Molly Parker

Pink-collar fields deserve more respect

April 10, 2023

Women in female-dominated careers never seem to be viewed by the rest of society as the accomplished professionals they are.

Teachers are often stereotyped as glorified babysitters and nursing is usually depicted as an easier profession than being a doctor. These stereotypes appear to be rooted in undervaluing women in the workforce.

Pink-collar careers are those predominantly occupied by women, according to a Nov. 2, 2022 MasterClass article. These include teaching, nursing, social work, daycare professionals, flight attendants and beauticians, according to the article.

Pink-collar fields often work long hours in important careers for little pay and little recognition, and it’s time to give them the respect they deserve.

I often see stereotypes about teachers that belittle their work, saying things like, “it must be so nice to play with kids all day—your job must be so easy.”

However, teachers are balancing countless duties at once, not to mention the expectation of working after-contract hours unpaid. Teachers work an average of seven and a half hours of unpaid overtime per week, according to a Jan. 16 Bored Teachers article.

People in these careers work too hard to be degraded by those who don’t understand or don’t care about what goes into a day in their life.

As an elementary education major, I’ve already seen my fair share of comments devaluing the work of teachers. I have heard many times that teachers are lucky to get summer breaks—which are nice, don’t get me wrong—but those saying this often are not taking into consideration how much work teachers do all year long.

“Am I lucky that I work an extra 12-plus unpaid hours a week because my planning time is overtaken by meetings and paperwork?” said teacher Lauren Brown in a March 28 TikTok video.

Teachers deserve these breaks for their tireless hard work and dedication to their jobs. Our breaks are needed for us to survive in our careers—they are not just a lucky privilege.

Additionally, teachers, daycare workers and social workers are often expected to take on extra duties because they are in it “for the kids.”

These professions are overloaded with more duties than one can handle, but those in the field are constantly depicted as “having it easy” while simultaneously being made to work harder than they should have to.

I have often heard people say that these women chose these professions “for the heart,” so the money should not matter to them.

However, men in the same professions are much more likely to be compensated for their dedication. 

Female teachers make $2,200 less on average than male teachers, even when the data is controlled for teacher experience and school poverty, according to a March 13 Education Week article.

Additionally, male teachers are consistently paid more than their female coworkers. Male coaches earned $1,647 more than female coaches with similar characteristics, according to the article.

This is not just a teaching problem. Male registered nurses made $14,000 more per year than female RNs in 2021, according to the 2022 Nurse Salary Research Report.

Women in helping professions, or those that involve improving the quality of life in individuals, deserve the same treatment as their male counterparts and should be equally compensated for their work. Of course, the money isn’t everything, but it is just as much of a paid job for women as it is for men, and it should be treated as such.

The average job salary tends to decrease when women begin to dominate a career field, according to a March 18, 2016 New York Times article. For example, as design became female-dominated, the wages of designers fell by 34%, according to the article.

Clearly, the work of women is undervalued no matter the field, and pink-collar fields are no stranger to this phenomenon.

The work that pink-collar professionals do in helping careers is some of the most important work that our society could not survive without.

Nurses undertake many duties throughout their day, such as performing exams, checking vitals, administering medications and coordinating patient care, according to the American Nurses Association. Without nurses to complete these essential tasks, the healthcare field would not be able to function.

Without teachers, we would not be able to have any other career, as teachers provide the education to make our entire workforce possible.

Additionally, the work of pink-collar professionals is often not seen as a valid career, despite folks in these roles status as professionals with degrees and countless classes taken to learn exactly how to do their jobs effectively.

We all have extensive education and experience to be in these fields. Fifty-two percent of teachers and 45% of social workers hold master’s degrees, and the average Bachelor of Science in nursing requires approximately 600 hours of clinical work.

In my major, I will complete hundreds of hours of practicum experience by the time I graduate, and as a resident of New York I will be required to hold a master’s degree within five years

I will virtually be an expert in education by the time I am done with school, but I will not be treated as such because I am entering a female-dominated field.

Pink-collar professions have constantly been demeaned due to sexism, but many say that we knew what we were in for when we signed up for the career, so the treatment we get is justified.

A core idea behind feminism is a woman’s right to choose. We are allowed to choose a female-dominated career and do not deserve worse treatment just because we “knew what we were getting into.” 

Choosing a career that is treated poorly does not mean that we should continue to be treated poorly, it means the system needs to change so others do not continue to be treated the same way.

It is necessary to advocate for change in all aspects of these fields, ranging from social attitudes towards them to equal pay.

An increase in the average salaries of female-dominated careers is the most obvious, and arguably most important, place to start. Women deserve to be fairly compensated for their hard work.

A March 28, 2018 American Progress report suggests a starting salary of $50,000 for teachers, with an average salary of $100,000—a large improvement from the current $58,000 average salary for experienced teachers, according to the report.

Additionally, 1 in 6 teachers have to hold a second job to make ends meet, according to a Sept. 27, 2022 article from The Atlantic.

The current average salary of social workers in the U.S. is similarly $58,000, and the average daycare professional salary is only $32,000 per year.

With the average living wage in the U.S. being $104,000 for a family of four in 2022, this is a necessary adjustment.

In addition to instilling equitable salaries, there is a need for increased awareness of the realities of these fields.

One in three Americans don’t know of the gender wage gap, according to an April 10, 2018 Time article

Additionally, many people all across America view pink-collar fields as easy because they hold false perceptions of what we face on a daily basis. It is necessary to increase awareness of what these jobs actually entail.

Teachers, nurses and childcare workers are facing unprecedented levels of post-pandemic burnout causing many in these fields to leave their jobs, according to the Atlantic article.

If we want to maintain or improve the quality of our education, healthcare and childcare fields, it is essential to improve the conditions of those in these careers.

Female-dominated careers are too important to continue being undervalued. The effort we put in deserves to be recognized with more than just a week of appreciation.

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