Masculinity at work: The experiences of men in female dominated occupations

  • Simpson R
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Abstract

This paper presents the findings of a research project on the implications of men's non-traditional career choices for their experiences within the organization and for gender identity. The research is based on 40 in-depth interviews with male workers from four occupational groups: librarian-ship, cabin crew, nurses and primary school teachers. Results suggest a typology of male workers in female dominated occupations: seekers (who actively seek the career), finders (who find the occupation in the process of making general career decisions) and settlers (who settle into the career after periods of time in mainly male dominated occupations). Men benefit from their minority status through assumptions of enhanced leadership (the assumed authority effect), by being given differential treatment (the special consideration effect) and being associated with a more careerist attitude to work (the career effect). At the same time, they feel comfortable working with women (the zone of comfort effect). Despite this comfort, men adopt a variety of strategies to re-establish a masculinity that has been undermined by the 'feminine' nature of their work. These include re-labeling, status enhancement and distancing from the feminine. The dynamics of maintaining and reproducing masculinities within the non-traditional work setting are discussed in the light of recent theorising around gender, masculinity and work.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Gender
  • Masculinity
  • Non-tradtaonal occupations
  • Post-structuralism

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Authors

  • Ruth Simpson

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