Why are there fewer women in manual occupations?

Margarita Torre, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

When joining the world of employment, women have taken up manual jobs in a lower proportion than men. Furthermore, within this group, the female presence continues to be particularly low in traditionally male-dominated sectors such as mining, industry, construction and plant maintenance.
Key points
  • 1
       In Europe, nearly two out of every three workers in manual occupations 64.6%) are men.
  • 2
       Segregation by gender does not decrease in countries where vocational training is more widespread. In fact, vocational training has not been capable of integrating women into typically male-dominated jobs; in contrast, this has been achieved by tertiary education in disciplines such as medicine, law and architecture, where today there is a greater gender balance.
  • 3
       Segregation by gender in the labour market is very much related with individual factors, such as education level and occupation of parents, and, therefore, it originates in the aspirations formed in childhood and adolescence.
Male domination of manual occupations
Male domination of manual occupations

In Europe, the presence of men and women in management and professional occupations is very balanced. However, women have accessed in a much higher proportion jobs in the administrative, commercial and services sectors, and with lesser intensity, manual jobs.

The children of parents with manual jobs have more probability of ultimately doing the same kind of work. In contrast, the daughters of mothers who had prestigious positions are less likely to work in manual occupations than others, but once they do access such positions, it is more probable that they will break with gender stereotypes and occupy posts traditionally occupied by men, which usually offer better employment conditions.

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