CHICAGO -- A part-time cashier at a neighborhood store in Worcester, Mass., learned about her job when she was "walking the baby. I saw a sign for part-time help, filled out the application and got the job the next day." Cashier work is a female-dominated field.
Another resident found a full-time job as applications-support manager at a large computer manufacturer through a headhunter. She had been personnel director at a high-tech firm she had previously worked for. Her job is in a male-dominated profession.
The patterns of how a few women wind up in good jobs and most others in dead-end ones are not confined to Worcester residents. They are widespread.
"The segregation of women and men into distinctly different jobs is an important reason why women's position in the labor market is not on a par with men," said Susan Hanson, director of the graduate school of geography at Clark University in Worcester and president of the Association of American Geographers.
To find out the way women look for jobs affects occupational segregation, Hanson and Geraldine Pratt, associate professor of geography at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, interviewed a random sample of 336 employed women in Worcester ages 21 to 65. They ranged from waitresses, household workers and receptionists to doctors, scientists and managers.
Of the women, 89 percent were married or living with a partner; 69 percent had children at home. About two-thirds worked full-time.
"Salaries varied by gender composition of the job," said Hanson. "Women in female-dominated occupations averaged $8.70 an hour; women in male-dominated jobs averaged $11.70."
Conditions of employment are powerful determinants, Hanson found. Eighty-nine percent of the women said their present job is easy to get to; 86 percent report "good" hours and low transportation expenses; 84 percent say their job hours fit in with family responsibilities; and 82 percent say their job is close to home.