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Women face revolving doors in male jobs.

Women face revolving doors in male jobs

Individual women have a remarkable rate of mobility between female-dominated, gender-neutral, and male-dominated fields. But, they don't necessarily stay in men's jobs for long. Instead, throughout their lives, many women pass through revolving doors that take them back into traditionally female jobs, reports University of Pennsylvania sociologist Jerry Jacobs in a new Stanford University Press book, Revolving Doors: Sex Segregation and Women's Careers (230 pp, $27.50 hardback).

"The revolving-door metaphor does not imply that women are getting nowhere," Jacobs explains. "Rather, it suggests that gross mobility far exceeds the overall net change in opportunities for women." In recent years, he notes, for every 100 women in male-dominated occupations who were employed in two consecutive years, 90 remained in a male-dominated occupation, while 10 left for either a gender-neutral or female-dominated occupation. At the same time, 11 women entered a male-dominated occupation from one of these other occupation groups. Thus, the revolving door sends 10 out for every 11 it lets in. Therefore, the author says, "while individual mobility is common, change in the structure of sex segregation is slow."

Jacobs' book is an effort to explain why, despite the advances of recent decades, women still tend to do women's work. Is it the result of early sex-role socialization? Differences in education? Discrimination and harassment in the male-dominated workplace? Conflicts between work and family?

In fact, he says, it's a life-long process of social control. "Social control (of women) begins during early socialization, is continued during the school years, and is continued through various discriminatory processes on the job," Jacobs explains. "The values, education, and job experiences cumulate to maintain sex segregation over time."

Because sex segregation in the workplace can be traced to such a variety of factors, Jacobs suggests the policy efforts to improve opportunities for women should follow a number of different avenues. These might include efforts to broaden the career aspirations of young women, more corporate- or government-subsidized child care and the adoption of comparable-worth policies to bring the pay scales of similarly skilled men's jobs and women's jobs more in line with each other.

"One argument advanced for a comparable-worth strategy is that it will lessen men's financial stake in keeping women out," Jacobs notes. "The entry of women may be seen as posing a threat to men's financial position. If women's work were better paid, this threat would become less serious.

"Thus, while the immediate financial implications of comparable worth might be to reduce the relative attractiveness of male-dominated positions for women, the longer-term effect is likely to promote more occupational integration by sex."
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Title Annotation:book by University of Pennsylvania sociologist Jerry Jacobs
Publication:Tooling & Production
Article Type:Bibliography
Date:Dec 1, 1989
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