominant gender. Telling women who want to nurse or teach to avoid nursing or teaching (for example) to get a stable career? I don’t get why that would be good advice. Most recruiters I know are female but I make good money and have a good career – STEM has nothing to do with my choices, nor do the percentages or men or women. This post was intended to show how companies tend to discriminate in valuing employees based on gender ,not to tell people to go after jobs that pay more because they’re male dominated.

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      • December 22, 2014 at 1:28 pm

        I think there is a wide variety of criteria for selecting a career, I agree. Choosing a career of good fit for the individual is very important, as well as selecting a career with the potential for growth and advancement are good points to consider.
        However, I believe that I’ve given very good advice in suggesting that the women I’ve mentored opt for male-dominated careers, and this has been borne out over the past few decades in aspects such as their generally outearning their peers, their general career satisfaction and in their overall career stability.
        As someone who has worked in a male-dominated field for most of her career, and has continually outearned most of her female peers in non-male-dominated fields who do quite similar work and have similar qualifications, I can’t help see the correlation between males, pay and status, that you pointed out so clearly in your blog.
        So my question is: why *wouldn’t* we want our fellow women (particularly women we mentor) to earn high incomes? Why wouldn’t we want them to have the best? And if the best means being in male-dominated occupations, then the best is certainly what I want and advise for my daughter now, and for the women I have successfully mentored in the past.
        I absolutely agree that the whole “follow your dream” ethos is a nice idea, but in reality quite often the dreams women are given lead to low pay, low status, low or no security (“precariat” workforce roles) and poor working conditions. I’m not saying that’s always the case, just often enough. Things are changing, but my view is why not push things a little more towards equality when we can?
        Thanks for a thoughtful post and comments. I hope we can agree to disagree on a few points, but agree that the sooner things are equal the better 🙂

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        • December 22, 2014 at 6:08 pm

          Yes, I agree it often goes that way, but I think it’s dangerous to tell people to go for jobs just for high salaries rather than encouraging girls (and boys) to go after careers they can feel good about, that aren’t about what they “should” do but what they want to do. Enough of us grow up doing what our parents think we should do, rather than finding work that really fits us. This doesn’t have to be that “passion” thing but can be whatever area(s) we enjoy, find success in, whatever – because each of us have different priorities. My husband and I have both made a lot and a little in our careers and have found that ultimately, as long as we can pay our basic living expenses, we are not obsessed with the salary. Life is too short to do work you are doing because your parents pushed you to do it. The other question I would ask is if you had a son, would you tell him to pursue female-dominated, and therefore potentially less compensated, so he can promote gender equity in those roles? We all want our kids to be happy – why would we push them towards one career or another? I grew up with family all in the military and government, and when I finally got a government job, I was truly miserable – and knew that it wasn’t about the stability or the money. What’s important to me is that there be no ego about the type of work done if it’s taking care of what you need taken care of – for some they do want to make a lot of money, for some it is about stability, but for others it’s about making a difference in the world, which often comes in the form of social work, education, or working for a nonprofit. It’s not about telling women and girls I don’t want them to make high salaries, it’s that I don’t want that to be what we push on our kids as a definition of success and/or stability. 🙂

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  2. December 26, 2014 at 5:11 pm

    It was interesting that I read this right before I heard someone lamenting the lack of male teachers in schools. I had to point out that 1) teaching began as a male profession but has since become a “female profession”; therefore few men want to enter the field and 2) since it’s a “female profession” the pay is extremely low. (Unfortunately, the reason this person – an “older” person – was complaining was because she thought men were “better” at running a classroom and were more “respected” by students. Sigh…)

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