As I was searching for images related to job inequality, I came upon an infographic from Forbes that ranked the most prestigious professions in 2016, as ranked by American adults. The infographic is shown below:

20160331_prestige[1]

Interested, I decided to do an image search for each of the professions on the list, and wasn’t surprised with the results. For 5 out of the 10 professions, a woman made up less than 10% of the images in the search results. Another 2 of the 10 were less than 20%.  In the other 4 professions listed, in which women make up almost equal or the majority of the workforce, such as architect, nurse, EMT, and scientist, the image search percentage generally increased. Below are the results for each of the “most prestigious professions” in percent of women in 50 images in an image search of the field, followed by the percent of women in the field itself:

Doctor: 8/50 (16%) — 32.4% women

Scientist: 22/50 (44%) — 44 % women

Firefighter: 2/50 (4%) — 4% women

Military officer: 3/50 (6%) — 17% women

Engineer: 4/50 (8%) — 18% women

Nurse: 48/50 (96%) — 91% women

Architect: 5/50 (10%) — 49% women

EMT: 20/50 (40%) — 35% women

Veterinarian: 36/50 (72%) — 50% women

Police officer: 2/50 (4%) — 13% women

With the exception of architect, the image search results generally corresponded to the actual percent of women in the field, so it is important to note that it is not the image search that is the issue, but society itself. However, the inconsistency with architect (as well as the smaller inconsistencies with doctor, engineer, and military officer) may show that those professions are still very much considered “men’s jobs.” I also came across anther interesting find when I did a search of “most prestigious jobs.” The third search result that came up was an article on askmen.com, whose slogan is “become a better man” [2]. The article included a slideshow of the most respected professions, and most of the professions on the list above were included. However, neither nurse nor veterinarian nor architect were on the list, professions that are made up of an equal percentage or majority of women. Although these professions are considered prestigious or respected by society as a whole, they are not so according to men (or at least on a site made by and for men).

It seems that so-called “masculinity” plays a large role in determining professions. Males may be taught from a young age that being strong and aggressive is “masculine” and being “masculine” is the most important part of being a man. Because professions like secretaries, nurses, and elementary school teachers are made predominantly of women, men may view those professions as somehow less “masculine” and thus, the field remains the way it is. The percentage of women as doctors, lawyers, and engineers has increased dramatically (the percent of women in law increased from 5% in 1970 to 33% in 2013 and the percent of women in engineering has increased from less than 1% in 1966 to 20% today), while the percentage of men in the professions mentioned prior have only experienced minimal changes (the percent of men in nursing increased from 4% in 1970 to 8% in 2011) [3].

In Learning the Hard Way, Edward Morris defined hegemonic masculinity as the contextually specific pattern of gender practice that “ideologically legitimate[s] the global subordination of women to men.” According to hegemonic masculinity, the achievement of masculinity generally involves a repudiation of femininity, implying that masculinity is both different than and superior to masculinity [4]. Masculinity acts as a system of male power dominance, which may explain a man’s hesitance toward becoming a nurse (who reports to a doctor) or a secretary (who reports to someone else in a higher position, whether that be a CEO or lawyer, etc).

It is unquestionably important to continue encouraging young women to pursue all professions (or rather to not discourage them), but it is also important to change this entire concept of what is “masculine” and what is “feminine” in order to not discourage men from pursuing professions falsely deemed “feminine.”

 

[1] McCarthy, Niall. “America’s Most Prestigious Professions in 2016” Last modified March 31, 2016. http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2014/03/05/285785498/iranian-women-make-a-push-for-greater-opportunities

[2] Askmen. “Top 10: Most Respected Professions.” http://www.askmen.com/top_10/entertainment/top-10-most-respected-professions_9.html.

[3] United States Census Bureau. http://www.census.gov/.

[4] Morris, Edward. Learning the Hard Way. Rutgers University Press, 2012.

 

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