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The paradoxical processes of feminization in the professions : the case of established, aspiring and semi-professions

Bolton, S.C. and Muzio, D. (2008) The paradoxical processes of feminization in the professions : the case of established, aspiring and semi-professions. Work, Employment and Society, 22 (2). pp. 281-299. ISSN 0959-0170

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Abstract

The past three decades have been characterized by dramatic labour market developments including the mass entry of women to exclusively male domains. Professional work is particularly indicative of this trend where growth in female membership has fuelled optimistic predictions of shattered glass ceilings and gender equality. This article seeks to challenge these predictions and to explore the associated assumptions linked with the feminization of work in the UK. It does so by focusing on three professional groups: law, teaching and management which, despite some substantial differences, present a common and recurrent theme in the gendered processes of professional projects that marginalize, downgrade and exploit women and women's work. It is argued that the fluidity of such processes lead to a series of paradoxes as the professions are increasingly dependent on the contribution of their female members and yet numerical feminization, without truly including women, serves to undermine and even reverse professional projects.