America's most gender-differentiated jobs


Are you planning on firing yourself if you plan on unionizing?


"Stereotypes play a large role in determining what is expected of men and women from society. By spelling out these expectations and enforcing them through upbringing and cultural norms, men and women are often regimented into different roles and hence, destinies. These different roles also largely account for the gender imbalance, giving men an advantage and power that cannot be attributed to biological traits alone.

The reaction to the article on social media, particularly Facebook, was interesting. Considering the great schism between the views when it comes to gender equality and a woman’s rightful place in society, I was expecting a lot of heterogeneity in the reaction. The central premise that socially-constructed gender roles hamper women resonated with many women – understandably, as they experience limitations because of such roles. Men predictably gave a diverse reaction. Some agreed, while others disagreed. Those who disagreed used either religion or biology to justify themselves.

I would like to clarify a few things here. First of all, this attitude reeks of crude sexism which is trying to find refuge in biology. Many privileged men think their privileged position in life is not because of a cultural set up they were born into, but because of their ‘in born’ qualities.

Second, I am not throwing biology out as there is no doubt that men and women are not identical. On average, both the genders are different. No one is contesting the differences. However, such differences are merely average and do not map well to individual level and therefore should not become the basis for adopting across the board discriminatory rules.

Third, not all of these differences are merely an outcome of biology. In reality, nature and nurture both combine together to shape us. Here, I would like to further point out that no two men are identical or for that matter equal in every respect of the way. Irrespective of our gender, we are all unique in some way or the other.

However the kind of roles we are expected to play in our lives are not dependent on our ‘uniqueness’, but largely what, on average, society has already determined for us. Men are expected to be breadwinners, aggressive and dominant. Women, in contrast, are expected to be submissive and docile. These roles are largely an outcome of social conditioning, not our biology. The social construction of gender merely internalises the belief that men and women are essentially different due to biology and therefore gender imbalance in society is merely a ‘natural’ phenomenon.

Yes, obviously there are biological differences, but both genders face different constraints and incentives based largely on social set ups and conditioning. Biological differences may explain why men, on average, may be potentially better in some professions and women better in others, but social constraints and expectations determine whether women will even be allowed to do a particular job.

If biology was the sole determinant, there should not have been so many differences in gender parity across various societies as the biological differences in men and women are the same everywhere. For example, in advanced societies, gender expectations and roles are not as radically different as they are in our society, and consequently there you see women in literally every field of life. Yes, in some jobs women are better than men and in some men are better, but nevertheless, women get a fair chance and they have not only capitalised on it but shown that they can be equal and even excel men.

Over the last 30 years, the female to male ratio of college students has changed dramatically and now more females have begun to enrol in colleges. This ratio has changed because of the evolution of the notion that women do not solely need to be housewives. Women have also consistently outperformed men in academics. Even the traditional gap in science subjects is gradually decreasing. Besides academics, due to more balanced gender roles and expectations, the schism between the genders has decreased as we even see some women embracing “masculine” traits.

We should be striving for a society where both men and women should be allowed to develop according to their natural potential. The existing social conditioning by regimenting men and women into starkly different roles is hampering that. Instead of crudely reducing everything to biology and trying to normalise power imbalances, we need to take a more nuanced and thoughtful approach.


This is a much clearer answer to my initial post, and explains the flash responses that don’t address the question.

And I concur. Though for reductionism, one could say the power imbalance in society today is due to physical violence against women over thousands of years.

I guess the thing that bothered me enough to respond regarding relatively clear cut data is the equally crude, knee jerk responses for “down with the patriarchy”, as if culture is the only defining factor.


The same thing could be said about centuries old power imbalances with respect to race. Does that really tell us anything about biological differences between races? Or does it instead offer insight into how power is used to inhibit groups so that they better serve those in power?

Again, biological differences are small- just as they are with race. As humans we are far more alike as a group, and different as individuals.


I’m not saying in any way that women do not experience discrimination in the software industry. I’m not saying that anyone is lying, I’m saying that describing male programmers as childish, and incapable of handling female competition is an unfair characterization. Specifically, I’m objecting to the state made by @Neovison.vison, “men seem to live in fear that a man taking a coded-female job will result in their own loss-of-prestige-by-association, a sort of devaluing of the currency of masculinity”.


Reading comprehension fail. If you re-read what I wrote, you will see that I said men seem to act like their own masculinity is at stake when they see other men take on feminized jobs like nursing (to use your example).


Well, just my experience.

Working for a larger, more boring company was quite odd at first. I was astonished to finally work in a place with 30 other programmers (peers!), and then find I was the only geek. They were excellent programmers, but they were interested in the field of programming in the same way that good project managers are really hyped about the field of project management. i.e. not particularly.

It was where I learned that it is professionalism, not geek enthusiasm, that really makes a good employee. (And where I learned that it’s possible to be very competent, and have no ego invested in being right.)




Some men do feel that way and the fear goes both ways. Enough to make it a major issue with regards to women moving up within particular fields. Software is a good example to pick on, but it’s not just there. You saw the same phenomenon in the trades, as women started working in those fields, they often experienced serious backlashes.

But people regularly deny that there is discrimination and a problem that we can and should address.


[quote=“Aeroplane, post:56, topic:111074”]
Considering that very, very few jobs have “maximum dead lift/squat/bench” as a field on the job application, I really don’t see how that would affect hiring practices. Yeah, there is the “can you lift more than 50 pounds” question, but consider the percentage of women who can do that (many, many able-bodied women), and the percentage who are in the trades. I don’t see a correlation there at all.[/quote]

It doesn’t have to directly affect hiring, because it can affect retention; even with entirely equal hiring, that will produce a gender skew. Have you ever worked a job that had such a requirement? They run from physically difficult to bodily punishing. To not feel destroyed by the end of the day, you either have to be able to lift double (or more) the “required” weight, or lift that weight at crazy reps - ideally both. If you aren’t physically suited to a job you are hired for, you either quit, get injured, get re-assigned, or get fired.

When I worked a couple years loading trucks at FedEx, literally every woman (and something like 40% of men) assigned that position either quit or were moved to a different position (I’d guess about 1/4 of the plant jobs were positions that didn’t require frequent heavy lifting). I’m pretty big and was racing mountain and road bikes BEFORE I started the job, and still would have quit in the first two weeks if I wasn’t desperately in need of money. Since you had to work in the plant for a while (I think a year) before you could become a driver, I’m guessing this also had an effect on driver gender balance (though less so, maybe because any woman who stuck around that long, was either more dedicated to staying with the compnay, or more eager to get out of the plant).


Yes. This deeper problem of tribalistic inability to share power, let others contribute, expand the agenda and think long term or what’s good for all and not a few.


Construction Foremen
Theres your problem!


And then replacing themselves with a workers’ council?


This speaks more to crappy and uncaring corporatism than anything to do with gender. You’re saying that the job is so unhealthy that it injures people. Women more so than men but also men in large numbers. If the job were changed so that it was a safe method of work, women would not be at the significant disadvantage you cite.

This is of course a classic example of the sort of unfairness and discrimination that you argue is instead due mostly to natural gender differences.

Take a job for which there is no gender-related reason for differences in hiring and tack on a completely arbitrary requirement to do something which has the effect of filtering out most of one gender.

Hey presto, you have a discriminatory hiring practice.



Actually, they fear wage inflation. Which brings a measureable loss of real status with it. There is research proving that the more feminised a programming speciality is, the less it pays. Frontend development is particularly affected.


gee. I wonder why that is? Could it possibly be that women are valued less than men? Nah, couldn’t be… it’s just biology and the market! /s


I see, sorry about that.


“I’m sorry, our hiring guidelines clearly specify all applicants for the software engineering division must have a healthy sperm count. Thank you for your interest in TechBro industries.”


Maybe so. But I think there’s a lot of jobs that are likely to remain so. FedEx wasn’t trying to abuse people - it was in their financial interest to make it easy to load, because it meant new employees could get up to speed faster, and speed in general could be higher. It’s just an inherent physical challenging to quickly load a truck with the goods people ship (ground shipping, so a good 1/3 of the packages were big, heavy, or both). I don’t think the weights themselves were unsafe - by far the most common injury was dehydration. The biggest safety concern I had was when I moved north and we’d get some snow in the trucks - the floors were bare aluminum, so would get slippery. But textured floors would likely have made the job HARDER, by making it impossible to slide packages.

I’d expect a lot of other jobs (especially ones where you don’t work in a factory setting that people can configure along ergonomic lines) have the same issues. Construction is an obvious case. CAN they be mitigated? Maybe, probably very often. Does it still naturally encourage a gender disparity? I think so, for the same reasons you see fewer female boxers (where hey, weight and gender classes, so adaptation is already present to a degree not possible in many jobs) - partly cultural, partly ability based.

An interesting assertion, given that the positions that had these “unrelated” pre-requisites both required handling the exact same packages (perhaps at a slower pace) and had better gender parity than the company as a whole - so I don’t think it DID filter them out, unless they were literally not physically suited. From what I gather, injuries for field drivers were MORE common than my position, because they had to move those same packages in more varied & cramped environments. I’m not qualified to parse it from a legal perspective, but I’m pretty sure they were in the good legally. Morally… well, I dunno. I’m not so dumb as to assume there’s no sexism at play, but on the other hand, they company would seem to have an economic motive for NOT excluding people from low-medium level positions, since it makes the potential labor pool larger and more fungible. Obviously groups / persons with power over hiring and job duties don’t always put company interests first … I’m not arguing either way, just sharing what I saw.

I’m just saying, they job I did certainly did have physical demands that women I know would be very unhappy with, and I don’t see any easy way around those. They had other positions (same job title, same pay, same advancement path, maybe not as easy to get placed in because less numerous) that were a bit less so. They certainly didn’t seem to have a corporate cultural interest in descriminating, but its possible that our entire cultural infrastructure re shipping could benefit from down-grading package sizes, emphasizing automated handling where possible, etc. I suspect Amazon already goes a long way in that direction, for example, if only so that they can draw from a larger pool of labor and so pay less / easily treat employees as temporary resources. And its very possible that certain forces (Teamsters Union maybe) would not want that.

We really are talking about a pretty specialized job here - I don’t see anything like it on the list of common jobs used in this article. I wish the info graphic showed relative job numbers - it would be nice to see whether jobs with big gender disparity are the less common ones (which would seem to argue an influence from ability, as I’m asserting for loading trucks) or more common ones (which would argue that its cultural, or the job is perhaps artificially structured to be harder for one gender to qualify for / advance in / whatever, as is clearly the case for some positions).