Defining Jobs, the Gender Way

What image comes to your mind when I say the following words – a school teacher, an army officer, an app developer, an entrepreneur? Are you not guilty of imagining a female school teacher, a male army officer and also a male app developer? I am sure majority of you are! Ms. Indu Jain (Chairman Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd), Ms. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw (founder Chairman and MD, Biocon Limited), Ms. Indra Nooyi (CFO and President of PepsiCo), Ms. Punita Arora ( first female Vice Admiral of Indian Navy), Ms. Divya Ajith Kumar (first female to be selected for the ‘Sword of Honour’), Ms. Gunjan Saxena (first female Indian Air Force officer to fly in a combat zone.) – This list has many names ranging from varied professions which break the society’s notion of categorizing a job for a certain gender.

Nursing – like teaching – is among the occupation that economists call “pink-collared job,” or profession long dominated by women. While more and more men are donning the pink-collar and facing the social stigma associated with “women’s work,” numbers tell us that we have a long way to go when it comes to evening out representation in certain fields. Other occupations where women are highly concentrated include human resources manager, social worker etc.

Men in characteristically female-dominated occupations tend to value the social aspects of their career over financial rewards, says a study. “Men who work in typically female-dominated occupations value success in ways that goes beyond salary and promotion,” said one of the researchers Kazia Solowiej from University of Worcester in Britain. For the study, the researchers interviewed a total of 34 men including 15 primary school teachers and 19 university administrators. The interviews revealed that their definitions of career success included features other than pay and promotion such as building friendships with colleagues and flexible working that enabled time for family and social commitments. The study was presented at a conference of the British Psychological Society in Nottingham.

Nobody knows the scenario better than those who are a part of it or those who aspire to be in that scenario someday. Although there are a lot of professions which today are being gender defined, from here on in this post, I put forth the views of an army aspirant, an app developer and a school teacher about the skewed gender ratio in these professions.

Army Officer

I asked a male final year student (armed forces aspirant belonging to an army background) about their gender being the dominant one in armed forces. On the condition of anonymity, he came forward with the following reply, ‘the society has always perceived men as the stronger ones and that is why they are in majority in the forces’. He added that ‘women themselves believe in this. It’s not that males stop women from coming up and being a part of the forces. Women themselves don’t consider this as a job suitable for them’.  He conclusively stated that ‘the job is being done by those for whom it is meant and denied an imbalance in functioning due to the gender domination’. “There is no imbalance but I surely do believe that if more women are given core duties then it will have a positive impact on the efficiency of work being carried out in the forces,” he commented.

School Teacher

Mrs. Mamta Sharma has been working as a TGT in Apeejay School Pitampura for the past 17 years now. She has an overall experience of 23 years as a school teacher. On being asked the reason for the highly skewed ratio of males and females in school teaching, she says ‘societal perception of school teaching as a job is responsible for this to a very large extent’. According to her, there is a mindset that the job of a school teacher is a good option for girls because of proper timings. Girls can look after their families too with this job. When asked that how can this ratio be brought to a balance in future, she says that there should be a fixed number of males and females that are employed as teaching staff members. Say if you have 20 members in the teaching staff, schools should make sure that they at least employ 10 males as staff members. This will help balance the ratio. A balanced ratio according to her will also lead to a better ratio tomorrow in the profession. She explains that seeing almost equal number of males and females in the teaching staff will help break the perception of students that only girls can turn to teaching. If students will find male teachers in schools only then will they believe that even males can take up this profession. Only then will the male students consider it seriously as a profession.

App Developer

Ask him the name of the app which he developed and proudly comes the reply, “College Assistant. It’s available on Play Store.” He says he has three more apps “currently under construction”. Interestingly, he is still a final year computer science student of Jamia Hamdard University. He started with app developing so as to practice Java for future job purposes. When asked about the male dominated app development industry, he replies on the condition of anonymity that yes, the industry is totally male dominated. He further added, “In my batch in college there are a very limited number of girls since it’s a technical course and those which are there prefer going for masters and then getting into teaching.” According to him, this industry is male dominated only in our country and not overseas. He supports his point by saying that “when you search for projects online or post questions online regarding the problems you are facing while at work, you will find that there are a good number of females replying to your questions. Google has female tutors giving tech tutorials.” When asked what according to him is the reason for such low numbers of females in this field? He lists quite a few points. Firstly he says that the job of a software developer is extremely challenging. IT sector throws constant challenges which majority of the girls do not prefer facing because we bind them with the notion that their career isn’t the only thing they have to concentrate on. Software development requires 24*7 dedication and as you move up the ladder in the organization, more and more is expected from you. Another reason can be that if you decide to stay in India and work in this sector then you have to settle for comparatively lesser pay because there are only a handful companies which pay the deserved salary at lower posts in the ladder. It’s going to take ample number of years before you finally reach the 45k-50k pay bracket. On the other hand, this is the bracket you will begin with if you take up teaching at the university level. He concludes by saying that a lot needs to be done before we finally see a balanced gender ratio in this industry.

There can be nothing worse for a profession than to be associated with a gender tag like a “pink collar profession” or any such gender related tag. In the nutshell it can be said that if he wants to teach in a school, let him. If she wants to join the army, let her! If she wants to rule the business world, let her! If he wants to be in the nursing job, let him! Let interest and passion be the yardsticks. Not gender.

Paranjaya Mehra

Semester VI- A, VSJMC