Occupational segregation describes the phenomenon which sees women and men concentrated in different types and at different levels of activity and employment, with women being confined to a narrower range of occupations (horizontal segregation) than men, and to the lower grades of work (vertical segregation).
This situation rarely stems from direct discrimination through legislation limiting women's access to training and employment. The causes are usually to be found in practices based on stereotypes and prejudices concerning the roles of women and men in society.
Women, compared to men, are present in fewer occupations. They rarely enter the technical occupations and are under-represented at management level. Teaching and health professions, both caring related, are dominated by women. In teaching, women are concentrated in the pre-primary and primary schools and are under-represented at university level. In the health field, women are concentrated in nursing and less represented in the higher professions such as medical doctors. In commerce and services, women are over-represented among secretaries, salespersons or cleaning staff.
The working pattern of women is also different which, again, has a negative impact on their career prospects. In countries where flexible working hours and flexible working conditions are common, the large majority of part-time or other non-standard workers are women.
Policies aiming to reduce or eliminate segregation are described as "desegregation policies". Affirmative action policies are of particular importance in correcting occupational segregation. The shares of paid and unpaid work should be distributed more evenly. Measures which help men and women reconcile their work with household and family responsibilities are of particular importance.
→ see also Affirmative (positive) action, Human resources development, Nursing personnel and Teachers
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