Whenever data emerges about women and careers, the peanut gallery leaps to life. “Women aren’t underpaid!” it shouts. “They just choose lower-paying jobs!” And although there is still a wage gap based on gender, the voices from the sidelines may have a point. Much like Ivy-League universities, traditionally male business sectors are opening up to women… but traditionally female sectors remain overwhelmingly populated by female workers.
Children’s Education Is Worth Less Than Animals’
Nancy Folbre of the New York Times Economix Blog shares some interesting musings about this pattern. Spurred by the recent publication of news that children’s kindergarten years have an enormous effect on their future salaries, Folbre moves on to question why theoretically valuable preschool teachers (a field that’s over 97% female) have an average salary that is less than the salary of animal trainers—which is rather insulting to just about everyone involved.
Traditionally, Women Care More Than Men
A integral part of femininity, according to Folbre, is the inclination to care for others. Results of a study examining work preferences supports this idea: women tend to value family and relationships, and devalue money, more than their male counterparts. It has also been found that women may turn to female-dominated fields to avoid the harassment or discrimination rife in other work settings. Whatever their reasons, women as a groups are drawn to jobs emphasizing care and engagement—whatever the cost, in salary and stigma.
Femininity And Drive Aren’t Mutually Exclusive
To us, this pattern is a little discouraging. It’s admirable to do what you love, and certainly so to support yourself doing it. But to think that a woman might shy away from a job because she thinks she can’t do it, or because she is experiencing gender discrimination, is heartbreaking. We know that a woman (being a person) is capable of making the decision to do whatever she wants, from taking the reins of her finances to entering a male-dominated workplace. Femininity may be based on caretaking, but it doesn’t exclude independence.
Tell us in the comments: Why do you think some fields are so heavily dominated by women?