A Man’s Job

Today I read a comment to the effect that there were no longer any men’s jobs or women’s jobs. To my mind this is one of those remarks that sounds like it should be true but isn’t.

I think it depends a lot on how you define things. If you define a “man’s job” as one in which 2/3s or more of those in the workforce are men and a “woman’s job” as one in which 2/3s or more of those in the workforce are women, even after nearly a half century of the women’s movement many, many jobs remain dominated by one gender or the other.

Men’s jobs: physician (70%), lawyer(70%), engineer (90%), truckdriver (95%), construction trades (98%), computer programmer (80%), soldier (85%), architect (80%).

Women’s jobs: nurse (90%), kindergarten teacher (98%), social worker (80%), hairdresser (85%), speech pathologist (95%).

Those are round numbers—they might be a few percentage points off one way or another.

Here’s a biggie: 95% of Fortune 500 CEOs are men.

29 comments… add one
  • michael reynolds

    Those are jobs where men predominate, but not jobs that are unique to males. Soldier used to be 100% male, now as you point out, that’s no longer true. It takes a while to ease aside an entrenched majority.

    I actually work in a heavily female-dominated profession. Probably 90% of editors in kidlit are woman, as are maybe 80% (a guess) of the writers. My bosses (using that term loosely) are woman, as are my main competitors. And when I go on tour I deal with mostly female librarians, teachers and bookstore owners and buyers.

    I’m in chick world. If only I were unmarried. Also young.

    In my dealings with fellow writers, editors, agents etc. I have noticed one major difference between the chicks and the dudes: women don’t drink Scotch. They drink as much, they just don’t drink as well.

  • PD Shaw

    Women tend to be concentrated in legal practice, in areas like government, education and corporate. (Maybe not right out of law school) It used to be (not sure if it still is) that plaintiff’s personal injury was a man’s job and women with an interest in the area felt some form of discrimination was going on.

    But I see a few categories here. Lawyers, physicians and truckdrivers are “men’s jobs” because women often reject the work/home balance implicit in them. The “fix” usually offered in this area is to hobble men’s careers.

    Then there are the categories where we suspect that men and women might tend to have design advantages in terms of higher math skills, physical strength and emotional intelligence. This is where stereotypes might have some basis, but needed to be guarded against as generalizations.

    Then there are categories where customer preference is the driver. Someone might have gender preferences for their hairdresser, ObGyn and divorce lawyer.

  • Cstanley

    I’m in a profession that has flipped from male dominance to female – veterinary medicine. I think we’re running somewhere around 75-80% female graduates now, whereas my class in 1988 was one of the first years when it was even close to parity.

  • Your 100% standard is too high, Michael. There are no such jobs. A century ago there was the occasional female physician, lawyer, or physicist. Even in the American Civil War 150 years ago, a few women served, masquerading as men.

    Just as you can go for an entire career without meeting a female computer programmer or truckdriver, you can go for an entire career without encountering a male kindergarten teacher or speech pathologist. From an experiential standpoint, that is 100%.

    Although I’ve worked in a lot of exclusively male workplaces over the years, a number of my clients have workplaces that are mostly women. The largest difference that I’ve noticed between a male-dominated workplace and a female-dominated one is food. There always appears to be food in workplaces dominated by women. It’s a testament to women’s willpower and hard work that they don’t weigh 500 lb. each.

    women don’t drink Scotch.

    Certainly not a fault that my wife has. 😉

  • jan

    I’m in a profession that has flipped from male dominance to female – veterinary medicine.

    Last month I met a neighbor in her early 30’s — also a veterinary. She said the same thing, about this field now being a female-dominated one. It kind of surprised me. But, then women, IMO, are by-passing men in going to college, finishing their degree programs. Consequently, they’re breaking into a wider variety of fields, including ones mentioned here.

    Sometimes when one allows eras and events of the times to matriculate according to their own design and cultural inclinations, it’s flows and seats better than having the regulatory arm of the government intervene and twist arms.

  • jan

    There always appears to be food in workplaces dominated by women.

    Women seem to bring touches of home with them to work — food and house plants.

  • Will Truman

    The physician stat is a holdover. Women have overtaken men in medical school. Law school, too, though who knows how many ofthem will actually be llawyers. The vast majority of medical school students will be doctors, though, and the gender ratio will reflect that.

    My time substitute teaching reminded me how overwhelmingly female that remains at the grade school level. I think I remember exactly two male teachers in all of the schools I went to and both were sixth grade or fifth.

  • Jimbino

    Women are mostly absent in haute cuisine, haute couture, filmmaking and chess. In chess, you have no boss and there are none of the usual barriers to entry.

  • The physician stat is a holdover.

    No, it’s not.

  • Women are mostly absent…

    The way I see the general pattern is that women are still under-represented in the top positions and high status positions in most fields, cf. the CEO stat. Why that might be is not relevant to this post which merely points out that they are. Many, many fields remain dominated either by men or by women and, significantly, patterns of equalization in certain fields (cf. computer programmers) have actually reversed.

  • steve

    Dave- You are looking at licensed physicians. The percentage of female med students is in the high 40s.


    Also, I have not been able to confirm this, but was talking with our med school dean last week and he claimed that the average female grad works only 9 years as a full time practitioner.

  • Your second point is the more relevant one, steve. I think it’s called “leakage”. Women are systematically discouraged from continuing to practice at every step of the process, from med school to internship to residency to practicing. That’s why they leave practice at higher rates than men. In short, number of female admissions is irrelevant.

    On the law end I know any number of female law graduates, legal review, etc. who either practiced for a couple of years and then stopped or never practiced. Under those circumstances, the number who enter law school just isn’t particularly relevant.

  • PD Shaw

    Dave’s link to physician stats indicates that “A breakdown by gender in that survey showed 27% of female physicians working 40 hours a week or less, compared to 18% percent of male physicians.” However, age is also relevant — male physicians work fewer hours after age 54. and female physicians work fewer hours prior to age 35.

  • On page 17, it shows the percentage of male doctors and female doctors of each age group. Female doctors tend to be younger, male doctors tend to be older. This is consistent with both the “Holdover” notion and the “women leave medicine” notion. The census report expects the gender skew to lessen over time, which supports the holdover notion.

    I can’t find similar numbers for the US (points to whoever can point them out), but in Canada female doctors outnumber male doctors under 35 by a healthy margin. But men outnumber women everywhere else (by very significant margins over 45).

    So, is this because female doctors are dropping out or because gender ratio of older doctors is a holdover from the days when medical schools were so predominantly male? I tend to think it’s more of the latter, my own observational experience suggests it, but the figure Steve gives suggest otherwise.

    It seems bizarre to me that women would only practice nine years or so. Where do they go?

  • PD, my wife’s hours were officially considered to be “below 40” before the most recent job change, but she still dedicated far more then 50 hours a week of work. There may be a differentiation here between how time is calculated versus how time is worked. (It was known that “40 hours a week” meant probably about 60, and when she was “32 hours a week” that meant 75% of 60, which is 45.)

    That doesn’t say anything on the gender skew, which sounds about right. My wife had incentive to go part time that men don’t (or don’t have as much). And she will have to make up that time later in her career as men are stepping back, relaxing, and reassessing their lives.

    I just wanted to be clear that “part time” as we understand it doesn’t always mean “part time” as it exists for some doctors. I don’t know how widespread my wife’s experiences there are, though.

  • Please remember, I’m talking about conditions are they are now rather than conditions as they might be five years from now. I also think that anybody who thinks they know what conditions in the practice of medicine will be in five years (let alone twenty) is mistaken. In twenty years we might have twice as many physicians per 100K population or half as many. They might all be women. None of them might be women. There’s simply no way to predict. But that’s way off topic.

    Regardless of details, my basic point remains: there are lots of jobs that are dominated by one gender or the other. Not only that but in some jobs (engineer, computer programmer) the trend of thirty years has reversed.

  • Mileage varies, but discussing something as “men’s work” suggests, to me, not only that most of the people working in the field are men but that women are being inhibited or stymied, by biology or culture (or both), from entering the field.

    It seems clear to me that computer science is such a field. I’m less convinced that medicine is. If women are entering the field in significant numbers, and the data skew is largely because of who has entered the field in the past, then it just doesn’t seem quite accurate to me to argue that it’s a men’s work.

    I agree with you that the concept is still in place. It could still be in place for physicians, though I think right now it’s in transition. The inhibitors that exist within the construction realm (largely biological) or computer science and engineering (largely cultural) are not in place with nearly the same sort of force for doctors (as a broad group. Within specialties, a different matter).

  • The OECD statistics on the subject of male/female ratio in the practice of medicine are sort of interesting. In most OECD countries the proportion of women rose for a while and now has either stabilized or fallen.

    The United States is an outlier WRT healthcare so it’s possible that a rough parity between men and women might be achieved but that really doesn’t look very likely based on current trends.

  • PD Shaw

    @Trumwill, our close friends, and frequent carer for our children, are a married physician couple, and she quit about three years ago. Her reasons were the demands ran against how she wanted to raise her children, job satisfaction, and considerations of her take home pay, given her husband’s high salary, tax effects, nannies, etc. After giving her notice, her group hired her back on a three-day, eight-hour basis, with no E.R. or deliveries (she’s an ObGyn). My wife also works a three day week in mental health.

    I can see changes occurring, but if doctors are more likely to marry doctors these days, there may not be as much progress as some might predict.

  • ...

    I can see changes occurring, but if doctors are more likely to marry doctors these days, there may not be as much progress as some might predict.

    Not just doctors, but spouses of equal or better social/economic standing. I’ve heard of female programers in Silicon Valley quitting their careers when they manage to marry someone very successful in the business. Increasingly, getting the MRS degree comes after a lot of preliminary academic work.

    Professionalism in all things! Assortative mating and biology strike again….

  • Will Truman

    PD, which is another thing I would like to see some statistics on. I know more female doctors who married people like me than who married doctors. I know it happens, obviously, but I hear it as a norm but see something else. On the other hand I am seeing it more out here than I did out west.

    Dave, I don’t expect parity, necessarily. I just expect the gap to close somewhat.

  • PD Shaw

    @Trumwill, this 1999 survey predicts that soon half of all physicians will marry physicians. At that time, “Twenty-two percent of male physicians and 44% of female physicians were married to physicians.”


    Don’t see an ungated copy and it surveyed Ohio physicians, so it can’t speak to regional differences.

  • steve

    My wife was a physician, who quit as soon as we had our son. First in her class. Why someone so smart would marry me has always been a puzzle.

    Trumwill is correct. Within medicine there are clearly male and female specialties. That will take a long while to change. Since we dont have the social networks you see in Europe, I expect that even if male and female med school grads equal out, you will still see male numbers a bit higher.


  • Guarneri

    The statistics are dizzying. What is the male/female ratio in the “oldest profession?”

  • Giving a serious answer to what I presume is a tongue-in-cheek question, I think the best answer is that no one knows. In large cities it is estimated that about a quarter of prostitutes are males. It is further estimated that as many as a quarter of female prostitutes are transgender.

  • Guarneri

    Tongue in cheek? Me?

    Now the real question. I know your interests are far ranging, but you come by this information how?

  • FBI stats. I usually rely on them for crime statistics.

  • ...

    Big time pols are still mostly male, which clouds the whoring stats even further.

  • Tangential, but my wife read today that the one specialty where women are paid more than men is… of all things… urology.

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