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Industrial & Organisational : Introduction : Personnel : Organizational psychology : Occupations: Work environment: Index : Outline

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Main article: Working women

Until modern industrialized times, legal and cultural practices, combined with the inertia of longstanding religious and educational traditions, have restricted women's entry and participation in the workforce. A traditional dependency upon menfolk, and consequently the poor socio-economic status of women have also restricted their entry into the workforce. Particularly as occupations have become professionalized over the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, women's meagre access to higher education has effectively excluded them from the practice of well-paid and high status occupations. Entry of women into the higher professions like law and medicine was delayed in most countries due to women being denied entry to universities and qualification for degrees. For example, Cambridge University only fully validated degrees for women late in 1947, and even then only after much opposition and acrimonious debate.[1] Such factors have all conspired to confine women to low-paid and poor status occupations for most of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Restrictions on women's access to and participation in the workforce include the wage gap and the glass ceiling, inequities most identified with industrialized nations with nominal equal opportunity laws; legal and cultural restrictions on access to education and jobs, inequities most identified with developing nations; and unequal access to capital, variable but identified as a difficulty in both industrialized and developing nations.

Although access to paying occupations (the "workforce") has been and remains unequal in many occupations and places around the world, scholars sometimes distinguish "work" from "paying work". Analyses distinguishing between unpaid work and paying work have led to the frequently cited slogan "Women do two-thirds of the world's work, receive 10 percent of the world's income, and own 1 percent of the means of production", which has come to capture the imbalance between work and remuneration faced by women.[2] This analysis considers uncompensated household labor — for instance, childcare, eldercare, and family subsistence farming — as well as compensated work in the workforce.

Areas of studyEdit

The division of labor by gender has been particularly studied in women's studies (especially women's history, which has frequently examined the history and biography of women's participation in particular fields) and gender studies more broadly. Occupational studies, such as the history of medicine or studies of professionalization, also examine questions of gender, and the roles of women in the history of particular fields.[3][4][5]

In addition, modern civil rights law has frequently examined gender restrictions of access to a field of occupation; gender discrimination within a field; and gender harassment in particular workplaces. This body of law is called employment discrimination law, and gender and race discrimination are the largest sub-sections within the area. Laws specifically aimed at preventing discrimination against women have been passed in many countries; see, e.g., the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in the United States.

History and present-day status of women in the workforceEdit

The 1870 US Census was the first US Census to count “Females engaged in each occupation” and provides an intriguing snapshot of women's history. It reveals that, contrary to popular belief, not all American women of the Victorian period were either idle in their middle class homes or working in sweatshops. Women were 15% of the total work force (1.8 million out of 12.5). They made up one-third of factory “operatives,” but teaching and the "gentle" occupations of dressmaking, millinery, and tailoring played a larger role. Two-thirds of teachers were women. Women could also be found in such unexpected places as iron and steel works (495), mines (46), sawmills (35), oil wells and refineries (40), gas works (4), and charcoal kilns (5) and held such surprising jobs as ship rigger (16), teamster (196), turpentine laborer (185), brass founder/worker (102), shingle and lathe maker (84), stock-herder (45), gun and locksmith (33), hunter and trapper (2). There were five lawyers and 24 dentists, but as yet no doctors.

Barriers to equal participationEdit

As gender roles have followed the formation of agricultural and then industrial societies, newly developed professions and fields of occupation have been frequently inflected by gender. Some examples of the ways in which gender inflects a field include:

  • Prohibitions or restrictions on members of a particular gender entering a field or studying a field;
  • Discrimination within a field, including wage, management, and prestige hierarchies;

Note that these gender restrictions may not be universal in time and place, and that they operate to restrict both men and women. However, in practice, norms and laws have historically restricted women's access to particular occupations; civil rights laws and cases have thus primarily focused on equal access to and participation by women in the workforce.

Access to educationEdit

A number of occupations became "professionalized" through the 19th and 20th centuries, gaining regulatory bodies, and passing laws or regulations requiring particular higher educational requirements. As women's access to higher education was often limited, this effectively restricted women's participation in these professionalizing occupations. For instance, women were completely forbidden access to Cambridge University until 1868, and were encumbered with a variety of restrictions until 1987 when the University adopted an equal opportunity policy.[6] Numerous other institutions in the United States and Western Europe began opening their doors to women over the same period of time, but access to higher education remains a significant barrier to women's full participation in the workforce around the world. Even where access to higher education is formally available, women's access to the full range of occupational choices is significantly limited where access to primary education is limited through custom.[7] The Girls Global Education Fund estimates that this situation actually worsened over the last half of the twenty-first century, finding that in 1950 there were 38 million more boys than girls enrolled in secondary education, but by 1998 there were 82 million more boys than girls.[8]

Access to capitalEdit

Women's access to occupations requiring capital outlays is also hindered by their unequal access (statistically) to capital; this affects occupations such as entrepreneur and small business owner, farm ownership, and investor.[9] Numerous microloan programs attempt to redress this imbalance, targeting women for loans or grants to establish start-up businesses or farms, having determined that aid targeted to women can disproportionately benefit a nation's economy.[10] While research has shown that women cultivate more than half the world's food — in sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, women are responsible for up to 80% of food production — most such work is family subsistence labor, and often the family property is legally owned by the men in the family.[10]

Discrimination within occupationsEdit



Gender and women's history in particular occupationsEdit

For encyclopedic articles about gender and women's history within particular professions, see articles about individual professions.


History of women in workforce; see also women's studies, gender studies, and women's history
  • Challenging Professions: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Women's Professional Work by Elizabeth Smyth, Sandra Acker, Paula Bourne, and Alison Prentice
  • English women enter the professions by Nellie Alden Franz (1965)
  • Black Women and White Women in the Professions: Occupational Segregation by Race and Gender, 1960-1980 (Perspectives on Gender) by N. Sokoloff (1992)
  • Unequal Colleagues: The Entrance of Women into the Professions, 1890-1940 (Douglass Series on Women's Lives and the Meaning of Gender) by Penina Migdal Glazer and Miriam Slater
  • Beyond Her Sphere: Women and the Professions in American History by Barbara J. Harris
  • "Challenging Professions: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Women's Professional Work" (Book Reviews) Pamela Sugiman in Relations Industrielles/Industrial Relations
  • Victorian Working Women: An historical and literary study of women in British industries and professions 1832-1850 (Economic History (Routledge)) by Wanda F. Neff
  • Colonial women of affairs;: A study of women in business and the professions in America before 1776 by Elisabeth Anthony Dexter
  • What a Woman Ought to Be and to Do: Black Professional Women Workers during the Jim Crow Era (Women in Culture and Society Series) by Stephanie J. Shaw
  • In Subordination: Professional Women, 1870-1970 by Mary Kinnear
  • Women Working in Nontraditional Fields References and Resources 1963-1988 (Women's Studies Series) by Carroll Wetzel Wilkinson
Social sciences and psychological perspectives; see also women's studies and gender studies
  • Suhail Ahmad, Women in profession: A comparative study of Hindu and Muslim women
  • Ella L. J. Edmondson Bell and Stella M. Nkomo, Our Separate Ways: Black and White Women and the Struggle for Professional Identity
  • Julia Evetts, Women and Career: Themes and Issues in Advanced Industrial Societies (Longman Sociology Series)
  • Patricia N. Feulner, Women in the Professions: A Social-Psychological Study
  • Linda S. Fidell and John D. DeLamater, Women in the Professions
  • Clara Greed, Surveying Sisters: Women in a Traditional Male Profession
  • Jerry Jacobs, Professional Women at Work: Interactions, Tacit Understandings, and the Non-Trivial Nature of Trivia in Bureaucratic Settings
  • Edith J. Morley, Women Workers in Seven Professions
  • Xiomara Santamarina, Belabored Professions: Narratives of African American Working Womanhood
  • Janet Skarbek, Planning Your Future: A Guide for Professional Women
  • Elizabeth Smyth, Sandra Acker, Paula Bourne, and Alison Prentice, Challenging Professions: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives on Women's Professional Work
  • Nancy C. Talley-Ross, Jagged Edges: Black Professional Women in White Male Worlds (Studies in African and African-American Culture, Vol 7) (1995)
  • Joyce Tang and Earl Smith, Women and Minorities in American Professions (S U N Y Series on the New Inequalities)
  • Anne Witz, "Patriarchy and Professions: The Gendered Politics of Occupational Closure", Sociology, 24.4, 1990, pp.675-690. See Sage Publications.
  • Anne Witz, Professions and Patriarchy (International Library of Sociology) (1992)
Work and family demands/support for women
  • Terri Apter, Working Women Don't Have Wives: Professional Success in the 1990s
  • Sian Griffiths, Beyond the Glass Ceiling: Forty Women Whose Ideas Shape the Modern World (Women's Studies)
  • Linda Hantrais, Managing Professional and Family Life: A Comparative Study of British and French Women
  • Deborah J. Swiss and Judith P. Walker, Women and the Work/Family Dilemma: How Today's Professional Women Are Finding Solutions
  • Alice M. Yohalem, The Careers of Professional Women: Commitment and Conflict
Workplace discrimination based on gender
  • The Commission on Women in the Profession, Sex-Based Harassment, 2nd Edition: Workplace Policies for the Legal Profession
  • Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Off-ramps and On-ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success
  • Karen Maschke, The Employment Context (Gender and American Law: The Impact of the Law on the Lives of Women)
  • Evelyn Murphy and E.J. Graff, Getting Even: Why Women Don't Get Paid Like Men--And What to Do About It (2006)
Mentoring and "old-boys/old-girls networks"
  • Nancy W. Collins, Professional Women and Their Mentors: A Practical Guide to Mentoring for the Woman Who Wants to Get Ahead
  • Carolyn S. Duff, Learning From Other Women: How to Benefit From the Knowledge, Wisdom, and Experience of Female Mentors
  • Joan Jeruchim, Women, Mentors, and Success
  • Peggy A. Pritchard, Success Strategies for Women in Science: A Portable Mentor (Continuing Professional Development Series)
Arts and literature studies on women in the workforce
  • Carmen Rose Marshall, Black Professional Women in Recent American Fiction

Professional areasEdit

Teaching, librarianship, and university professions
  • Maenette K. P. Benham and Joanne Cooper, Let My Spirit Soar!: Narratives of Diverse Women in School Leadership (1-Off)
  • Roger Blanpain and Ann Numhauser-Henning, Women in Academia and Equality Law: Aiming High, Falling Short? Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom (Bulletin of Comparative Labour Relations)
  • S. A. L. Cavanagh, The Gender of Professionalism and Occupational Closure: the management of tenure-related disputes by the 'Federation of Women Teachers' Associations of Ontario' 1918-1949, Gender and Education, 15.1, March 2003, pp. 39-57. See Routledge.
  • Regina Cortina and Sonsoles San Roman, Women and Teaching: Global Perspectives on the Feminization of a Profession
  • Nancy Hoffman, Woman's "True" Profession, 2nd ed. (1982, 2nd ed.) ("classic history of women and the teaching profession in the United States")
  • Julia Kwong, Ma Wanhua, and Wanhua Ma, Chinese Women and the Teaching Profession
  • See also Category:Female academics
Social sciences
  • Kathleen Bowman and Larry Soule, New Women in Social Sciences (1980)
  • Lynn McDonald, The Women Founders of the Social Sciences (1994)
  • See also: Category:Women social scientists
Social sciences – Anthropology
  • Barbara A. Babcock and Nancy J. Parezo, Daughters of the Desert: Women Anthropologists and the Native American Southwest, 1880-1980 (1988)
  • Ruth Behar and Deborah A. Gordon, Women Writing Culture (1996)
  • Maria G. Cattell and Marjorie M. Schweitzer, Women in Anthropology: Autobiographical Narratives and Social History (2006)
  • Ute D. Gacs, Aisha Khan, Jerrie McIntyre, and Ruth Weinberg, Women Anthropologists: Selected Biographies (1989); Women Anthropologists: A Biographical Dictionary (1988)
  • Nancy Parezo, Hidden Scholars: Women Anthropologists and the Native American (1993)
Social sciences – Archaeology
  • Cheryl Claassen, Women in Archaeology (1994)
  • Margarita Diaz-Andreu and Marie Louise Stig Sorensen, Excavating Women: A History of Women in European Archaeology (1998; 2007)
  • Getzel M. Cohen and Martha Sharp Joukowsky, editors, Breaking Ground: Pioneering Women Archaeologists (2004)
  • Nancy Marie White, Lynne P. Sullivan, and Rochelle A. Marrinan, Grit-Tempered: Early Women Archaeologists in Southeastern United States (2001)
Social sciences – History
  • Eileen Boris and Nupur Chaudhuri, Voices of Women Historians: The Personal, the Political, the Professional (1999)
  • Jennifer Scanlon and Shaaron Cosner, American Women Historians, 1700s-1990s: A Biographical Dictionary (1996)
  • Nadia Smith, A "Manly Study"?: Irish Women Historians, 1868-1949 (2007)
  • Deborah Gray White, Telling Histories: Black Women Historians in the Ivory Tower (forthcoming 2008)
  • Southern Association for Women Historians
Social sciences – Linguistics
  • Davison, The Cornell Lectures: Women in the Linguistics Profession
"STEM" fields (science, technology, engineering, and maths); see also women in science
  • Violet B. Haas and Carolyn C. Perrucci, Women in Scientific and Engineering Professions (Women and Culture Series)
  • Patricia Clark Kenschaft, Change Is Possible: Stories of Women and Minorities in Mathematics
  • J A Mattfeld, Women & the Scientific Professions
  • Jacquelyn A. Mattfeld and Carol E. Van Aken, Women and the Scientific Professions: The MIT Symposium on American Women in Science and Engineering (1964 symposium; 1976 publication)
  • Karen Mahony & Brett Van Toen, Mathematical Formalism as a Means of Occupational Closure in Computing--Why "Hard" Computing Tends to Exclude Women, Gender and Education, 2.3, 1990, pp.319-31. See ERIC record.
  • Peggy A. Pritchard, Success Strategies for Women in Science: A Portable Mentor (Continuing Professional Development Series)
  • Margaret W. Rossiter, Women Scientists in America: Struggles and Strategies to 1940 (Women Scientists in America)
  • Otha Richard Sullivan and Jim Haskins, Black Stars: African American Women Scientists and Inventors
  • See also Category:Women engineers; Category:Women scientists
Medical professions
Legal professions
  • Joan Brockman and Dorothy E. Chunn, "A new order of things": women's entry into the legal profession in British Columbia", The Advocate
  • The Commission on Women in the Profession, Visible Invisibilty: Women of Color in Law Firms
  • The Commission on Women in the Profession, Sex-Based Harassment, 2nd Edition: Workplace Policies for the Legal Profession
  • Hedda Garza, Barred from the Bar: A History of Women in the Legal Profession (Women Then--Women Now)
  • Jean Mckenzie Leiper, Bar Codes: Women in the Legal Profession
  • Sheila McIntyre and Elizabeth Sheehy, Calling for Change: Women, Law, and the Legal Profession
  • Mary Jane Mossman, The First Women Lawyers: A Comparative Study of Gender, Law And the Legal Professions
  • Rebecca Mae Salokar and Mary L. Volcansek, Women in Law: A Bio-Bibliographical Sourcebook
  • Ulrike Schultz and Gisela Shaw, Women in the World's Legal Professions (Onati International Series in Law and Society)
  • Lisa Sherman, Jill Schecter, and Deborah Turchiano, Sisters-In-Law: an Uncensored Guide for Women Practicing Law in the real world
  • See Women in the U.S. Judiciary and categories Category:Women judges and Category:Female lawyers
Religious professions
Helping professions (social work, childcare, eldercare, etc.)
  • Ski Hunter, Sandra Stone Sundel, and Martin Sundel, Women at Midlife: Life Experiences and Implications for the Helping Professions
  • Linda Reeser, Linda Cherrey, and Irwin Epstein, Professionalization and Activism in Social Work (1990) (covers gender as part of history of professionalization), Columbia University Press, ISBN 0231067887
  • Sarah Stage and Virginia B. Vincenti, editors, Rethinking Home Economics: Women and the History of a Profession
  • See also Category:Governesses
Journalism and media professions
Architecture and design
Arts and literature; see also Women's writing in English and Women artists
Entertainment and modeling
  • Ann Cvetkovich, "Fierce Pussies and Lesbian Avengers: Dyke Activism Meets Celebrity Culture" (images of female models merging infiltrating other cultures)
  • Michael Gross, Model: The Ugly Business of Beautiful Women (2003) (history of female modeling);
  • Ian Halperin, Shut Up and Smile: Supermodels, the Dark Side (1999)
  • Nancy Hellmich, "Do thin models warp girls' body image?", USA Today, Sept. 26, 2006
  • Jennifer Melocco, "Ban on Stick-Thin Models Illegal", Daily Telegraph, Feb. 16, 2007
  • Barbara Summers, Black and Beautiful: How Women of Color Changed the Fashion Industry (racism within modeling)
  • Barbara Summers, Skin Deep: Inside the World of Black Fashion Models (1999)
  • Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women (1991)

Explorers, navigators, travelers, settlers
Sports and athletics

Business and leadership
  • Roger E. Axtell, Tami Briggs, Margaret Corcoran, and Mary Beth Lamb, Do's and Taboos Around the World for Women in Business
  • Douglas Branson, No Seat at the Table: How Corporate Governance and Law Keep Women Out of the Boardroom
  • Lin Coughlin, Ellen Wingard, and Keith Hollihan, Enlightened Power: How Women are Transforming the Practice of Leadership
  • Harvard Business School Press, editors, Harvard Business Review on Women in Business
  • S. N. Kim, "Racialized gendering of the accountancy profession: toward an understanding of Chinese women's experiences in accountancy in New Zealand" in Critical Perspectives on Accounting
  • Deborah Rhode, The Difference ""Difference"" Makes: Women and Leadership (2002)
  • Judy B. Rosener, America's Competitive Secret: Women Managers
  • Robert E. Seiler, Women in the Accounting Profession (1986)
  • See also Category:Women in business and Women business owners
Public policy and governmental occupations
Military professions
Criminal occupations

See Women in crime and Category:Female pirates


  1. Women at Cambridge a Chronology
  2. Richard H. Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism (1999), p.354.
  3. Anne Witz, Patriarchy and Professions: The Gendered Politics of Occupational Closure, Sociology, 24.4, 1990, pp.675-690. See Sage Pubctns.
  4. S. A. L. Cavanagh, The Gender of Professionalism and Occupational Closure: the management of tenure-related disputes by the 'Federation of Women Teachers' Associations of Ontario' 1918-1949, Gender and Education, 15.1, March 2003, pp. 39-57.[1]
  5. Karen Mahony & Brett Van Toen, Mathematical Formalism as a Means of Occupational Closure in Computing--Why "Hard" Computing Tends to Exclude Women, Gender and Education, 2.3, 1990, pp.319-31. See ERIC record.
  6. University of Cambridge, "Fact Sheet: Women at Cambridge".
  7. 7.0 7.1 UNICEF, State of the World's Children (2007)
  8. Factsheet: The Status of Women and Girls, Girls Global Education Fund, referencing New York Times Oct. 1998.
  9. "DEVELOPMENT: Gender Equality Equals Growth", World News, June 2, 2004, available at
  10. 10.0 10.1 United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) statistics. See Erwin Northoff, "FOOD: Women Farmers are Invisible Actors in Hunger Drama", World News, 2004 Feb. 14.

See alsoEdit

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