The workforce is still very much segregated by gender — which is why it’s a pretty big deal that jobs typically occupied by men are disappearing, while there’s an increase in demand for positions traditionally held by women.

Jed Kolko, the chief economist at Indeed who researched this subject, published an article this past week detailing his findings. He reports that 31% of women work in fields that are at least 80% female, and 36% of men work in industries that are at least 80% male — but this will gradually change. 

“The labor market continues to shift away from traditionally male jobs toward traditionally female jobs,” he writes. “The two broad sectors that are projected to lose jobs over the next decade — manufacturing and agriculture — are both majority male, while the fastest-growing sector — health care — is dominated by women.”

If this is the case, why aren’t men pursuing more traditionally female jobs? One reason — which we find particularly interesting (read: maddening!) — is because of a little thing called the gender pay gap. The jobs that are in higher demand don’t tend to pay as well as more traditionally men’s jobs do. Kolko points out that there are other explanations, too: “one observer has suggested that men might not be that good at them; while another recently argued that being told to take traditionally female jobs can be perceived as an affront to ‘manly dignity.’”

 Kolko says that men who are less educated will be most influenced by these patterns, because those with a lower level of education have a higher tendency to work in male-dominated industries. For women, Kolko finds the opposite to be true: the more educated a woman is, the more likely she is to work in a female-dominated field.

Of course, this is not the trend for every industry. While “the specific occupations expected to grow fastest — such as occupational therapy assistants, physical therapy assistants, and nurse practitioners — are mostly held by women [...] plenty of traditionally male jobs will expand, too,” Kolko explains. 

“Among occupations that are at least 60% male, ambulance drivers are expected to have the fastest growth, and another healthcare-related occupation, emergency medical technician, is also on the top-ten list,” he writes. “Several computer- and finance-related occupations, like personal financial advisor and web developer, are predicted to grow quickly as well. (Of course the gender mix of either male-dominated or female-dominated jobs might change in the future, due to changing job-seeker interest or employer recruiting practices.)”

And, of course, some jobs traditionally held by women — like telephone operators and travel agents — will begin to disappear.

So what will the workforce look like as this plays out? Kolko says some suggest trying to bring back the male-dominated jobs that seem to be phasing out, “but that’s probably impossible,” he explains: “even if manufacturing output increased, it would not provide as many or the same kinds of jobs as it did in the past thanks to automation and globalization.”

So, it looks like some men — whether they like it or not — will find themselves pursuing so called “women’s” jobs. What will this mean for the pay gap? TBD. As Elizabeth King writes on Brit + Co, “it’s possible that traditionally female industries will pay more once men enter them; it’s also possible the current gap will narrow not because women are making more but because men will be making the same (lower) wages as women.”

Either way, it will be interesting to see how these shifts in the job market play out — and we certainly hope that the gradual desegregation of gender in the workforce will lead to more equality all around.


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