Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Study: Jobs Considered Feminine Affect Wages

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Study: Jobs Considered Feminine Affect Wages

Article excerpt

Byline: Candace Moody

Blue collar workers do hands-on, manual tasks on the job. White collar workers are managers. And pink collar workers do women's work.

The term "pink collar worker" originated in the 1970s during debates over the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). At that time, most of the women in the workforce were employed as elementary school teachers, nurses and secretaries. They weren't even invited to apply for jobs that men traditionally performed; not until 1973 did the Supreme Court rule that it was illegal to divide employment ads into "Help Wanted: Female" and "Help Wanted: Male."

Ninety percent of registered nurses are female, as are 80 percent of elementary school teachers and social workers. Jobs traditionally performed by women become feminized, and that perception has a very real effect on wages and prestige for the occupation. Janitors and maids do almost exactly the same work, but the median wage for (mostly male) janitors is 22 percent higher than the median wage for (mostly female) maids.

Paula England, a sociology professor at New York University, conducted a study of wages from 1950 to 2000, a time when women entered the workforce. Data indicated that the median wage for many occupations declined significantly as more women entered the field. The study found, for example, that when a large number of women became designers, wages fell 34 percentage points, and when large numbers of women became biologists, wages fell 18 percentage points.

The trend reverses itself when men take over a field. The recently released film "Hidden Figures" highlights the women who served as "computers" during the early 20th century. Computers were considered to be entry-level workers, and most men moved on to higher technical roles. In the 1960s, women held 30 to 50 percent of all computing roles.

Back then, computing was considered more like secretarial work than technical work. …

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