Men and women both do better in mixed gender occupations

Gender segregation in the workplace has changed remarkably little over the last two decades, although men and women both benefit from working in mixed occupations, according to new research presented to the European Commission this week.

Gender segregation in the workplace has changed remarkably little over the last two decades, although men and women both benefit from working in mixed occupations, according to new research presented to the European Commission this week.

The report, A new method to understand occupational gender segregateion in European labour markets , by Dr Brendan Burchell, Vincent Hardy, Professor Jill Rubery and Dr Mark Smith, shows that since 1995 the overall level and pattern of change in gendered occupational segregation has been resistant to change despite many EU policies being aimed at reducing gender segregation and gender inequality. However, it reports some evidence that younger women are making inroads into some of the higher-earning professional occupations that had been even more male-dominated in the past and it says the type of occupation women and men do makes a difference to levels of segregation.

The reports says just 18% of women work in mixed occupations, 69% in female-dominated occupations (those with 60% or more female workers) and only 13% in male-dominated occupations (more than 60% male workers). In contrast, only 15% of male employees worked in mixed occupations and 59% in male-dominated occupations. This means more men – 26% – work in occupations where they are a minority.

Focusing on the 20 most common occupations, ranked from the most male-dominated (building workers) to the most female-dominated (personal care workers), the researchers found women tended to be virtually shut out of certain occupations – accounting for less than 5% of mechanics and metal workers, for instance. Men were not excluded from any occupation to the same extent but accounted for less than a quarter of associate nurses and healthcare assistants occupation, teaching associate professionals and customer service clerks. This segregation has remained stable over time, but there are large differences between EU countries.

The researchers found men tended to increase their share of better-paying occupations as they got older while women became increasingly excluded from the professional, white-collar occupations associated with higher pay and more concentrated in more female-dominated, less skilled occupations with shorter hours. Mothers of children under 15 were under-represented in male-dominated occupations while fathers were over-represented in male-dominated occupations and under-represented in female-dominated occupations.

The report found the link between segregation and part time work was strong. It found three quarters of women employees working part-time were found in female-dominated occupations and 45% of male part-timers work in female-dominated occupations compared to just 26% of all men. On the other hand, men’s average working hours were longer than women’s in every occupation but gender gaps were smallest in mixed occupations, with much longer hours for men in both male-dominated and female-dominated occupations. Female-dominated occupations also had lower levels of irregular scheduling of working hours but men in female-dominated occupations experienced high levels of irregularity, particularly in Service, personal care and security workers occupation. Men and women in mixed occupations had the most regular schedules.

The report also found gender pay gaps in favour of men in all occupations, but said average pay levels in female-dominated as well as male-dominated occupations still reflected primarily the nature of the work done, with some female-dominated occupations providing pay for women that on average exceeds average pay for men in the labour market as a whole. However, more detailed analysis showed that the pay gap varied in female-dominated occupations depending on the level of equality in a country and according to the way typically female jobs, such as teaching, were valued.

The researchers say: The finding [about how jobs are valued], taken together with the evidence of a very high concentration of women, particularly higher educated women, in public services suggests that policy with respect to pay and conditions in the public sector is likely to have major implications for the gender pay gap. Nearly three out of every five women with tertiary education who is employed in the EU works in the three public services of public administration, education and health. This means that public sector working conditions, pay and career opportunities are very important if women are to have good prospects at the middle to top end of the labour market. Likewise, labour market policies such as minimum wage policy are likely to have major impacts on the pay ratios for the primarily female workforce in the lower skilled occupations of sales and cleaning."

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