PSYC 3480 Women’s Psychology – Chapter 10
Women’s Employment Rates and Occupational Choices
Women’s labor force participation has increased dramatically in recent decades, especially among
mothers of young children. Women now comprise half of the work force.
Women with disabilities have lower employment rates than either men with disabilities or able-
bodied women and many are employed in menial jobs.
o They may confront several barriers in the workplace, including little or no accessible parking
or public transportation nearby, inaccessible work environment and a need for adaptations
What accounts for the influx of women into the workplace?
1. Women’s movement provided encouragement for women to consider other role options in addition
to the homemaker role
2. Women’s current higher level of educational attainment has better prepared them for careers that
provide greater challenge, stimulation, and a sense of accomplishment. Therefore, they are more
likely to be employed and to return to work more rapidly after giving birth.
3. Many women work for financial reasons; few middle-class families can afford home ownership,
adequate health insurance and a middle-class lifestyle on one income.
o In working class families, two incomes are often needed to remain above the poverty line.
One way to examine the occupational choices of men and women is to look at the occupations that
employ the fewest of women and the greatest number of women.
The 20 occupations with the lowest percentage of women are in just four groups, sometimes called
“hard hat” occupations: construction (installation, maintenance), repair, production and
transportation (material moving).
The 20 occupations with the greatest concentration of women are similarly clustered in a few
groups, principally healthy care, office and administrative work, teaching, and caring for young
Women have increased their numbers in both managerial and professional jobs and now hold half of
o However, when women and ethnic minorities hold managerial positions, they tend to be
concentrated in positions with lower pay and less authority and are more likely to manage
workers of their own sex and ethnicity.
Although more women have entered the relatively high-paying skilled trades (e.g. electricians), they
still comprise less than 3% of these workers.
o Women remain segregated in so-called pink-collar fields.
o Most of these are low-status, low-paying service jobs such as secretary, cashier, restaurant
server, nursing aide, home health worker and cook.
The workplace continues to be characterized by significant sex segregation, with men tending to
dominate the most high-paying and prestigious occupations such as medicine, engineering, and
More employers today are cutting costs by hiring part-time or temporary workers, who are paid less
and have minimal or no benefits. Women are more likely than men to hold these jobs.
The workplace is segregated not only by gender but also by ethnicity. o Whites are more likely than Blacks/Latinas to hold high-status and high-paying managerial or
professional jobs. Ethnic minorities are more likely than Whites to hold service jobs.
Immigrant women, regardless of ethnicity, also tend to be employed in low-paying, low-status
occupations such as nanny, housekeeper, and farm worker.
Gender Differences in Leadership and Job Advancement
In virtually every nation, women are less likely than men to hold positions of authority.
Even in female dominated fields, such as nursing, social work and education, men are likely to earn
more and get promoted faster, a phenomenon known as the glass escalator.
While being a token (e.g. sole representative of one’s group) thus clearly benefits men, it often is
disadvantageous for women.
o The token woman in a male-dominated workplace is often perceived negatively, excessively
scrutinized, treated unfairly, and isolated.
The concept of the glass ceiling refers to invisible but powerful barriers that prevent women from
advancing beyond a certain level.
o One variation on this concept is the stained glass ceiling for female clergy.
o Another is the concrete ceiling for ethnic minority women, in reference to the difficulties
these women face in moving into higher positons because of the intersecting effects of
sexism and racism.
o Women who do pass through the glass ceiling are more likely than men to be assigned to a
glass cliff position, which involves a leading unit that is in crisis and has a high risk of failure.
There is also a sticky floor in the traditional women’s jobs, meaning women have little or no job
ladder, or path, to higher positions.
Furthermore, lower salaries, and more limited advancement opportunities once they become
Barriers That Hinder Women’s Advancement
Mentors and Social Networks
Mentor – senior-level person who takes an active role in the career planning and development of
Mentors help their mentees develop appropriate skills, learn the informal organizational structure,
meet key people, and have access to opportunities that enable them to advance.
o Consequently, mentoring has positive effects on job satisfaction, promotion, and career
Women employees may have difficulty in identifying an appropriate mentor. The limited number of
women in senior-level positions, especially in male-dominated fields, makes it hard for a woman to
find a female mentor.
A second vehicle for advancement that is limited for women and people of color is access to informal
o These networks can provide information about job opportunities, informal workplace norms
and behaviors, and opportunities to meet important members of the organization.
o Such social opportunities are especially likely to be lacking for women who work in male-
Women with child care responsibilities right after work are also limited in opportunities for after
Another factor limiting the job advancement of women is sex discrimination, that is, unfavorable
treatment based on gender. o Such discrimination occurs despite the existence of laws that prohibit using gender (as well
as ethnicity, national origin, or age) as a determinant in hiring or in other employment
One factor that influences evaluation of job applicants is the gender dominance of the occupations,
with females favored for female dominated jobs and males favored for male dominated jobs.
In addition, employers are less likely to hire mothers than non-mothers. Fathers, however, are not
disadvantaged in the hiring process
Moreover, gender discrimination in hiring is most likely to occur when little information is provided
about the candidate’s qualifications
However, when the applicant’s academic and employment records are presented, these materials
strongly influence the evaluator’s impression
A more subtle form of discrimination is patronizing behavior, in which supervisors give subordinates
considerable praise while withholding valued resources such as raises and promotions.
o Such behavior has a more negative effect on the performance of female workers than male
Experiences of gender discrimination at work are related to more negative relationships with
supervisors, and coworkers, along with lower levels of organizational commitment and job
For women, perceiving and experiencing discrimination are associated with negative psychological
symptoms, such as increased anxiety and depression, and lowered self-esteem.
Among men, however, the perception and experience of discrimination are unrelated to well-being
When women are perceived to be as competent as men, they are often viewed as violating gender
stereotypes that require women to be communal.
o As a consequence, people, especially males, often dislike/dismiss the contributions of highly
competent women who speak and act decisively and assertively.
Racial stereotypes also include attributes that are viewed as not conducive to leadership.
Unfavorable gender stereotypes of women are most likely to operate when the evaluators are men.
Negative gender stereotypes are also more likely to operate when women perform in a male
The shifting standards hypothesis - concept that standards are higher for groups stereotyped as less
Ingroup favoritism (liking those who resemble us) can reinforce biases that stem from cultural
A third factor influencing discrimination is the workplace is the perception of threa