A new book co-edited by the Centre for Work, Organisation and Wellbeing’s Glenda Strachan, foundation member Kaye Broadbent and Geraldine Healy of Queen Mary University of London is shining a new light on the issues of gender and professions in the 21st century.
“The professions in Australia and internationally traditionally encompassed occupations which were male only, so things like medicine and law,” Professor Strachan said.
“We wanted to look at a range of professions in a range of locations and see how women were fairing when working in these professions.”
According to Strachan, the book Gender and the Professions: International and Contemporary Perspectives was prompted by previous research the co-editors was a lack of secure employment within a number of these professions with many relying on contracts or hourly wage.
“For example, the chapter set in Spain on architects shows if they can get a job it’s only on contract and how vulnerable they were in an economic downturn in the 2000’s,” Strachan said.
“There’s a range of papers that show that’s now a feature in professions, and we often say perhaps women are more vulnerable there because they’re newer entrants and they are lower levels in the profession, so you need to look at those issues through a gendered lens.”
The book also examines the idea that people take on a professional identity and how that may make a future change in professional dynamics and rules difficult for women.
“There is a very interesting chapter on Clergy Women in the UK and how they will accept a great deal of gender discrimination because of their calling as a religious person and worker,” said Strachan.
“Although that was an extreme example that threads through a lot of the other stories and in a way that almost makes the acceptance of professional norms quite hard.”
“The women who reach more senior positions in these professions have had to have inculcated those norms, so I think there is a question to change some of those norms that might be discriminatory and place women in difficult situations is very difficult when the people at the top have to conform.”
Aimed at researchers, academics and policymakers, Strachan hopes that the book will provide new insights on the experiences of women in professions.
“I think that numbers of professions have a large number of women and people think oh the problem is over, or there is no problem with gender equity in these areas, but there still are because men hold a lot of the senior positions and there are still issues there,” Strachan said.
“There are issues about equity for men and women across the professions, whether they be male dominated or not.”
Professor Glenda Strachan is a member of the Centre for Work, Organisation and wellbeing and her research expertise includes Work and Careers in Australian Universities, Managing diversity and equal opportunities, Women and work, Historical and contemporary studies of work, Changing employment practices and human resource issues such as retention os staff.