While previously male-dominated factory jobs have been on the decline for decades, today the fastest-growing occupations are those that are typically female-dominated — occupations like nursing and physical therapy. So, it would make sense if we begin to see men entering into traditionally female-dominated occupations at higher rates, but a recent article in the New York Times discusses why many men are hesitating to do so.
Ofer Sharone studies middle-aged, white collar workers who are struggling to find a place in the current labor force. He found that many men avoid these jobs because they fear it will be a blow to their masculinity, but several men who are willing to take a pay cut and do the work were persuaded not to by their wives and significant others who encouraged them to keep looking for other forms of work. He explains,
“Marriages have more problems when the man is unemployed than the woman. What does it mean for a man to take a low-paying job that’s typically associated with women? What kind of price will they pay with their friends, their lives, their wives, compared to unemployment?”
However, it’s not just that men and their families are less enticed by these “pink collar” jobs. Sharone and sociologist Janette S. Dill have found that pink collar employers are often biased towards women. Negative stereotypes about men as at best poor care workers and at worst as potentially dangerous create biases against them in jobs like child and elderly care. And Dill also suspects that this bias has something to do with keeping wages low in these types of jobs, which hurts both men and women. She states,
“I sometimes wonder if health organizations don’t want men to come into these jobs because they’ll demand higher wages … They’re happy to have a work force of women they can pay $8 or $9 an hour.”