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Occupational sex segregation can be understood to contain two components or dimensions; horizontal segregation and vertical segregation. With horizontal segregation, occupational sex segregation occurs as men and women are thought to possess different physical, emotional, and mental capabilities. These different capabilities make the genders vary in the types of jobs they are suited for. This can be specifically viewed with the gendered division between manual and non-manual labor. With vertical segregation, occupational sex segregation occurs as occupations are stratified according to the power, authority, income, and prestige associated with the occupation and women (or men) are excluded from holding such jobs.[1]

"Occupational segregation by sex is extensive in every region, at all economic development levels, under all political systems, and in diverse religious, social and cultural environments."[2]

Sex segregation

Sex segregation is the separation of people according to their sex or gender.

The pejorative term gender apartheid (or sexual apartheid) has been applied to segregation of people by gender, implying that it is sexual discrimination. In some circumstances, gender segregation is a controversial policy, with critics contending that in most or all circumstances it is a violation of human rights, and supporters arguing that it is necessary to maintain decency, sacredness, modesty, female safety[3] or the family unit.

Historically, certain occupations tended to be exclusively for men and others for women. Occupations such as nursing and secretarial tended to be almost exclusively for women. This is referred to as occupational segregation. Significant sex differences regarding educational requirements and job duties exists for dental hygienist, secretary, and social worker.[4]

With the movement to sexual equality, formal barriers have been removed. However, certain occupations still continue to be dominated by one gender or the other.


Policewomen in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, and the other of the six Arab Gulf states are employed in situations concerning other women, such as criminal investigations, airport searches, driving license examinations, and working with female prisoners.[5]

Historically, Alice Stebbins Wells became the first female to join the Los Angeles Police Department in 1910.[6] Women police officers were originally hired, in the early 1900s, to provide specialist protection for women and children.[7] Twenty-five women police officers received their initial appointments to London's Metropolitan Police in 1919.[8] The first full-time matron was appointed in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1895.[9]

Women now occupy top positions in many law enforcement agencies in the United States, and represent about 14 % of sworn law enforcement officers nationwide.[6] Percentage of women police in 13 Asian countries according to the 7th UN survey in 2000: Singapore 19.1, New Zealand 14.6, Hong Kong 13.4, China 11.3, Kazakhstan 10.0, Malaysia 9.7, Sri Lanka 5.3, Papua New Guinea 5.3, Thailand 5.0, Kyrgyzstan 4.9, Japan 3.7, South Korea 2.4, and India 2.2.[10]


A secretary is an administrative assistant in business office administration. Since the Renaissance until the late 19th century, men involved in the daily correspondence and the activities of the mighty had assumed the title of secretary (or in other cases, "clerk"). In 1870 Sir Isaac Pitman founded a school where students could qualify as shorthand writers to "professional and commercial men." Originally, this school was only for male students. In the 1880s, with the invention of the typewriter, more women began to enter the field, and since World War I, the role of secretary has been primarily associated with women. By the 1930s, fewer men were entering the field of secretaries.


File:Navy Nurse.jpg

A U.S. Navy recruiting poster from World War II, showing a Naval nurse with a hospital ship.

Nursing comes in various forms in every culture, although the definition of the term and the practice of nursing being a wet nurse and a dry nurse, respectively.[11] In the 15th century, this developed into the idea of looking after or advising another, not necessarily meaning a woman looking after a child.[11] Nursing has continued to develop in this latter sense, although the idea of nourishing in the broadest sense refers in modern nursing to promoting quality of life. Prior to the foundation of modern nursing, nuns and the military often provided nursing-like services.[12] The religious and military roots of modern nursing remain in evidence today in many countries, for example in the United Kingdom, senior female nurses are known as sisters.


A military is an organization authorized by its country to use force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country (or by attacking other countries) by combating actual or perceived threats. The profession of soldiering as part of a military group is older than recorded history itself. Some of the most enduring images of classical antiquity portray the power and feats of its military leaders.

Many countries around the world make it mandatory for males to join the military, but not females. For example, men at 18 years of age in the United States are required to register for military conscription to be drafted to war or military service. Women are not required to register with the Selective Service System and have no obligation to serve in the military in the case of a draft.

Labor force participation

In the period from 1950 to 1980, the participation of women in the United States labor force dramatically increased for all age groups and marital status categories.[13] During this period there was also a corresponding decline in sex segregation of the labor force at least during the 1970s.[14] But, there remains a consensus that the labor force within the United States' occupational structure is characterized by a high degree of sex segregation.[15]

Among blue-collar workers, for example, industries with the highest concentration of women workers also had the lowest average salaries.[15] "In 1981, assigning to women the age, hours, and educational distributions of men would reduce the degree of segregation by just over 2 percent."[16]

Women's job placements are especially dependent on characteristics of the area in which they live, as women are less willing than men to move to another community, 100 or more miles away, even for a much better job.[17]

Gender inequality

Gender inequality refers to the obvious or hidden disparity between gender. Gender is constructed both socially through social interactions as well as biologically through chromosomes, brain structure, and hormonal differences into various gender systems.[18] Gender systems are often dichotomous and hierarchical; binary gender systems may reflect onto the inequalities that manifest in numerous dimensions of daily life. Gender inequality stems from distinctions, whether empirically grounded or socially constructed.

A comprehensive study of major world economies has revealed that homicide, infant mortality, obesity, teenage pregnancies, emotional depression and prison population all correlate with higher social inequality.[19]

Occupational inequality

Occupational sex segregation "is a major source of labour market rigidity and economic inefficiency."[2] And

  1. is wasteful of human resources,
  2. increases labour market inflexibility, and
  3. reduces an economy's ability to adjust to change.[2]

Occupational inequality is the unequal treatment of people based on gender or race in the workplace. When researchers study trends in occupational inequality they usually focus on distribution or allocation pattern of groups across occupations, for example, the distribution of men compared to women in a certain occupation.[20] Secondly, they focus on the link between occupation and income, for example, comparing the income of whites with blacks in the same occupation.[20]

Inequality can arise when a person's sex has a worth or value that is of benefit to someone; thereby requiring sex segregation to maintain that value or worth. For example, women's participation in work-related crime continues to be much lower than men's because the sex segregation of jobs offers women fewer opportunities to commit white-collar crime.[21] 90 percent of women convicted of bank embezzlement were in clerical jobs of some kind, and, consequently, their offending tended to involve minor sums of money; but, 40 percent of men convicted of embezzlement were bank officers, by contrast, thus their embezzlement involved larger sums of money.[22]

The increased financial hardship of women relative to men in recent decades is a more likely cause of the increase in women offending and the narrowing of the gender gap in crime.[21] Single mothers, for example, have felt the brunt of gender inequality in earnings and have had a difficult time supporting their families.[21]

Sex segregation of occupations and the devaluation of women's work appears to account for a sizable proportion of the gender gap in wages.[21] Gender inequality in wages means that women who are the sole breadwinners for themselves and their children are worse off economically than single men and couples.[21] In addition, the gap between the incomes of high- and low-wage workers has increased creating greater inequality.[21] These together with increase in the percentage of female-headed households has most likely led to the increase in women offending and the narrowing of the gender gap in crime. Women were more advantaged when married due to the disproportionate wage inequality favoring their husbands.[21]

Occupational sexism

Occupational sexism (also called sexism in the work place and employment sexism) refers to any discriminatory practices, statements, actions, etc. based on a person's sex that are present or occur in a place of employment.

Sexism, a term coined in the mid-20th century,[23] is the belief or attitude that one gender or sex is inferior to, less competent, or less valuable than the other. It can also refer to hatred of, or prejudice towards, either sex as a whole (see misogyny and misandry), or the application of stereotypes of masculinity in relation to men, or of femininity in relation to women.[24] It is also called male and female chauvinism or gender stereotypes. The persistence of gender stereotypes has had negative effects on education and training and has caused gender-based inequalities to be perpetuated into future generations.[2] A particular gender stereotype may be associated, not necessarily with inequality, to a gender role.

Working in the United States, Talcott Parsons[25] developed a model of the nuclear family in 1955. (At that place and time, the nuclear family was the prevalent family structure.) It compared a strictly traditional view of gender roles (from an industrial-age American perspective) to a more liberal view.

The Parsons model was used to contrast and illustrate extreme positions on gender roles. Model A describes total separation of male and female roles, while Model B describes the complete dissolution between gender roles.[26] (The examples are based on the context of the culture and infrastructure of the United States.)

When employers' assumptions about the sexes lead them to assign individual men and women to different jobs, they are discriminating and sex segregating on the basis of sex differences and sexist stereotypes.[27] In the United States, for example, occupational sex segregation has declined since 1970, but most workers remain in sex segregated jobs.[27] National institutions that promote investments in gender-biased skills are a mechanism that perpetuates sex segregation.[28]


The San people of southern Africa are among the five populations with the highest measured levels of genetic diversity and may be the most basal branch of the phylogenetic tree comprising all living humans. The status of women is relatively equal.[29] Sex segregation appears to be limited. San women gather fruit, berries, tubers, bush onions and other plant materials for the band's consumption. San men traditionally hunt using poison arrows and spears in laborious, long excursions. Kudu, antelope, deer, dikdik, and buffalo were important game animals. The San offer thanks to the animal's spirit after it has been killed. The liver is eaten only by men and hunters because it is thought to contain a poison unsafe for women.

Because two groups exhibiting average differences in talents and tastes would be expected to make different workplace choices due to selective pressures that have been operating on the two sexes for millions of years, men and women would be unlikely to act interchangeably in a labor market that emphasizes gender-biased skills.[30] Men who achieve positions of power tend to have access to more females and leave behind more offspring than other men when variations away from egalitarianism, such as that of the San people, occur within a society. Preference for selective traits (e.g., achieving positions of power) may be advantageous in geographically isolated situations but tend to increase species vulnerability to extinction when that isolation is lost. "Students of occupational behavior have long understood that people tend to gravitate toward, and succeed at, jobs for which they have the skills and ability and that provide them with the satisfactions that they desire."[30]

Supply-side explanations of occupational sex segregation look to individual characteristics of workers, such as values, aspirations, and roles, for the origin for occupational outcomes.[31]

See also


  1. Massey, Douglas (2007). Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Anker R (Autumn 1997). "Theories of occupational segregation by sex: An overview". Internatl Labour Rev. 136 (3): 138–64.
  3. Amnesty International includes segregated toilets among the measures to ensure the safety of girls/boys in schools. Six steps to stop violence against schoolgirls, Document ACT 77/008/2007, November 2007.
  4. Post-Kammer P, Smith PL (1985). "Sex differences in career self-efficacy, consideration, and interests of eighth and ninth graders". J Coun Psych. 32 (4): 551–9.
  5. Ramazani N (Spring 1985). "Arab women in the Gulf". Middle East J. 39 (2): 258–76.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Dodge M, Starr-Gimeno D, Williams T (2005). "Puttin' on the sting: women police officers' perspectives on reverse prostitution assignments". Int'l J Police Sci Manage. 7 (2): 71–85.
  7. Heimark KK (1997). "Sexual harassment in the United States Navy: A new pair of glasses". Naval Law Rev. 44: 223.
  8. Jackson LA (Sep 2003). "CARE OR CONTROL? THE METROPOLITAN WOMEN POLICE AND CHILD WELFARE, 1919–1969". Historical J. 46 (3): 623–48. doi:10.1017/S0018246X03003182.;jsessionid=31FACBDF76E111FCF5A4BD3C94409992.tomcat1?fromPage=online&aid=176775.
  9. Butler EK, Winfree LT Jr, Newbold G (2003). "Policing and gender: Male and female perspectives among members of the New Zealand police". Police Quart. 6 (3): 298–329. doi:10.1177/1098611103254316.
  10. Natarajan M (2005). "Status of Women Police in Asia An Agenda for Future Research". J Women Policing. (17): 45–7.
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Nurse". The Oxford English Dictionary 2nd edition. 10. Oxford University Press. 1989. pp. 603–4. ISBN 0198611862.
  12. "Florence Nightingale (1820 — 1910)".
  13. Maret (1983).
  14. Beller (1984).
  15. 15.0 15.1 Abrahamson M, Sigelman L (Oct 1987). "Occupational sex segregation in metropolitan areas". Amer Sociol Rev. 52 (5): 588–97.
  16. Jacobs (1986). p. 204.
  17. Markham, Pleck (1986).
  18. Wood, Julia (2005). Gendered Lives (6th ed.). Belmont, California: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.
  19. "Inequality: The Mother of All Evils?". The Guardian. Retrieved 2010-01-16.
  20. 20.0 20.1 Tam T (1997). "Sex Segregation and Occupational Gender Inequality in the United States: Devaluation or Specialized Training?". American J Sociology. 102 (6): 1653.
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 21.6 Heimer K (2000). "Changes in the Gender Gap in Crime and Women's Economic Marginalization". Criminal Just. 1 (2): 427–83.
  22. Daly K (Nov 1989). "Gender and varieties of white-collar crime". Criminology. 27 (11): 769–94.
  23. Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, 6th edition
  24. Brittan, Arthur (1984). Sexism, racism and oppression. Blackwell. pp. 236. ISBN 9780855206748.
  25. Franco-German TV Station ARTE, Karambolage, August 2004.
  26. Brockhaus: Enzyklopädie der Psychologie, 2001.
  27. 27.0 27.1 Reskin B (Aug 1993). "Sex segregation in the workplace". Annu Rev Sociol. 19: 241–70. doi:10.1146/
  28. Estevez-Abe M (2005). "Gender bias in skills and social policies: the varieties of capitalism perspective on sex segregation". Soc Pol. 12 (2): 180–215. doi:10.1093/sp/jxi011.
  29. Marjorie Shostak (1983). Nisa: The Life and Words of a ?Kung Woman. New York: Vintage Books. p. 13.
  30. 30.0 30.1 Browne KR (2006). "Evolved sex differences and occupational segregation". J Organiz Behav. 27: 143–62. doi:10.1002/job.349.
  31. Okamoto D, England P (Winter 1999). "Is there a supply side to occupational sex segregation?". Sociol Perspect. 42 (4): 557–82.

Further reading

External links

Template:Aspects of occupations

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