STUMP » Articles » Number-Crunching: How Many People are in Sex-Biased Occupations? » 16 November 2014, 07:11

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Number-Crunching: How Many People are in Sex-Biased Occupations?  


16 November 2014, 07:11

SPOILER ALERT: Lots and lots. As in: more than a majority.

After being distracted by a tacky shirt, I thought for a moment: how many people in the U.S. work in occupations that are lopsided re: sex ratios?

As per my post, Fight the Patriarchy! Work More! Study Engineering!, it looks like women in STEM occupations has topped out at about 30% of STEM occupations being filled by females. That sounds like less of an injustice, when you find out that the workforce overall is about only 44% female.

I’m using as my source of data this table from the Current Population Survey of 2013 – this gives number of people by occupation. Now, I don’t want to get into tetchy details right now (I have multiple occupations myself), but if we use this data, we can find out some interesting things.

There is a hierarchical structure to that table, with various subtotals, so I filtered the table out to just the bottom-level. You can get my spreadsheet here, via Google docs.

So I calculated a sex ratio for each occupation and did a histogram as to the distribution of workers by the sex ratio (using %age of females in the occupation), and one sees a very interesting pattern:

That’s quite an odd distribution.

Here is just the part for men:

Look at that odd spike for occupations where less than 5% are women. We’ll come back to that in a moment.

And just the part for women:

I forced all three graphs to have the same vertical scale for easier comparison. We don’t have a comparable spike in female-dominated occupations, but one does notice that quite a few women work in occupations that are more than 80% female.

So just how many people work in occupations that are dominated by one sex?

Let’s do something simpler: what percentage of each sex work in an occupation that their sex dominates?

For men, about 80% work in occupations where more than half the occupation is men.

For women, about 70% work in occupations where more than half the occupation is women.

Now let’s concentrate on extremes:

For men, over 40% work in occupations where more than 80% are men.

For women, almost 40% work in occupations where more than 80% are women.

Mind you, this doesn’t mean people are working in single-sex workplaces — I believe most people work with people in other occupations — but it is interesting to see how lopsided most occupations are.

Is this a problem that needs to be solved?

Well, let me show you what the largest of these sex-dominated occupations are, by taking the largest occupations in these sex-dominated fields.

Top male-dominated occupations:

  • Driver/sales workers and truck drivers, 2.59 million workers, 96% male
  • Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers, hand, 1.28 million workers, 83%
  • Construction laborers, 1.09 million workers, 97%
  • Software developers, applications and systems software, 1.05 million workers, 80%
  • Grounds maintenance workers, 800K workers, 96%
  • Carpenters, 710K workers, 99%
  • Police and sheriff’s patrol officers, 680K workers, 87%
  • First-line supervisors of production and operating workers, 680K workers, 81%
  • Automotive service technicians and mechanics, 670K workers, 98%
  • Electricians, 640K workers, 98%

Other top heavily male occupations are things such as firefighters, construction managers, and agricultural workers.

Of the occupations above, the only one we hear bitchery about is software development.

Top female-dominated occupations:

  • Elementary and middle school teachers, 2.67 million workers, 20% male
  • Registered nurses, 2.28 million workers, 11%
  • Secretaries and administrative assistants, 2.23 million, 5%
  • Nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides, 1.39 million, 13%
  • Receptionists and information clerks, 900K workers, 8%
  • Office clerks, general, 850K, 14%
  • Bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks, 800K, 13%
  • Maids and housekeeping cleaners, 730K, 17%
  • Personal care aides, 660K, 18%
  • Teacher assistants, 570K, 12%
  • Preschool and kindergarten teachers, 500K, 2%

Others on the list: special education teachers, bank tellers, and medical assistants. Even though boys are half the school population, they’re dominated by females in the lower grades. But we don’t get much bitchery about that, do we?

So every time you hear bitchery about rocket scientists, TV producers, CEOs, and other very small occupations, remember these lists.

When we’re talking about sex-biased occupations, it’s mainly stuff like truck drivers and preschool teachers.