Feb 15, 2024 - Economy

Chart: The most gendered occupations

Share of U.S. workers in select occupation categories, by gender
Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Women now make up 47% of all workers in the U.S., compared with just 30% back in 1950. But many occupations aren't so evenly split between men and women, according to the government's annual look at workforce composition.

Zoom out: There is a lot of research explaining why the workforce is so pink- and blue-coded, as the WSJ recently noted. Some biggies:

Discrimination that serves to keep women and men out of certain occupations — firefighters hazing female recruits, say. Or sexual harassment in a male-dominated workplace.

Expectations that push women and men into certain roles.

  • The assumption that men are supposed to be better at building stuff, for example, helps explain why they make up 96% of construction jobs and 84% of architects.
  • Women are supposed to be better at caring for people. So, 87% of registered nurses are women — and if you do a Google image search for "nurse," you only see pics of ladies.
  • (Though the "care" norm changes as you go up the pay scale. 62% of physicians, one of the highest paying roles in the U.S., are men, per a separate 2021 Pew analysis.)

Of note: These expectations can keep men and women from taking open job opportunities, as the NYT reported many years ago. Unemployed men weren't willing to take so-called pink-collar jobs because they were viewed as women's work.

Structural barriers mean women are more likely to be caring for children or others at home (part of the whole expectations thing) and often need greater flexibility — which often pushes them out of more demanding, less flexible (and often higher-paying) professions.

  • That's started changing with the rise of remote work and has been a boon for getting more women into the workforce.
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