Date of Award

1978

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

Supervisor

Frank E. Jones

Abstract

The central question in this research asks why some women do "men's work." The literature suggests two basic approaches: according to the demand approach, women are placed in certain jobs because of employment practices; according to the supply approach women are inclined to look for certain kinds of work. The supply explanation suggests that the socialization of a woman influences her work motivation and the kinds of work she will consider for employment. Our research focus is on such supply factors. Our general hypothesis is that women who enter non-traditional occupations will have had non-traditional socialization experiences; women who enter traditional occupations will have had traditional socialization experiences. Specific hypotheses are developed to capture the influence of the family and, in particular, the role of a working mother on the work behavior of the daughter.

To test our hypotheses a sample of 111 women was drawn. Our aim was to select both a traditional and non-traditional occupation in professional and non-professional categories. Two occupations were chosen--elementary school teachers and registered nursing assistants--and defined as traditional areas of female employment. Two occupations-- pharmacists and policewomen--had a small number of women employed and they were titled non-traditional female occupational areas of employment. The quantitative and qualitative data gathered through interviews are used to test specific hypotheses and explore patterns within each hypothesis. The data are presented in three chapters: the influence of the family of origin, the effect of education and school experiences and the importance of the work environment and conjugal family on the work behavior of women in traditional and non-traditional occupations.

The research shows that the socialization experiences within the family of origin reveal no significant difference between women who selected traditional occupations and those who selected non-traditional employment. In fact, almost all of the women in our sample, in all occupations, expressed traditional values regarding work and home. However, the research did find that socialization experiences are important in providing more general occupational orientations which directed the women toward to either "professional" goals or "work" goals. Moreover, social class variables were more important in determining these occupational or orientation than were the hypothesized sex-role variables.

As well, the women's attitudes regarding school were largely a function of their socialization experiences in the home. Professional women placed a high evaluation on schooling and were more likely to report that they had done well in school. This was rarely the case, for the non-professional woman. For women who had acquired professional aspirations, academic performance seems to have been an important factor in their occupational choice. The women who did not aspire to careers and who therefore did not view formal education as an important occupational route seem to have been most vulnerable to the vagaries of chance. The most important factor in their occupational choice appears to have been the influence of close informal work contacts.

With respect to their experiences at work, women in non-traditional occupations were more likely to report that they had experienced sexual discrimination than were women in traditional occupations. However, the data suggest that such perceptions may reflect a greater consciousness of a "minority status" than actual discrimination. Almost all of the married women in our sample were concerned about the potentially conflicting demands of family and work. However, professional women seem to have the greatest number of alternatives in dealing with these demands. The problems are greatest for those women who work because they need the money and who work in occupations which are inflexible.

The central theme of the data suggests clearly that women's early socialization experiences are important in the development of professional or job orientations but less important in the selection of a traditional or nontraditional occupation. In the most general terms, the research suggests that supply factors are important in constraining women's occupational behavior. However, the data also lead us to believe that as more male dominated occupations are "opened up" to women, there will be women--even traditional women--to take the positions.

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