Gender job segregation is the practice of filling certain occupations with mostly male or mostly female workers.  Today 40% of women work in jobs that are 3/4ths female or more and 45% of men work in jobs that are more than 3/4ths male (source).  Job segregation is the main cause of the wage gap between men and women because jobs that employ women pay somewhere between 5% and 19% less than ones that employ men (source).

Job segregation decreased during the decades following the women’s movement, but progress towards integration stalled out in the ’90s and hasn’t budged since.  There are lots of reasons why job segregation why gender persists; one of them is recruitment and selection.  That is, employers sometimes have preferences for whether a man or woman is suited for a job.  Usually these preferences match historical trends/stereotypes.

Philip Cohen offered an example of this over at The Atlantic.  It’s a photograph of a recruitment banner for a window replacement company that he came across in the University of Maryland Student Union.  The banner features men as representatives of employees who do sales and installation, but a female in the role of customer support.


Cohen also observed the behavior of the white male job recruiters accompanying the banner.   He writes:

In 20 minutes, as dozens of people walked by, the recruiters approached 18 men and 0 women, asking them, “You guys looking for a job?” (or, in the case of a black man, “Hey man, you looking for a job?”).

This is one way that jobs remain segregated by gender. We have an idea of who is suited for what jobs, we illustrate that supposed “fit” in imagery, and employers actively recruit men into “male jobs” and women into “female jobs.”  Doing so doesn’t just slot men and women into different jobs, but into different and unequal ones.

See also: boys learn to play doctor, girls learn to play nursefortune teller tells you your gendered occupational future, and who does what for airlines.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.