Gender Representations in Occupational Descriptions

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 3:50 PM
Room: 302
Oral Presentation
Ylva ULFSDOTTER ERIKSSON , Dept of Sociology and Work Science, Gothenburg, Sweden

The Swedish labour market is to a vast degree segregated by gender, likewise as in many other nations.  Women and men work in different occupations, branches and even sectors and a majority (73 percent) work in occupations where 60 percent or more of the employees are of the same sex. Women are engaged in occupations such as nurse, social worker, teacher, assistant nurse and child minder, while men primarily work in manufacturing or with diverse technical occupations. The separation of men and women in the labour market can be explained by the structural relationship between the sexes and it contributes to stereotyped gendered images of occupations. Both tasks and occupations tend to be sex-typed and we associate them with being either female or male. . “Female” occupations include different aspects of caring for other persons and thereby correspond with dispositions assumed to be held by women. “Male occupations” are associated with physical strength, technical skills and logic – dispositions traditionally associated with men. Sex-typing is an ongoing process, part of the overall gender system in society, and is related to hegemonic cultural beliefs about gender.

This paper draws on empirical data consisting of occupational descriptions produced by the Swedish Public Employment Service (Arbetsförmedlingen). It presents the results from the on-going research project that studies whether descriptions of occupations are a mechanism for social reproduction of gender, social class and ethnicity. The paper focus how gender is represented in the 30 most common occupations for women and men respectively. The aim is to find out whether these occupational descriptions reproduce stereotyped images of gender, and how. The study was conducted through a qualitative content analysis. Preliminary results reveal that they both reproduce and break stereotypes:by emphasizing that nurses need to be technical and that a janitor must have social skills.