[Review] Still a Man's World: Men in ‘Women's Professions’ by Christine L. Williams

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
James V. Carmichael, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/

Abstract: Here Christine Williams broadens themes developed in Gender Differences At Work: Women and Men in Non-Traditional Occupations (Berkeley: University of California, 1989), a comparison between the effects on male nurses and female marines of working in "gendered occupations," to four professions traditionally allied by reason of similarities in their historical development and in their gender composition (nursing, social work, elementary school teaching, and librarianship), and breaks new ground in feminist analysis. Her interviews with seventy- six males and twenty-three females in these professions in the metropolitan areas of San Francisco—Oakland, Phoenix, Boston, and Austin provide fascinating evidence of how both men and women are subtly socialized into professional gender ideology. She partially rejects Rosabeth Moss Kanter's theory of tokenism, since it fails to account for the fact that male tokens in female professions almost invariably are "elevated' by their token status" (8). Whereas women suffer from a "glass ceiling" effect in terms of advancement in male and female professions (with male librarians, for example, holding a disproportionate number of administrative positions relative to their numbers), even men who would prefer doing less prestigious jobs encounter a "glass escalator effect," that is, "inexorable pressures to move up" (12). Williams goes beyond descriptive analysis to ask how and, more importantly, why we are preoccupied with masculinity and the negative connotations of "women's work" (including male femininity and the gay stereotype), and her answers, while they may leave some readers unsettled, go far in mapping out the rituals and processes of male privilege in feminized professions: distancing behavior (putting down the profession, for instance, or refusing to participate in "female" rituals like preparing a casserole for a group gathering); disassociation (such as discounting the profession or blaming gays in their ranks for low professional status); or differential mentoring of male employees (in which female supervisors often complicitly participate). Williams concludes that most of the tokenism and discrimination that men encounter in these fields works to their advantage.

Additional Information

Libraries & Culture 32:397-99.
Language: English
Date: 1997
Feminized professions, Librarianship, Feminist analysis, Gender

Email this document to