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The Self-Expressive Edge of Occupational Sex Segregation

Erin A. Cech
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 119, No. 3 (November 2013), pp. 747-789
DOI: 10.1086/673969
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/673969
Page Count: 43
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The Self-Expressive Edge of Occupational Sex Segregation
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Abstract

Recent gender scholarship speculates that occupational sex segregation is reproduced in large part through the gendered, self-expressive career decisions of men and women. This article examines the effects of college students’ expression of their self-conceptions on their likelihood of entering occupations with a high or low proportion of women and theorizes the consequences of this mechanism for gender inequality. The author uses unique longitudinal data on students from four U.S. colleges to examine how the gender composition of students’ field at career launch is influenced by their earlier self-conceptions. Students with emotional, unsystematic, or people-oriented self-conceptions enter fields that are more “female,” even net of their cultural gender beliefs. Results suggest that cultural ideals of self-expression reinforce occupational sex segregation by converting gender-stereotypical self-conceptions into self-expressive career choices. The discussion section broadens this theoretical framework for understanding the role of self-expression in occupational sex segregation and notes the difficulty of addressing this mechanism through social or policy actions.

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