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Women in the Workplace – An Evolution

From as far back as the Colonial era, when even the thought of a woman working was completely out of the question, to the present, where women make up nearly half of the nation’s workforce – it is not hard to see what an incredulous transformation of feminization has taken place. Due to this, occupations, such as teaching, nursing, and library management to name a few, have become highly stereotyped as ‘a woman’s job’, and have many men scoffing at the thought of being in their place. Surprisingly enough, long ago when men abundantly ruled the workforce, it was almost solely them that filled  professions of the like and the title of these and other careers were held higher, respected more, and even more profitable. These days, professions of that kind are no longer ‘careers’, but rather low paying, low respected, ‘semi-professions’, of which the majority is made up of female employees. Certain jobs are unquestionably viewed as gender specific. Created in the past, and continued even in today’s world of supposed equality, is the notion that men and women are each more appropriate for individual areas of work. This sexist attitude is one of the prime factors which have led to the feminization as well as the reversal – or ‘masculinization’ – of certain ce rtain professions. “Separate spheres embodied the vision of a social order based on a polarity of roles and personalities rooted in presumed biological and sexual differences between the sexes. Men were rational, instrumental, independent, competitive, and aggressive; women were emotional, maternal, domestic, and dependant.” (Smith-Rosenberg). Men and women were treated completely different, and it was pre-assumed that both genders would do what they were expected; men were the workers, given the good jobs that paid well, while women were presumed to be the stay-at-home-moms, free from sin and the

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obvious growing separation of society from religion. “The ideal Anglo-American woman th

of the 19  century was to be pious, pure and domesticated – able to present her home as a model of humble domesticity and a spiritual haven from a materialist world.” (Ross). It seemed understood that they were to create a safe home and stay there in action of being a proper wife and mother. “Parsons believed that the feminine role was an expressive one, whereas the masculine role, in his view, was instrumental. He believed that expressive activities of the woman fulfill ‘internal’ functions, for example to strengthen the ties  between members of the family. The man, on the other hand, performed the ‘external’ functions of a family, such as providing monetary support.” (“Answers”). A particularly male culture was obvious. Some claim cla im that there were two major developments in  particular which significantly harmed women. They were professionalization and industrialization. Women were focused on as being the true domestics, while men  became more and more associated with the work outside of the home. Men were identified with their occupation, while women were confined con fined to a familial framework. In short, the explanation of ‘separate spheres’ was that man’s sphere was his occupation – his monetary contribution to his family, and his power. powe r. The definition of a woman’s sphere was her expected role of the devout wife and mother, who comforted those around her, modeled the human mind – in girls especially – until they were grown and could take care of themselves. Men and women were treated as completely different creatures, with completely separate expected paths in life. With men ultimately dominating the workforce, it seemed as though thoug h a woman would never be able to truly find her place. When an expansion of new, higher power  jobs came about, men were of course preferred, thus leaving the lesser jobs behind,

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allowing women to step in and take their place. There are several of these jobs in  particular that became rather quickly feminized this way: teaching and nursing are two  prime examples. The context of education is an ongoing evolution. Such dramatic vicissitude in the world itself played a prodigious role in this matter, especially in a line of work such as teaching. In Colonial America, teaching was considered more of a past-time than a livelihood. “Teaching at that time was an occupation for young, white, well-educated men. Teaching was a part-time p art-time occupation, done mostly in non-farming months, or as a  precursor to a full-time career for pre-professional men.” (Boyle). Teaching and bellringing were considered low-status occupations of the like; accepted only by young  people, or those at risk of becoming a social dependant – namely, women. Teaching was thought appropriate for a woman, as once she was married it was expected that her husband would provide for and take care of her, thus making her job unnecessary and unimportant. It was not considered accurate to discuss teaching as an actual career, considering that people thought of o f it only as a pursuit undertaken in a youth’s life before they went on to a serious career, or beginning a family. Women aalso lso did not receive as much education as men, and a nd their illiteracy added dramatically to the restriction they already faced on their participation in teaching. Beginning in the 1800’s, a once-informal education process slowly began turning more formal, adding a slightly more serious tone on the matter of teaching. The indu industrial strial revolution caused a noticeable turnaround in regards to who held the predominant role in the education system, as it created many new, higher paying, higher respected jobs for men. It was at this time that women stepped in, gladly accepting these still reasonable

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 paying positions as a means to get out of the house and perhaps even more importantly, dramatically readjust the notion that women were meant only to be a wife and child  bearer. The ‘skill’ of man versus the ‘nurture’ of woman woman was thought as a reasonable annotation as to why women, although certainly more aggressive than only years before, continued to play such a minor role in the workforce overall, as well as to why teaching was such a perfect fit for women – it allowed them to continue their life of ‘true womanhood’ by building domestic homes and an d raising families, while at the same time having the allowance to work outside the home. “Teaching was one way in which women could work outside their own households while still being examples of purity and nurturance.” (Boyle). It was in the late 1800’s when teaching became noticeably more feminized. People were beginning to realize that children did not need to be frightened into learning,  but rather nurtured and cared for, and although some men still remained in the profession, it was women who truly took over, as it was felt that they were the more proper fit to such a requirement. By 1900, teaching was virtually all female. As teaching become more formalized, women teachers became more preferred, as they worked for less pay, and were not bothered by knowing that it was only seasonal work. It was in fact attested by some that "feminization occurred because school districts districts were unwilling or unable to  pay the rising costs of retaining male teachers as school terms became longer and teaching became less attractive to men" (Rury, p. 27). From 1900 to the present, women’s  participation in the teaching profession has steadily grown, and although more men are now re-entering the field, it has truly become a woman’s occupation.

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Teaching is not the only avocation which has evolved into a feminized occupation. Other lines of work such as nursing have also been made relative in this case. th

Before the 20  century, men contributed to more than half of the overall number of nurses, and yet that number dropped down to a mere 1% by 1930. The difference  between teaching and nursing is evident here however, as many men were considerably interested in becoming a nurse, but were constantly discouraged by society and constitutions, and were in fact often denied access to nursing education and organizations. Repeated studies have shown that an extensive amount of men actually were – and are – interested in the nursing profession, and yet due to lack of support and the unfair classification put on this vocation as being purely female, men have – and understandably so – been resistant in their entry into such a field. “Artificial barriers, not a lack of interest by men, have kept men out of nursing.” (Tranbarger). Another evident  justification on why men are so sparse in the nursing field is due to the lack of male role models. The majority of teachers in nursing education are female, never mind the fact that it seems to be women who are solely used in image campaigns and advertising tactics. It is no wonder there are so few men in nursing. Even though most people say that they would be proud, not no t disappointed, if their child became a nurse, it is still considered ‘women’s work’, making men shy away. “Changing these attitudes is the key to attracting men to our profession. We need to promote as positive role models men who display caring, compassion, and sensitivity without apology.” (Tasota). Men are taught and expected to be high power professionals, and leave the ‘women’s work’ to the women. It is not a difficult equation: men are a re preferred and get in easier to higher status  jobs; women are preferred and get in easier to lower status jobs, often even if their

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qualifications are more impressive. Even in today’s world men are continued to be chosen more for the high paying, high power jobs, which is a reasonable explanation as to the feminization of ‘lesser’ jobs. Statistics show that occupations which require a ‘nurturer’, as opposed to ‘skill’ tend to prefer women over their counterparts. When discussing the question of whether certain occupations were reversed, and instead ‘masculinized’ – midwifery, for example – although there are a noticeable amount of men in the field in the present, women still account for the majority. Varying reasons for this are argued. One of o f the most common here is that women relate well with women, which is obviously understandable. When it comes to choosing the gender of their midwife, it appears that most women prefer a female, as they will easier understand what she is going through. The reigning masculinity of jobs still presides however, in many more so than to women. Surgeons, lawyers, business executives – many of the  past’s unfair notions of high power jobs going to men still remain remain in the present day, although women are visibly playing a more active role. Everyone has their own argument as to the feminization of occupations, although some points are evident constants. Men are preferred and encouraged to take the higher  paying, higher respected jobs, leaving the ‘bad jobs’ to women. “…when hiring for high  paying jobs, employers will be able to get men, but when hiring in low paying jobs, they will often have to settle for women even eve n if they prefer men, since men will gravitate first to the high paying jobs.” (England (Eng land et al). Women are the expected exp ected ‘nurturers’, and thus are expected to deal with the relevant work, while men are supposed to be the providers, working the hard labor jobs. Double Doub le standards always have and it seems might alway alwayss be, around until gender specific roles are no more. When taking into consideration the

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qualifications of a possible hopeful in any field, people peo ple often continue to look past p ast the resume, unfairly believing that the gender of a person is hugely relevant to their skill. Perhaps if such treatment was no more, and the now feminized occupa occupations tions were made to  be non-gender specific, men would not feel ashamed in considering such lines of work. It will only be then that the ‘skill’ of man and the ‘nurture’ of woman of as far back as the early Colonial era will be tossed aside, and true equality will rule at last.

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Works Cited “Answers.” Answers.com. 2005. 30 Nov. 2005. <http://www.answers.com/topic/gender-role-2> Boyle, Elizabeth. Program in Women’s Studies. 2004. 30 Nov. 2005. < http://web.mit.edu/womens-studies/www/writingPrize/eb04.html> http://web.mit.edu/womens-studies/www/writingPrize/eb04.html> Brinton, Mary C. Gendered Offices: A Comparitive-Historical Examination of the Feminization of Clerical Work. 30 Nov. 2005. < http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:L32uBCmHxz4J:www.yale.edu/leitner/pdf/Brinton. doc+Gendered+Offices:++A+Comparative-Historical+Examination+of+the&hl=en> doc+Gendered+Offices:++A+Comparative-Historical+Examination+of+the&hl=en > Sedlack, Michael J. Waking Bear. Alkin, Marvin C. American Educational Resource Association. 30 Nov. 2005. < http://wakingbear.com/history.htm> http://wakingbear.com/history.htm> Sherrod, Dennis IL. Find Articles. 30 Nov. 2005. < http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3689/is_200307/ai_n9256865 http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3689/is_200307/ai_n9256865> > Smith-Rosenberg, Carroll. Houghton Mifflin. 30 Nov. 2005. < http://college.hmco.com/history/readerscomp/women/html/wh_033100_separatesphe.htm > Tasota, Frederick J. Find Articles. 30 Nov 2005. <http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3689/is_200307/ai_n9256865 http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3689/is_200307/ai_n9256865> > Tranbarger, Gene. Find Articles. 20 Nov 2005. <http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3689/is_200307/ai_n9256865 http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3689/is_200307/ai_n9256865> >

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