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29th Jan 2023

British men quit their jobs ‘when too many women join their departments’


Men were twice as likely to quit if 75% of employees at their work were women

British men quit their jobs when women join their departments, suggests a new study.

Men were less likely to stay in their jobs when more women joined the profession, according to the findings.

University of Zurich researchers believe this could explain why some professions that were once dominated by men are now filled largely by women.

Simulation studies using British workforce data compared what happens if 25 percent of a workforce is taken up by new female employees and then if the number is 75 percent.

When 75 percent of the employees became female, the men were twice as likely to leave the job.

Another simulation tested what would happen if men and women paid no attention to the gender makeup of the office and based their decisions to stay or quit on wage, work-hours and skill use.

They found it would reduce the gender-split by 28 percent.

The team suggested this could indicate that employees were consciously or unconsciously avoiding working in mixed-gender occupations.

They added the gender stereotypes around what jobs suit men and what jobs fit women might be a consequence of people wanting to stick together in a gender majority.

Professor Per Block, working in sociology at the University of Zurich, said: “When comparing two hypothetical occupations that are identical in all occupational characteristics and only differ in the share of female inflow (25% vs. 75%), the analysis shows that men are twice as likely to leave the feminising occupation.

“Nurse as an occupation tends to be described with stereotypically female attributes, such as social and caring. If the majority of nurses were men, we might use entirely different words to describe the occupation, for example, requiring authority or being physically demanding.”

Despite recent steps towards gender equality most women and men still work in different occupations.

For example, women hold a lot of care jobs while men dominate blue-collar jobs.

Previously the split was put down to three main factors: men have advantages accessing higher status jobs, gender stereotypes can guide career paths, and the division of labour in heterosexual couples often pushes women towards jobs compatible with family life.

Prior to the study the team noticed some jobs were once dominated by men but swung towards women, for example women now dominate pharmacy jobs once primarily occupied by men.

The phenomenon was not properly explained, in part because the gender shift happened despite there being little difference in the skills required or work conditions in a pharmacy.

Researchers used network science to analyse what occupations employees moved to after they quit.

The team, whose findings were published in the journal Social Networks, concluded that men choose to leave their jobs and specialisations when more women join the role.

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