Occupational Sex Segregation in the United States


Women are working in nearly all occupations that once were exclusively the domain of men. In most work settings today, discrimination against women, gender-linked traits, or natural abilities make it highly uncommon for men and women to work similar jobs. On one hand, the discrimination in hiring and promotion that reinforces segregation is based on stereotypes about women’s skills. Occupational gender segregation is a strong feature of the US labor market. Occupational sex segregation in United States workplaces remain a visible sign as inequality. While some occupations have become increasingly integrated over time, others remain highly dominated by either men or women.

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History of how gender occupational jobs changes over the span of time

Women over the past two decades may have caused a greater demand for workers in faster growing occupations. An effort’s growth of women employment that could represent the lowering of barriers to entry, such as gender discrimination. Barbara H. Wootton in the document, Bureau of Government, states that Currently, women and men are most equally represented among managers and professionals; in 1995, women held about half of such jobs (Gender Differences In Occupation Employment). The same study showed that in 1985 to 1995, 59.2% of women were employed in medicine and health and increased to 79.9% (a 20.7% increase), law enforcement officers increasing from 18.1%to 26.4% (an 8.1% increase), 18.1% to 26.4% for becoming employed as a lawyer (an 8.3% increase), and a 12.9% increase for farmers starting off as 14.2% of women to 27.1% (Page 21). About 50% jobs required average levels of social skills and higher analytical skills for men. In contrast for women, only 30% of jobs required physical skills (Pew Research Center). The same source researched that in 1980, 48% of women who were 16 years and older were employed and made an increase to 58% by 2000 while men held a steady rate at about 70% employment. Currently, women’s employment rate has fallen from 58% to 54% ever since 2000. Overall, employment rates for women have slowly increased over time. Although, this does not mean that occupational sex segregation has decreased.

Why this is happening

Having this in mind, different levels of education affects a person’s odds of employment due to specific requirement of social or analytical skills. In other words, blue-collared jobs belong to those who had a higher education, while other low-income earning jobs belonged to those who did not have as high as an education. Pew Research Center states that, In 2015, among employed workers overall, more than one-third (36%) had completed at least a four-year college degree program. But college-educated workers accounted for about half of employment in occupations requiring higher social skills (51%) or higher analytical skills (53%). Meanwhile, only 14% of workers in jobs requiring higher physical skills were college educated. The education level of a majority of workers in physical-skill jobs was high school or less.

Employers try to maximize profits by maximizing productivity and minimizing costs to the extent possible, but because of competition and efficient labor markets, employers pay workers their marginal product. Whereas many women find it difficult to find the time to obtain this education because of their certain obligations life hands them, for example taking care of a family and raising children. Factors related to labor supply generally focus on why women “”prefer”” certain types of occupation for example, women may “”prefer”” those with flexible hours in order to allow time for child care, and may also “”prefer”” occupations which are relatively easy to interrupt for a period of time to bear or rear children.

On one hand, the discrimination in hiring and promotion that reinforces segregation is based on stereotypes about women’s skills. As Harvard University economist Claudia Goldin argues in her pollution theory of discrimination, men often underestimate women’s skills based on their current underrepresentation in certain occupations and thus discriminate against women in these occupations on the false assumption that increasing their representation would lower overall productivity.

Economists George Akerlof at Georgetown University and Rachel Kranton at Duke University argue that discrimination in male-dominated professions is caused by social pressures, interpreting women’s inclusion as a threat to the professions’ masculinity. By this account, men don’t discriminate against women because they view women as less qualified but rather because they are trying to protect the social power men hold through membership in the boys’ club. In a similar model of stratification economics, economists Sandy Darity of Duke, Darrick Hamilton of the New School for Social Research, and James Stewart of Pennsylvania State University detail how socially dominant groups create and reinforce prejudices against other groups in order to protect their economic, political, and social advantages.

Refute against how woman can do what men do

Employed women also significantly increased the weeks they worked on a yearly basis. The average number of weeks worked by working women was 46.2 in 2015, compared with 40.2 in 1980. Weeks worked increased by less among employed men, rising from 45.2 in 1980 to 47.4 in 2015. As a result, employed women now work nearly as many weeks annually on average as men. This shows that women are viewed equal to men, yet at the same time, they are treated differently than the opposite gender.

What is not being considered is how women are treated within the workplace.

To make matters worse, male-dominated workplaces are often hostile work environments for women, featuring the highest rates of sexual and gender-based harassment. Overt forms of sexual harassment remain part of the culture of many male-dominated jobs, particularly given the limited of application of anti-discrimination laws in many blue-collar occupations, as the late Barbara Bergmann, a pioneering feminist economist, once observed. Subtler forms of gender-based harassment in which men exclusively hire, socialize with, and promote each other are even more common in the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) professions, in finance, and in other professional environments and have been demonstrated to limit women’s prospects for advancement, decrease female labor force attachment, and reinforce segregation.


Changes in the Employment in many specific occupations became less dominated by one sex, although the gender concentration of some specific jobs increased over the period. Nevertheless, substantial differences in occupational employment by gender still remain

Works Cited






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Occupational Sex Segregation In The United States. (2019, Nov 27). Retrieved February 8, 2023 , from

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