The career choice of women and men – a cliché? Why is it like that, and (how) can it be changed?

Governesses, paediatricians, construction workers, physicists – many professions in Germany are typically performed by women or by men. Little has changed in this regard in the last three decades. This is all the more astonishing because differences between men and women in many other areas such as labour force and educational participation or gender norms have become smaller or even disappeared. Even though career choice is related to different individual interests, it is closely linked to other inequalities in the labour market, such as income, career opportunities and aspects of reconciliation. Against this background, the causes and consequences of gender (un)typical career choices are repeatedly discussed in research and the media. Initiatives such as Girls Day or Boys Day aim to contribute to changes. However, significant breaks are not to be expected if one considers that girls and boys have already learned in kindergarten and primary school age from their social environment, the media and everyday observations, e.g. in the doctor’s office or on the construction site, which professions are typically male or female. But the course can also be set at a later age. Research results show, for example, that the comparatively few young people who can imagine a gender-atypical profession do not take it up after all. It is conceivable that they fear or have experienced rejection from family, friends, companies and the work environment. Examples such as the increasing number of female students in civil engineering over the last few years show that changes are possible in some areas.

So how cemented is the division of the labour market into male and female professions? And where do we have to start if we want to change something NOW? Which young women and men are encouraged in gender-atypical career choices or turn away from them? In this YES! project we want to go into depth: How important are career interests to young people? How do friends, parents or teachers view a gender-atypical career choice, and how do young people perceive these reactions? And do companies want their employee teams to become more diverse regarding gender? Where are the interfaces from these perspectives so that initiatives can be developed?

Must-Read – diesen Artikel sollte das Team vor dem Kick-Off gelesen haben: 

Hausmann, A. C., & Kleinert, C. (2014). Berufliche Segregation auf dem Arbeitsmarkt: Männer-und Frauendomänen kaum verändert. IAB-Kurzbericht, 9/2014.

Weitere Literatur:

Eberhard, V., Matthes, S., & Ulrich, J. G. (2015). The need for social approval and the choice of gender-typed occupations. Gender segregation in vocational education. Emerald Group Publishing Limited.

Kleinert, C., & Schels, B. (2020). Zurück zur Norm? Kompromissbildung zwischen geschlechtstypischen und -untypischen Berufsaspirationen, Bewerbungs- und Ausbildungsberufen. Kölner Zeitschrift für Soziologie und Sozialpsychologie, 72(1), 229–260.

Vicari, B., & Matthes, B. (2015). Berufswahl als Karriere-Sackgasse? Unterschiedliche Aufstiegschancen in Männer- und Frauenberufen. Frau geht vor, 2, 9–11.

Witte, N. (2020). Have Changes in Gender Segregation and Occupational Closure Contributed to Increasing Wage Inequality in Germany, 1992–2012? European Sociological Review, 36(2), 236–249

Scientific Partner:

IAB Institut für Arbeitsmarkt- und Berufsforschung

Betreuende Forschende

Brigitte Schels

Photo: Patrice Fuchs

Prof. Dr Brigitte Schels is a junior professor of labour market sociology at the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and a researcher at the Institute for Labour Market and Employment Research. She was a visiting professor at the University of Vienna. She researches social inequality and the transition from school to work. An important topic for her is the discrepancy between young people’s career goals and their realisation.

Basha Vicari

Dr. Basha Vicari is a project manager in the adult survey of the National Education Panel (NEPS) and a researcher in the research area „Education, Qualification and Employment Trajectories“ at the IAB. She studied social sciences at the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and did her doctorate on the importance of occupation for job changes. Her research focuses on occupational mobility, its conditions for success and its consequences for social inequality.