Women Move into Male Dominated Occupations – and Vice Versa

Posted By Terri Williams on September 27, 2017 at 2:00 pm
Women Move into Male Dominated Occupations – and Vice Versa

The gender lines are blurring in many occupations that were previously dominated by one sex or the other. And, this is a good thing. When people pursue careers based on interests and abilities, everyone benefits.

According to a CareerBuilder survey, women are moving into occupations that were previously dominated by men, while men are entering roles that were traditionally held by women.

Women Gaining Ground in Male Occupations

The table below shows the percentage of women and men in male-dominated occupations in 2017, and the percentage of women added from 2009-2017:


Occupation Women Men Women added (2009-2017)
Lawyers 38% 62% 48%
Veterinarians 46% 54% 48%
Commercial & Industrial Designers 46% 54% 48%
Marketing Managers 44% 56% 47%
Optometrists 46% 54% 43%
Management Analysts 45% 55% 43%
Sales Managers 41% 59% 43%
Producers and Directors 41% 59% 42%
Chemists 39% 61% 42%
Coaches and Scouts 38% 62% 41%
Private Detectives & Investigators 42% 58% 41%
EMTs and Paramedics 37% 63% 40%
Financial Analysts 37% 63% 40%
Team Assemblers 39% 61% 40%
Computer Systems Analysts 35% 65% 34%
General and Operations Managers 29% 71% 33%
Firefighters 5% 95% 32%
Surgeons 33% 67% 31%
Web Developers 32% 68% 31%
Dentists, General 29% 71% 31%
Chief Executives 24% 76% 28%

Men Gaining Ground in Female Occupations

On the other hand, men have been gaining ground in these jobs that were traditionally dominated by women.

This table shows the percentage of women and men in female-dominated occupations in 2017, and the percentage of men added from 2009-2017:


Occupation Women Men Men Added (2009-2017)
Cooks, Institution and Cafeteria 61% 39% 64%
Merchandise Displayers and Window Trimmers 55% 45% 59%
Retail Salesperson 54% 46% 58%
Pharmacists 54% 46% 50%
Education Administrators, Postsecondary 61% 39% 49%
Elementary School Teachers, Except Special Education 80% 20% 49%
Bartenders 55% 45% 48%
Insurance Sales Agents 56% 44% 43%
Market Research Analysts and Marketing Specialists 57% 43% 42%
Accountants and Auditors 59% 41% 41%
Technical Writers 55% 45% 42%
Interior Designers 54% 46% 41%
Fitness Trainers and Aerobics Instructors 59% 41% 40%
Telemarketers 62% 38% 40%
Training and Development Specialists 60% 40% 39%
Respiratory Therapists 63% 37% 37%
Human Resources Managers 62% 38% 37%
Nurse Anesthetists 66% 34% 37%
Physician Assistants 65% 35% 36%
Public Relations Specialists 63% 37% 36%


Does this mean there’s less gender bias when it comes to hiring and choosing career paths?

A Sign of the Times?

James R. Bailey, a professor and the Stacy and Jonathan Hochberg Fellow of Leadership Development at the George Washington University School of Business and a Fellow in the Centre for Management Development at the London Business School believes that the self-selection gender bias is fading.

“What’s most important about the last few decades is that previously stereotyped jobs have been revealed to be essential elements of advancing human welfare and organizational aims – and those jobs have been elevated to the status of profession.”

And now that some traditionally female roles are viewed as more professional, they are more lucrative. “The old secretary is the new office manager or executive associate; what was a nurse – generally female and subject to the direction of generally male physicians – is now a nurse practitioner, often the most important link in the health care chain.”

In addition, Bailey explains, “The kindergarten teacher is now recognized as an educator; one who research shows is indispensably important to a child’s development – and now, men see these occupations as honorable contributions, and it doesn’t hurt that those occupations are better paid than in the past.”

Regarding traditionally male occupations, Bailey explains, “CEO decision-making qualities are more balanced and less competitive and judgement trumps gender – it’s worth noting that for two years in a row, S&P 500 female CEOs are compensated more generously than their counterparts.”

And he believes that companies and consumers are looking for individuals who can add the most value.

“Medicine is now a team practice, and good doctors want to be surrounded by good doctors; patients feel the same way – a colonoscopy is a colonoscopy, so just let me know if there’s any sign of intestinal cancer.”

So, Bailey concludes that the gender bias is declining – not because of some social justice phenomena. Instead, it is driven by the market. “It is fading because of the professionalization of positions that require high-performing, highly skilled people.”

Andrea Graziani, CMO of DUFL, believes she’s been very fortunate to work for people who were focused more on an employee’s strengths and abilities than on gender, creating opportunities based solely on merit.

Regarding the advances in male-dominated roles, Graziani says, “I’d like to think that the increase in the percentage of women taking jobs that were formerly dominated by men demonstrates that women are not only interested in holding those positions, but no longer feel restricted in the careers or industries that they choose.”  She admits that when she was in high school, girls wanted to be teachers, secretaries, and nurses. “Today, women can – and do – aspire to be anything they want, and I would like to think that the male versus female culture is a thing of the past.”

However, not everyone is as impressed by the survey’s results. According to E. Michele Ramsey, associate professor of communication arts & sciences and women’s studies at Penn State Berks, “It’s important to think about intersectionality in discussing these issues.”

Ramsey explains that both race and class have a role to play in these shifts.

“It tends to be upper class and educated women who are making strides in male-dominated fields, not all women.” And she agrees with Bailey that the men that have moved into roles traditionally held by women have done so as the wages have increased in these areas.

Ramsey says that throughout history, the wages for “women’s jobs” tend to rise when men enter those fields, and then men start to make up a larger portion of those occupations. Computer science or computing is one field that was dominated by women, but then wages increased, and now women are in the minority.

“In terms of other positions, such as chefs or interior decorating, it’s been the case that while more women are in these kinds of jobs overall – and certainly do more of this as labor in the home – men tend to be valorized more often as ‘great chefs’ and promoted on TV shows like Nate Berkus or Oprah’s former show.”

Ramsey says this doesn’t mean that men aren’t great cooks, or that Berkus isn’t a great designer. “However, when you see these professions highlighted in the media, they tend to highlight males, so even though females tend to do more of this labor inside and outside the home, men are valorized as the best examples in these professions.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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