Since the 1960s, the United States has seen a large increase in the number of women who have entered the workforce due to increased access to education and opportunities.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of women in the workforce has jumped from 33.9 percent in 1950 to 59.0 percent in 2000. Despite the shift, gendered occupational segregation is still present in the United States workforce. Gendered occupational segregation describes work fields in terms of gender, with some being more male-dominated and other more female-dominated.
For women who pursue male-dominated fields, the experience can be alienating and stressful. Dr. Katie Lawson is a Psychology professor at Ball State University. She plans to uncover the barriers and stressors faced by women pursuing male-dominated majors by examining their daily experiences with a $14,850 Aspire Junior Faculty grant. Male-dominated is defined as having two-thirds or more of people in the major being men, “We are hoping to learn more about what’s going on in their daily lives and better understand what are some areas where things can be difficult,” Lawson said. The professor is also hoping to learn in what ways women are being supported to keep them in mostly male fields.
Lawson and her team will be using Experience Sampling Methodology (ESM), specifically a Direct Signal survey system, to track these experiences. Participants take a survey via text message throughout the day.
“We find that women tend to not pursue these male-dominated majors. When they do, they tend to drop out, so there’s more research being published that’s trying to convince women to turn to these fields like science, technology, engineering, and math.”
The leaky pipeline
When women drop out of these male-dominated fields, it is called the “leaky pipeline.” Because women tend to drop out at many different places in life, from kindergarten to the beginning of their career, there isn’t anything pinpointing of where the leaky pipeline begins.
According to Lawson, gender segregation is common in the U.S. job force and can have implications for how much money women are making, their power in society, and the choices made that directly affect them.
Lawson’s future research
Lawson hopes to explore this topic on other U.S. campuses with the support of external grant funding. In further studies, she hopes to have a more diverse perspective in terms of race and socioeconomic status.