Gender of Occupations

Essen, miners in the gallery (1961), photograph by Egon Steiner
“Worker and Kolkhoz Woman,” work created in 1937 by the sculptor Vera Muchina to represent the Soviet Union at the International Exhibition of Paris. The sculpture of a woman wielding a sickle and a man wielding a hammer symbolizes the two branches of the proletariat in the form of peasants and workers, and also represents men and women, the two foundations of society, on equal footing. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The naturalization of feminine and masculine qualities, which was used for the gendered division of occupations, intensified during the nineteenth century. The occupations of men were often based on physical strength, or the exercise of high public office and professions involving knowledge and power, whereas the occupations of women were more connected to dexterity and the fields of care and education. Transgression of the gendered occupational order has led to many professional “firsts” among women since the late nineteenth century, as well as to a few “firsts” among men in the early twenty-first century. Their history is closely connected to recognition of rights granted to women as well as progress towards professional equality, without however leading to equal pay.