Gendered Jobs: Exploring Career Stereotypes [2023 Study]

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My Perfect Resume. [Gendered Jobs: Exploring Career Stereotypes [2023 Study]]
MyPerfectResume.com [March 20, 2023],
[https://www.myperfectresume.com/career-center/careers/basics/gendered-jobs]
Kellie Hanna, CPRW
By Kellie Hanna, CPRW, Career Advice Expert

Our customers have been hired at: *Foot Note

Imagine an alternate universe where women dominate heavy-duty truck driving while men are in high demand as top-notch babysitters. A world where male nurses earn accolades for their exceptional care and women thrive as electricians.

Unfortunately, our reality is far from this utopia. In our universe, we have standard gender-based jobs. And no one argues otherwise.

The result? Women are discouraged from pursuing traditionally male-dominated jobs, while men shy away from typically female-dominated professions. Women don’t get taken seriously as mechanics, and men aren’t respected as caregivers.

And the real challenge arises when women want to advance in male-dominated fields or when men aim for success in female-dominated professions.

  • According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2022, women made up a bit more than 58% of the labor force, but only around 6.5% of them worked in male-dominated occupations.
  • As of 2010, only 5.4 % of men work in female-dominated occupations. Male labor force participation in the United States back then was 71.2%. In 2022, it was 68%.
  • Various studies show the most male-dominated industries include construction and building, vehicle technicians or mechanics, or carpenters, where the share of women is only 1–2%.
  • Female-dominated jobs include preschool and kindergarten teachers, nursing, or secretarial positions. The share of men in these professions is at most 10%.

Those are the facts, what about perception? Does gender have to play a role in the world of work? What are people’s beliefs when it comes to gender and career? MyPerfectResume conducted extensive research to find the answer.

Key results:

  • 82% believe certain jobs are associated with a specific gender.
  • Typically female jobs include babysitters, nurses/medical assistants, and receptionists. 
  • Typically male jobs include truck drivers, electricians, and firefighters. 
  • Gender-neutral jobs include managers, doctors, or social workers.
  • Overall, people believe professional skills and competencies matter more than gender-based characteristics. But—
  • 74% believe gender should play a role in choosing a career path.
  • 76% believe gender imbalance in specific industries and professions will change.
  • 59% think that there are professions in which women will never succeed, and 60% believe the same about men.

But that’s not all, so keep scrolling to discover more about gendered jobs. 

Job segregation: female vs male dominated careers

Infographic showing survey responses as to whether specific jobs are gendered or gender-neutral.

Do jobs have a gender? According to our respondents:

  • Some occupations suit women more, i.e., teacher, babysitter, home health aide, receptionist, hairdresser, and nurse/medical assistant.
  • Other jobs are more associated with men, such as police officer, firefighter, secretary, truck driver, construction worker, or electrician. 
  • The good news is that almost half of the professions we asked about didn’t raise any associations. Neutral professions are doctor, lawyer, manager, IT specialist, social worker, engineer, clerk, financial analyst, and politician. These are careers where both men and women can advance without any limitations of perception.

The detailed percentage difference is presented in the infographic above.

So the answer to whether jobs have genders isn’t always yes. Some professions are associated with women, others with men, while many don’t evoke gender associations.

Does this mean that women make better babysitters and men make better firefighters? Let’s find out. 

Who makes a better worker?

Infographic depicting survey responses on job performance across genders

Does a person’s gender define how well they perform in a particular job? In theory, it shouldn’t, but in practice, it may. Due to specific characteristics, e.g., physical strength in the case of men or empathy in the case of women, gender-based traits can help or hinder development in a particular profession.

With this in mind, our respondents were asked who performs better in a particular job – female or male employees.

  • According to respondents, for 9 of the 21 occupations listed (43%), gender doesn’t impact performance. As a result, both men and women make great lawyers, managers, secretaries, doctors, IT & software developers, social workers, clerks, financial analysts, and politicians. But—
  • Women were believed to be better teachers, babysitters, home health aides, receptionists, hairdressers, and nurses/medical assistants.
  • Men were considered better police officers, firefighters, truck drivers, engineers, construction workers, and electricians. 

Again the infographics above clearly demonstrate the percentage difference. 

Respondents are consistent in their opinions. The breakdown above is almost identical to the previous ranking. They believe that women are better at jobs that arouse female associations, while jobs stereotypically assigned to men make the public feel that they are the ones who will do better in the given positions. Neutral occupations remain neutral. 

But two minor changes are observed.

Although the engineering profession was considered neutral, respondents felt that men would do better in this profession. On the other hand, secretary roles went from being a male-associated profession to one where gender doesn’t influence performance. 

Gender vs. skills, which is more important?

Gender vs. skills infographic

Gender isn’t the decisive factor at work. As the respondents’ choices show, in most cases, professional skills matter more than gender-based characteristics.

Jobs where skills trump gender include teachers, police officers, lawyers, managers, secretaries, doctors, home health aides, IT & software developers, social workers, receptionists, engineers, hairdressers, clerks, nurses/medical assistants, construction workers, financial analysts, and politicians. 

However, two professions left respondents almost evenly divided. Firefighters and electricians. In both cases, professional skills just edged out the gender, 51% vs. 49%. 

But we cannot entirely escape gender privilege. There were two professions where gender appears to be decisive. Babysitters and truck drivers.

Does this mean that women cannot fulfill themselves in male jobs while men don’t thrive in female? Not necessarily. 

82% associate certain jobs with a specific gender

Social perception of jobs and gender Infographic

More than 8 in 10 respondents (82%) believe certain jobs are typically associated with a specific gender. 

But having an occupation that contradicts the social perception doesn’t mean people are viewed less favorably.

According to 43% of research participants, society has a positive view of women who work in male-dominated professions. The same number of people, 43%, rate it neutrally. Only 14% believe society negatively views women who have chosen a male-dominated profession. 

Men working in female-dominated jobs can count on a similar level of respect. 44% view them positively, and 42% neutrally. Only 14% look down on them. 

This point is worth emphasizing – there’s nothing wrong with men working in typically female professions and the other way around. And only a minority of people have a negative view of those who defy gendered job expectations.

Almost 8 in 10 people (78%) believe it’s okay for a man to work in a female-dominated job and for a woman to pursue a male-dominated career. 

Interestingly, 23% of men and 21% of women (one-fifth of respondents) believe female workers shouldn’t be employed in male-dominated jobs. Also, 23% of men and 20% of women believe men shouldn’t work in female roles. 

Still, both genders enjoy the same privilege of trust.

45% admit that gender doesn’t influence their trustworthiness towards male or female professionals or occupations. In turn, 28% believe women are more trustworthy, while 27% choose men. 

This leads us to another aspect. Should gender influence your career path? And if so, when?

Barriers in gender-dominated careers: insights and challenges

Does gender affect your career Iinfographic

Regarding career choice, it appears gender matters, after all. 

More than 7 in 10 respondents (74%) believe that gender should play a role in choosing a career path.

But…

  • 1 in 3 respondents aged 25 or younger think that a person’s gender shouldn’t influence decisions on career pursuits. 
  • This view is shared by more than 1 in 3 research participants (35%) with no college degree, employees with 11+ years of experience (34%), and those employed in big corporations with 500+ workers (33%).

Why are some people convinced that career choices should be gender-related? For example, because of problems with finding a job.

71% think it is harder for a woman to get a job in a male-dominated profession or industry.

Conversely, 70% believe it is harder for a man to get a job in a female-dominated profession or industry. 

But it doesn’t discourage candidates from trying their hand at gender-dominated occupations.

81% of women would be willing to work in a male-dominated industry, while 79% of men would be willing to work in a female-dominated one.

Is money a factor here? No.

When asked which jobs pay better, female- or male-dominated, 50% say both offer equal salaries. In turn, 27% believe that female jobs pay better, while 23% choose male professions as providing higher earnings. 

But the facts undermine that belief.

The median weekly earnings of the nation’s 120.2 million full-time wage and salary workers were $1,070 in the third quarter of 2023. Median weekly earnings for women were $971 and $1,164 for men. Women had median weekly earnings of 83.4% of the median for men. 

In one of her articles, C.C. Miller, a correspondent for The Times, suggests that difference in job types is the primary cause behind the gender pay gap, accounting for more than 50% of it. Additionally, as Hegewisch and Mefferd prove, male-dominated jobs in the US generally pay more than female-dominated jobs, even at similar skill levels.

Let’s look at other pros and cons of gender at work.

An infographic with challenges, weaknesses, and strengths of men and women at work

Challenges at work occur regardless of gender. However, gender is sometimes the cause, especially if one chooses a career dominated by a different sex. So let’s see what people have to deal with.

According to our respondents, challenges women may experience in male-dominated jobs include: 

  • Problems with physical strengths 
  • Higher stress and anxiety
  • Harassment and gender-based violence
  • Lack of development opportunities
  • Pregnancy and motherhood bias
  • Lack of respect from coworkers
  • Stereotypes about leadership skills
  • Isolation and lack of support
  • No pay rise and advancement opportunities 

These challenges range from physical and psychological factors to social and cultural biases affecting women’s career progression and opportunities. 

One of the most apparent challenges that women may experience in male-dominated jobs is related to physical strength. Some jobs or tasks may require physical strength that may be more commonly associated with men, making it difficult for women to compete on an equal footing. Higher stress and anxiety levels are also challenging, as women may feel more pressure to prove themselves in a male-dominated environment. Moreover, harassment and gender-based violence can create a hostile and unsafe work environment.

A Pew Research Center found that 28% of women employed in industries with a male predominance reported having experienced sexual harassment, compared to 20% of women in businesses with a female predominance.

Moreover, a study by Dresden et al. discovered that women pursuing male-dominated university majors have greater rates of harassment than those who major in fields with gender equivalence (no more than 60% of a single gender).

 

Finally, pregnancy and motherhood bias, lack of respect from coworkers, and limited opportunities for pay raises and career advancement are common issues women face in the workplace. These, too, were included in our ranking. If you are returning to the workforce after maternity leave, see our guide on how to write a cover letter after maternity leave. You can also check out what to include in a cover letter for additional guidance from career experts. 

Men have problems too. Challenges men may experience working in female-dominated jobs include:

  • Misunderstanding by other men
  • Lack of prestige
  • Feeling ashamed
  • Lack of development opportunities
  • Comments on sexual orientation
  • Social stigma
  • Laughing and jokes
  • Lack of trust
  • Social fear of working with a man in a traditionally female position.

Just as with women, challenges range from social and cultural biases to psychological factors.

Misunderstanding or lack of support from other men was the biggest challenge. This can include feeling ostracized or undervalued by other men who may not see the value in working in a traditionally female-dominated field. Then comes a lack of prestige and feeling ashamed. Like women, men may struggle with a lack of development opportunities. Finally, there is a feeling that people (customers or service recipients) may be afraid to work with a man when traditionally his place should be taken by a woman, e.g., in the case of such roles as a nursery, kindergarten teacher, or babysitter. 

“Men working in female-dominated occupations fear feminization and stigmatization. […] Considerable anxiety was expressed around the perceived reaction of male friends and acquaintances, where disapproval and some ridicule became evident. […] Anxiety was expressed around the ‘stigma’ (a term frequently used by interviewees) of the non-traditional career choice. This was associated mainly with implications of homosexuality and, particularly in the case of teaching, of sexual perversion.”

These challenges may or may not arise from gender-based abilities or traits. But some weaknesses at work are seen as being linked to gender. 

Women’s weaknesses at work may include:

  • Difficulty balancing work and family responsibilities
  • Being too emotional 
  • Having difficulty expressing emotions 
  • Lack of confidence
  • Poor communication skills
  • Lack of teamwork skills
  • Indecisiveness when making decisions
  • Resistance to seeking help

Difficulty balancing work and family responsibilities took first place. Women may be more likely than men to take on caregiving roles for children or elderly family members, making balancing these responsibilities with work demands challenging. Another perceived weakness is being too emotional or having difficulty expressing emotions. Women may be more likely than men to display emotions such as sadness, empathy, or frustration, which can be viewed as a weakness in some workplaces. They may also choose not to show their true feelings, which can be perceived as vulnerability. Finally, resistance to seeking help closes the list. 

But it is essential to recognize that these weaknesses are not inherent to women. 

Men also struggle with perceived weaknesses at work.

  • Being too emotional 
  • Indecisiveness when making decisions
  • Difficulty balancing work and family responsibilities
  • Lack of teamwork skills
  • Resistance to seeking help
  • Having difficulty expressing emotions 
  • Poor communication skills
  • Lack of confidence

Men also can be too emotional, showing their frustration or anger, which is seen as their top weakness. The greater decision-making attributed to men than women turns out to be a myth, as indecisiveness is placed second in this ranking. Difficulty balancing work and family responsibilities affect men too. They may be expected to prioritize their careers over their caregiving responsibilities, but it doesn’t mean they don’t have responsibilities at home. Lack of confidence, ranked last, suggests that men may feel pressure to present themselves as strong, competent, and self-assured, which can lead to insecurity or self-doubt.

Both men and women have to fight similar weaknesses at work. And it’s not that the problems attributed to women don’t apply to men. 

But people build their strengths based on challenges and negative experiences.

Women’s strengths at work:

  • Technical skills
  • Problem-solving
  • Decision-making
  • Management skills, leadership
  • Attention to detail
  • Risk-taking
  • Adaptability
  • Empathy and understanding
  • Relation building
  • Emotional intelligence 
  • Strategic thinking

Technical skills, problem-solving, and decision-making topped the list of women’s strengths. These strengths allow them to consider multiple perspectives, which leads to more thoughtful and effective work outcomes. 

Men’s and women’s strengths at work overlap. However, the order of priority is slightly different for men.

Men’s strengths at work:

  • Technical skills
  • Risk-taking
  • Decision-making
  • Management skills, leadership
  • Strategic thinking
  • Problem-solving
  • Attention to detail
  • Relation building
  • Emotional intelligence 
  • Adaptability
  • Empathy and understanding

Once again, strategic thinking and decision-making were on the podium. But risk-taking is seen as more associated with men. Being more willing to take calculated risks and pursue new opportunities leads to innovation and growth within their organizations. Men may be more comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity and more willing to take bold and decisive action. On the other hand, empathy and understanding are not necessarily their forte. 

So it seems gender does still have a big influence on many aspects of our careers. But could that change? We’ll finish with how our respondents view the future of gender and work.

60% say men and women will never succeed in some gender-dominated jobs

An infographic with potential changes related to gender-dominated jobs

Gender imbalance in the workforce has been a persistent issue for many years, leading to disparities in pay, opportunities, and representation. In recent years, there has been increased attention to the need for greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace, including efforts to address the gender imbalance in different industries and occupations. 

To shed light on this topic, we asked whether respondents have seen a change in the gender balance over the past five years.

  • There are more women in men’s jobs, but the same number of men in female roles – 35%
  • There are more men in female jobs and more women in men jobs – 32%
  • There are more men in female positions, but the same number of women in men’s jobs – 24%
  • No changes. There are still jobs that are strictly male- or female-dominated, and the gender balance hasn’t changed – 9%

Overall, changes are visible. 

There has been progress towards greater gender diversity in male-dominated jobs, with more women entering these fields. The same goes for men who more willingly undertake female-dominated jobs. However, in respondents’ opinions, their number is smaller than the number of women willing to test themselves in men’s occupations. 

Still, if we counted the percentage of people who notice any positive changes (whether it’s more men or women working in their “nontraditional occupations”), we end up with 91%. 

The final result (and 9% of research participants) suggests that despite efforts to address the gender imbalance in the workforce, some jobs are still strictly male or female-dominated, and little progress has been made in changing this situation. This underscores the need for greater awareness, education, and policy interventions to promote more inclusive and equitable workplaces.

And that’s important as 59% believe that there are professions in which women will never succeed, while 60% think that there are jobs in which men will never succeed.

We also asked if gender imbalance in specific industries and professions will change. 

  • 76% believe it will.
  • 13% weren’t sure.
  • 11% believe there’ll be no improvement. 

These results suggest that most people remain optimistic about the potential for change. A notable minority is more skeptical about the prospects for progress. This could be due to historical and cultural norms or structural barriers preventing women from accessing specific careers or industries.

Still, there’s a long way to go before we stop distinguishing between male- or female-dominated occupations. But it’s a goal worth pursuing to create a world free of gender-based work prejudice. 

Methodology

The findings presented were obtained by surveying 1022 American respondents. They were asked about gender-standardized jobs, i.e., male- or female-dominated. These included yes/no questions, open-ended questions, scale-based questions relating to levels of agreement with a statement, and questions that permitted the selection of multiple options from a list of answers.

Limitations

The data we are presenting relies on self-reports from respondents. Everyone who took our survey read and responded to each question without any research administration or interference. There are many potential issues with self-reported data, like selective memory, telescoping, attribution, or exaggeration.

Some questions and responses have been rephrased or condensed for readers’ clarity and ease of understanding. In some cases, the percentages presented may not add up to 100 percent; depending on the case, this can be due to rounding, due to being part of a larger statistic, or due to responses of “neither/uncertain/unknown” not being presented.

Fair Use Statement

Whether you’re a woman in a male-dominated industry or a man working in a female-dominated profession, feel free to share our findings. If your audience is interested in this information, you can share it for noncommercial reuse. In return, we ask that you link back to this page so your readers can view the full study.

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