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A waitress taking an order.

A pink-collar worker is employed in a job that is traditionally considered to be women's work. The term arose to distinguish these female-orientated jobs from the blue-collar worker, a worker in manual labor, and the white-collar worker, a professional or educated worker in largely office positions.

Contents

Typical occupations

These "pink-collar" careers did not require as much professional training as white-collar professions, nor did they carry equal pay or prestige. These were areas of employment that men rarely, if ever, employed.

Pink collar occupations include:

Background

Traditionally, women were completely responsible for the running of the household and were the glue that held the family together. [1] The downside to this role was that the woman became more dependent on a happy marriage for financial security; widowed or divorced these women struggled to support themselves and their children. [2]

Women began to develop more opportunities when they moved into the paid workplace, primarily thought of as a male domain. In the twentieth century women aimed to be treated like the equals of their male counterparts. In 1920 American women won the right to vote, marking a turning point in their roles in life. [3]

Many single women traveled to cities like New York where they found work in factories and sweatshops, working for low pay operating sewing machines, sorting feathers, rolling tobacco and so on.[4]

These factories were dirty, noisy, dark and dangerous. Workers frequently breathed dangerous fumes and worked with flammable materials.[5] Women lost fingers and hands in accidents because in order to save money they were required to clean and adjust the machines while they were running. [6] Unfortunately, most women who worked in the factories did not earn enough money to live on and lived in poverty.

Throughout the twentieth century certain women helped change women’s roles in America. Emily Balch, Jane Addams, and Lillian Wald are among the most notable. [7] They created settlement houses and launched missions in crowded, unsanitary neighborhoods where immigrants lived.[8] Balch, Addams, and Wald offered social services to the women in children often inviting them into their homes and classrooms.[9]

Women took on leadership roles starting in the church. Women became involved with the church activities, a few went on to become president of the societies. The women who joined these societies worked with their members some of whom were full-time teachers, nurses, missionaries, and social workers to accomplish their leadership tasks and make a difference.[10] The Association for the Sociology of Religion was the first to elect a woman president in 1938. [11]

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During World Wars One and Two

A U.S. Navy recruiting poster from World War II, showing an officer of the Navy WAVES before a ship.

World War I was the beginning of "pink-collar jobs" as the military needed personnel to type letters, answer phones and perform other tasks. One thousand women worked for the US Navy as stenographers, clerks, and telephone operators.[12]

The field of nursing also became "feminized", becoming an acceptable profession for women. In 1917, Louisa Lee Schuyler opened the Bellevue School of Nursing, the first to train women as professional nurses.[13] After completing their training some female nurses worked in hospitals, but most worked in field tents.

World War II was the first time women began to work in high-paying industrial jobs that had been dominated by men. They worked in factories and some even joined the armed forces. These women were segregated from men in separate groups. Although women joined the work force they still encountered discrimination in and out of the work place until antidiscrimination laws were put into place during the 1960s.[14]

Women who joined the armed forces participated in every military field except combat. One thousand female pilots joined the women’s air force, one hundred and forty thousand women joined the women’s army corps and one hundred thousand women joined the navy as nurses, administrative, clerical and communications staff.[15]

Two million women took office jobs during the war which offered job security because they had become "feminized".[16]

Life in the working world

The graph above shows the increase in women graduating high school and attending college, while there is a decrease in high school dropouts.

A typical job sought by working women was that of a telephone operator or Hello Girl. The workers would sit on stools facing a wall with hundreds of outlets and tiny blinking lights; they had to work quickly when a light flashed plugging the cord into the proper outlet. Despite the hassles many women wanted this job because it paid five dollars a week and provided a rest lounge for the employees to take a break.[17]

Female secretaries were also popular; taught to be efficient, tough and hardworking, but appear soft, accommodating and subservient.[18] They were instructed to be the protector and partner to their boss behind closed doors and a helpmate in public. An ambitious woman was considered dangerous and needed re-education to be put back in her “rightful place.” These women were encouraged to go to charm schools and express their personality through fashion instead of furthering their education.[18]

Social work became a female dominated profession in the 1930s, emphasizing a group professional identity and the casework method. [19] Social workers gave crucial expertise for the expansion of federal, state and local government, as well as services to meet the needs of the Depression.[19]

Teachers in primary and secondary schools remained female, although as the war progressed women began to move on to better employment and higher salaries.[20] In 1940 teaching positions paid less than fifteen hundred dollars a year and fell to eight hundred in rural areas.[20]

Female scientists found it hard to gain appointments at universities; they were forced to take positions in high schools, state or women’s colleges, governmental agencies and alternative institutions such as libraries or museums.[21] Women who took jobs at such places often did clerical duties and though some held professional positions, these boundaries were blurred. [21]

Women were hired as librarians who had been professionalized and feminized, in 1920 women accounted for eighty-eight percent of all librarians in the United States.[22]

Two-thirds of the American Geographical Society's employees were women. Throughout the history of AGS women were librarians, editorial personal in the publishing programs, secretaries, research editors, copy editors, proofreaders, research assistants and sales staff. These women came with credentials from well-known colleges and universities and many of were overqualified for their positions,but later were promoted to more prestigious positions.

Although the female employees did not receive equal wages they did get sabbaticals to attend universities to further their education and to travel for their professions all at the cost of the Society.[23] Male co-workers portrayed their women counterparts as dedicated and self-effacing. [24] Those women working managerial and library or museums positions made an impact on women in the work force, but still encountered discrimination when they tried to advance.

In the 1940s clerical work expanded to occupy the largest number of women employees, this field diversified as it moved into commercial service.[25] The average worker in the 1940s was over thirty-five and married and needed to work to keep their families afloat.[26]

During the 1950s women were taught that marriage and domesticity were more important than a career. Most women followed this path because of the uncertainty of the post war years. [27] The suburban housewife was encouraged to have hobbies like bread making and sewing. The 1950s housewife was in conflict between being “just a housewife” because their upbringing taught them competition and achievement, many had furthered their education deriving a sense of self-worth. [28]

Pay

A single woman working in a factory in the early twentieth century earned less than eight dollars a week and if the woman was absent from work or late, their employer penalized them by subtracting a few cents or sometimes paying them nothing.[17] These women would live in boarding houses costing a $1.50 a week, waking at five-thirty in the morning to start their ten-hour work day.

When women entered the paid workforce in the 1920s they were paid less than men because employers thought the jobs women occupied were temporary. Employers also paid women less than men because they believed in the “Pin Money Theory” which said that women’s earnings were secondary to that of their male counterparts.

Women took typical jobs that were “considerably less substantial then their husband’s in terms of both the average number of hours worked per week as well as continuity over time.” [29] However, working women still experienced stress and overload because they were still responsible for the majority of the housework and taking care of the children. This left women isolated and subjected them to their husband’s control. [29]

In the early 1900s women’s pay was one dollar to three dollars a week and much of that went to living expenses.[30] In the 1900s female tobacco strippers earned five dollars a week, half of what their male coworkers made and seamstresses made six to seven dollars a week compared to a cutter’s salary of sixteen dollars. [31]

The early 1900s women working in factories were paid by the piece, not receiving a fixed weekly wage. [32] Those that were pinching pennies pushed themselves to produce more product so that they earned more money. [33]

The women who earned enough to live on found it impossible to keep her salary rate from being reduced because bosses often made “mistakes” in computing a worker’s piece rate. [34] Women who received this kind of treatment did not disagree for fear of losing their jobs. Employers would frequently deducted pay for work they deemed imperfect and for simply trying to lighten the mood by laughing or talking while they worked. [35]

In 1937 a woman’s average yearly salary was five hundred and twenty-five dollars compared to a man’s salary of one thousand twenty-seven dollars.[31] Women today only earn seventy percent of what men do regardless of their education. [36]

In the 1940s two thirds of the women who were in the labor force suffered a decrease in earnings; the average weekly paychecks fell from fifty dollars to thirty-seven dollars.[36]

During the 1970s and 1980s women began to fight for equality, they fought against discrimination in jobs where women worked and the educational institutions that would lead to those jobs. [36]

In 1973 the average salaries for women were fifty-seven percent compared to that of men’s, the earnings gap between men and women was especially noticeable in pink-collar jobs where the largest number of women were employed.[37] Women were given routine, less responsible jobs available and often with a lower pay than men. These jobs were monotonous and mechanical often with assembly-line procedures. [38]

Education

The graph above shows in what occupations women are a high percentage of the workforce.
The graph above shows the increase of women participating in the workforce.

Women entering the workforce had difficulty finding a satisfactory job without references or an education.[39] However, opportunities for higher education expanded as women were admitted to all male schools like the U.S. Military Academics and Ivy League strongholds. [40] Education became a way for society to shape women into its ideal housewife, in the 1950s authorities and educators encouraged college because they found new value in vocational training for domesticity.[41] College prepared women for future roles, while men and women were taught together they were groomed for different paths after they graduated. [42] Education started out as a way to teach women how to be a good wife, but it also allowed them to broaden their minds because of it women earned better jobs and salaries.

Being educated was an expectation for women entering the paying workforce even though male equivalents did not need a high school diploma. [43] While in college a woman would experience extracurricular activities like a sorority that offered a separate space for the woman to practice types of social service work that was expected from her. [44]

Not all of a woman’s education was done in the classroom, but rather among their peers through “dating.” No longer did men and women have to be supervised when alone together. Dating allowed men and women to practice the paired activities that would later become a way of life. [44]

Recent developments

In most recent years, the pink collar worker is rarely uneducated or without some form of training. At the very least, pink collar workers are required to educate themselves through training seminars, conferences or classes to preserve their economic edge in their field and to continue to strive for advancement in their careers.

More women than ever are attending college and receiving a higher education in order to further their careers. In most industries careers and cultures, women in the workforce had in the past been given lesser paying jobs and limited career opportunities. This was true when women entered the blue collar factory workforce during the Industrial Revolution; in hospitals, where they were traditionally limited to the role of nurses; and in the teaching profession where the teaching of children frequently held little prestige.

This pattern was repeated when significant numbers of women began to enter the office workforce in the early twentieth century. Since then, these positions that held little prestige before are now some of the highest earning jobs in the market today and require copious amounts of education in preparation. Several factors played into the rise of the pink collar sector.

Most importantly, women in industrialized nations began to actively seek their own income rather than relying on men to support them. Often kept out of traditional blue and white collar jobs by physical requirements and prejudice, many women found ways to take their domestic skills into the world of paid work. But despite the expansion in employment that women had, women were still the secondary earners in their household during the 1950s to the 1970s and still see a significant difference in the income bracket between men and women.

Pink collar positions have spread rapidly as more and more women enter the workforce. Greater wealth in industrialized nations also means that more money is spent on the services provided by pink collar positions. During the twentieth century, with some ups and downs within the culture and different degrees of change in different countries, there has been less separation between men's and women's jobs. Not only this, but as women are becoming more educated, more employment opportunities have become available that once were out of reach for most women.

One of the great victories of second-wave feminism was the breakdown of much of the remaining formal institutionalization of these gender roles in the workplace. For example, in 1972, The New York Times stopped running separate "Help Wanted — Male" and "Help Wanted — Female" advertisements. Increasingly, women have opportunities in traditionally male white-collar jobs and men have opportunities in traditionally female pink-collar jobs.

The percentage of female workers in the workforce is also on the rise as well. According to the U.S Census Bureau’s “Measuring 50 Years of Economic Change”, since the late 1960’s, the levels of full-time, year-round workers that are women rose from the, then, 29 percent to 41 percent.[45] In 2000, it was newly reported that those levels had once again risen and that the portion of the labor force that consisted of women was at an all time high of 57.5 percent.[46] A contributing factor of this is the actuality that more women are taking on more jobs outside of the traditional pink collar worker.

Women Unions and organizations

New women’s organizations sprouted up working to reform and protect women in the work place. The General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) was the largest and most prestigious organization; the members were conservative middle-class housewives.[47] The International Ladies Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) was formed after women shirtwaist makers went on strike in New York City in 1909. [48] It started as a small walkout, with a handful of members from one shop and grew to a force of ten of thousands, changing the course of the labor movement forever. [48] In 1910 women allied themselves with the Progressive Party who sought to reform social issues.

Another organization that grew out of women in the workforce was the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor. The Women’s Bureau regulated conditions for women employees. As female labor became a crucial part of the economy, efforts by the Women’s Bureau increased. The Bureau pushed for employers to take advantage of “women-power” and persuaded women to enter the employment market.[49]

In 1913 the ILGWU signed the well-known “protocol in the Dress and Waist Industry” which was the first contract between labor and management settled by outside negotiators.[50] The contract formalized the trade’s division of labor by gender.[51]

Another win for women came in 1921 when congress passed the Sheppard-Towner Act. [52] The act was a welfare measure intended to reduce infant and maternal mortality; it was the first federally funded healthcare act. The Sheppard-Towner Act provided federal funds to establish health centers for prenatal and child care. [53] Expectant mothers and children could receive health checkups and obtain advice about certain health issues.[54]

In 1963 the Equal Pay Act was passed making it the first federal law against sex discrimination, equal pay for equal work, and made employers hire women workers if they qualified from the start. [55]

Unions also became a major outlet for women to fight against the unfair treatment they experienced. Women who joined these types of unions stayed before and after work to talk about the benefits of the union, collect dues, obtain charters, and form bargaining committees. [48]

The National Recovery Administration (NRA) was approved in May 1933, the NRA negotiated codes designed to rekindle production.[56] It raised wages, shortened workers’ hours and increased employment for the first time maximizing hour and minimizing wage provisions benefiting female workers.[57] The NRA had its flaws however, it only covered half of the women in the workforce particularly manufacturing and trade. [58] The NRA regulated working conditions only for women with a job and did not offer any relief for the two million unemployed women who desperately needed it. [59]

The 1930s proved successful for women in the workplace thanks to federal relief programs and the growth of unions. For the first time women were not completely dependent on themselves, in 1933 the federal government expanded in its responsibility to female workers. In 1938 the Fair Labor Standards Act grew out of several successful strikes. Two million women joined the workforce during the depression in spite of public opinion. [60]

Conclusion

The roles of women began changing during the twentieth century and have kept evolving throughout the decades. In 1988 women made up forty-four percent of the managerial and executive work force while balancing demanding roles outside of work.[61]

Seventy percent of these women are married and sixty-two percent have children and hold high-level positions in prestigious companies. [61] Women who are mothers and wives excel with managerial tasks because they plan and prioritize multiple tasks at home. Most women who juggle duties at home are efficient, focused and organized at work.[62]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Susan Ware, Holding Their Own (Boston, MA: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982), 17.
  2. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 333.
  3. ^ Claudeen Cline Naffziger et al,. “Development of Sex Role Stereotypes, The Family Coordinator 256, no. 3(1974), http://www.jstor.org/stable/582762
  4. ^ Catherine Gourley, Gibson Girls and Suffragists: Perceptions of Women from 1900 to 1918 (Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2008), 103.
  5. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 239.
  6. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 239.
  7. ^ Catherine Gourley, Gibson Girls and Suffragists: Perceptions of Women from 1900 to 1918 (Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2008), 99.
  8. ^ Catherine Gourley, Gibson Girls and Suffragists: Perceptions of Women from 1900 to 1918 (Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2008), 99.
  9. ^ Catherine Gourley, Gibson Girls and Suffragists: Perceptions of Women from 1900 to 1918 (Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2008), 99.
  10. ^ Ruth A. Wallace,. “Women and Religion: The Transformation of Leadership Roles,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 502 no.4 (2000), http://www.jstor.org/stable/1388082.
  11. ^ Ruth A. Wallace,. “Women and Religion: The Transformation of Leadership Roles,” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 500 no.4 (2000), http://www.jstor.org/stable/1388082.
  12. ^ Gourley, Catherine (2008). Gibson Girls and Suffragists: Perceptions of Women from 1900 to 1918. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books. pp. 119.  
  13. ^ Catherine Gourley, Gibson Girls and Suffragists: Perceptions of Women from 1900 to 1918. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books. 2008. pp. 123.  
  14. ^ Stoper, Emily (1991). "Women’s Work, Women’s Movement: Taking Stock". Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 151 (515). http:///www.jstor.org/stable/1046935.  
  15. ^ May, Elaine Tyler (1994). Pushing the Limits. New York: Oxford University. pp. 41.  
  16. ^ Hartmann, Susan M. (1982). The Home Front and Beyond. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co.. pp. 88.  
  17. ^ a b Catherine Gourley, Gibson Girls and Suffragists: Perceptions of Women from 1900 to 1918 (Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2008), 105.
  18. ^ a b Margaret C. Rung,. “Paternalism and Pink Collar: Gender and Federal Employee Relations,1941-50,” The Business History Review 399 no.3 (1997),http://www.jstor.org/stable/3116078.
  19. ^ a b Susan Ware, Holding Their Own (Boston, MA: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982), 74.
  20. ^ a b Susan Ware, Holding Their Own (Boston, MA: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982), 102.
  21. ^ a b Janice Monk., “Women’s Worlds at the American Geographical Society,” Geographical Review 237 no.2 (2003),http://www.jstor.org/stable/30033908.
  22. ^ Janice Monk., “Women’s Worlds at the American Geographical Society,” Geographical Review 241 no.2 (2003),http://www.jstor.org/stable/30033908.
  23. ^ Janice Monk., “Women’s Worlds at the American Geographical Society,” Geographical Review 244 no.2 (2003),http://www.jstor.org/stable/30033908.
  24. ^ Janice Monk., “Women’s Worlds at the American Geographical Society,” Geographical Review 246 no.2 (2003),http://www.jstor.org/stable/30033908.
  25. ^ Susan M. Hartmann, The Home Front and Beyond (Boston, MA: G.K. Hall &Co., 1982), 94.
  26. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 314
  27. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 326
  28. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 332
  29. ^ a b Hilary Silver., “Housework and Domestic Work,” Sociological Forum 182 no.2 (1993),http://www.jstor.org/stable/684634.
  30. ^ Jules Archer, Breaking Barriers (New York: The Penguin Group, 1991), 27.
  31. ^ a b Susan Ware, Holding Their Own (Boston, MA: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982), 27.
  32. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 236-237.
  33. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 236-237.
  34. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 240.
  35. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 240.
  36. ^ a b c Emily Stoper. “Women’s Work, Women’s Movement: Taking Stock,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 152, no.515 (1991),http:///www.jstor.org/stable/1046935.
  37. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 364.
  38. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 304.
  39. ^ Catherine Gourley, Gibson Girls and Suffragists: Perceptions of Women from 1900 to 1918 (Minneapolis, MN: Twenty-First Century Books, 2008), 104.
  40. ^ Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1984), 525.
  41. ^ Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1984), 500.
  42. ^ Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1984), 405.
  43. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 316.
  44. ^ a b Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1984), 404.
  45. ^ Jones, Arthur; Smith, Shirley. Measuring 50 Years of Economic Change. April 12, 2001
  46. ^ Georgia Department of Labor, Workforce Information & Analysis, Atlanta GA. "Dimensions — Measuring Georgia's Workforce". Volume XXVIII, Number 10, October 2002.
  47. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 219.
  48. ^ a b c Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 249.
  49. ^ Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1984), 505.
  50. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 253.
  51. ^ Carol Humowitz and Michelle Weissman, A History of Women in America (New York: Anti- Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, 1978), 253.
  52. ^ Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1984), 385.
  53. ^ Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1984), 385.
  54. ^ Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1984), 385.
  55. ^ Nancy Woloch, Women and the American Experience (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1984), 507.
  56. ^ Susan Ware, Holding Their Own (Boston, MA: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982), 38
  57. ^ Susan Ware, Holding Their Own (Boston, MA: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982), 38
  58. ^ Susan Ware, Holding Their Own (Boston, MA: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982), 38
  59. ^ Susan Ware, Holding Their Own (Boston, MA: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982), 39
  60. ^ Susan Ware, Holding Their Own (Boston, MA: G.K. Hall & Co., 1982), 49
  61. ^ a b Marian N. Ruderman et al., “Benefits of Multiple Roles for Managerial Women,” The Academy of Management Journal 369 no.2 (2002), http://www.jstor.org/stable/3069352.
  62. ^ Marian N. Ruderman et al., “Benefits of Multiple Roles for Managerial Women,” The Academy of Management Journal 374 no.2 (2002), http://www.jstor.org/stable/3069352.

References


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