I’m completing my thesis at the University of Mississippi concerning the relationship between gender, genre, and television production. I see no harm in sharing while helping to get my thoughts together.
Barbara Reskin describes how men dominate coveted labor markets at the expense of women. Labor markets become gender queues where women are held back in five ways.
First, sex labels that characterize jobs as “women’s” or “men’s” work influence day-to-day hiring and job assignments by affecting employers’ notions of appropriate and inappropriate workers for particular jobs. The force of custom tends to blind employers to economically irrational decisions, at least until external events galvanize them to change (Kindle Locations 508-510).
One issue facing women is the weight of history where they have been undervalued relative to men. We are not damned to repeat that history, but generally speaking we will if there are not laws created to force change. Because women have been kept out of many professions until fairly recently, they are untraditional employees which means employers usually will not go that route unless they set out to do so.
Second, employers’ difficulty in identifying productive workers leads them to resort to proxies such as educational attainment, experience, and group membership (Kindle Locations 510-511).
Because employers have a difficult time spotting job candidates who will do well, they tend to rely on shortcuts that discount women. Proxies hurt anyone who do not have an ideal job history (like myself) with periods of unemployment. But each proxy tends to hurt women at a greater rate than men as women are less likely to be given the opportunities that men receive.
Third, some employers worry that male workers’ negative response to female interlopers will reduce productivity or raise labor costs by increasing turnover, or lead men to demand higher wages to compensate them for working with women (Kindle Locations 514-515).
Men are sensitive about their masculinity. Any threats to the gender composition in a field that could change how it is perceived within society is met with resistance by men. They will go on strike or leave the job if it seems beneath them.
Fourth, some employers are not compelled to minimize wages. The level of competition they face and the share of all costs that wages constitute affect their incentive to find ways to cut wages (Kindle Locations 521-522).
The primary advantage women have in labor markets is that they cost less to employ. When labor costs are trivial, women job candidates have less of a chance in being hired.
Finally, some employers willingly accept higher wages as the price for favoring men (Kindle Location 527).
To employers, hiring men at higher wages is better than paying less for women to do the job as it protects the job from having its status depreciate, and it legitimizes male dominance elsewhere throughout society. Employers seem willing to pay more to lessen their doubt even though that doubt is based on sexist assumptions regarding the quality of work performed by women.