Work is the refuge of people who have nothing better to do. : Oscar Wilde

Friday, June 29, 2007

Missing Information About Women's Employment

The following table was created using the Canadian 2001 Census. It summarises data about women employed in occupations in science and engineering. The first column represents women that work in health care (with either people or other species), the second column represents those that work with data and information in one way or another, and the third column the women who work in a variety of other areas of science and engineering.

Here's the main point of this blog item: Notice the numbers of occupations in each column. They imply that we know the 25 occupations that the 377,720 women do in the left column fairly specifically (if we look at the detailed figures in the census), and that we know the 45 occupations that the 103,130 women do in the right column. However, we have almost no idea what the three (3) occupations are in that middle column. We need to know what that 1/10th of a million people do!

A Suitable Job for a Woman?

This might actually be more important for women than it is for men. But what do I know since I'm a man?

In spite of the considerable efforts that have been expended to induce women to take up work as welders and ironworkers many have quietly decided otherwise for themselves and taken jobs in the areas of data processing and information systems, as the figures above indicate. These women are doing reasonably well out of their decisions too. We can see that their average income seems to be about $43,400, compared to the $39,600 for those who could not resist the traditional allure of healthcare.

Or maybe they hate the work or maybe it's not the money?
  • Women must often balance responsibilities at work with responsibilities in their homes and elsewhere. Jobs in hospitals as nurses, laboratory technologists and technicians and so on often involve shift work which conflicts with other obligations. In contrast, many or most jobs in information systems involve no shift work, or can even be done according to some flexible schedule.
  • Many individual women distinguish themselves with special abilities in verbal fluency, perceptual detail or fine motor skills (Weekes, 2005), all of which have importance in various areas of information processing, and at various income levels.
  • Plenty of role models exist already for women who want to enter these lines of work. The working atmospheres are usually far from being "masculine" or hostile to women.
  • It seems likely that investment in information systems will continue to grow. Furthermore, the field might not be subject to the kinds of upheavals that have been occurring in healthcare.
Perhaps most important of all women have been choosing these jobs in information careers for themselves.