The paradoxical processes of feminisation in the professions: the case of established, aspiring and semi-professions

Bolton, Sharon and Muzio, G D (2005) The paradoxical processes of feminisation in the professions: the case of established, aspiring and semi-professions. Working Paper. The Department of Organisation, Work and Technology, Lancaster University.

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The past decade has seen increasing claims concerning the feminisation of labour markets with particular attention being paid to certain sectors and professions. The numerical dominance of women in the workplace and a renewed interest in the 'soft skills' associated with the feminine has led to a relatively unchallenged prediction that women and 'women's ways' will be one of the major influences on work in the 21st century, with particular impact on the professions and areas of work that typically exclude women, especially in the higher ranks. This paper seeks to challenge these predictions and to explore the associated assumptions linked with the feminisation of work. It will do this by focusing on three professional groups: law, teaching and management. The three chosen professional groups represent various forms of professionalism and differing degrees of feminisation. Law is clearly an established profession; traditionally male and middle-class it claims to be enduring something of a feminisation crisis. Teaching has long been recognised as a semi-profession; female dominated with an associated public sector vocationalism, it continues to struggle to be accepted as a professional group. And management can be classed as an aspiring profession where increasing numbers of women (notably in the lower and middle ranks) are seen to bring the necessary people skills that will gain this particular occupational group the reputation as major contributors to success within the workings of a vigorous but 'soft' capitalism. The established, semi and aspiring professions of law, teaching and management offer very different scenarios of professionalisation and the place of women within the enactment of such developments. They do, however, all have a common and recurrent theme - a continual process of masculinisation. The accepted construct of professionalism has been forged in historical processes that rely on cultural conceptions of masculinity: individualistic, competitive and predictable. Such an emphas

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11 Jul 2011 21:12
Last Modified:
12 Sep 2023 04:17