Story: Occupational structure

Page 5. Gender

All images & media in this story

Women in the paid workforce

During the 20th century the number of women in the paid labour force grew. This was related to a general shift towards people being employed in the service industries. However, since 1986 women have outnumbered men at university, indicating that they are also entering the professions such as architecture, medicine and law in increasing numbers.

Since 1990 increasing numbers of women have moved into non-traditional areas of work, including professional and managerial jobs, and some manual occupations that were historically male-dominated.

Gender and occupational distribution

Even so, there remain considerable differences in the occupational distribution of men and women. In 2006 men were more likely than women to be managers, technicians, trades workers, machinery operators, drivers, and labourers. Women made up a greater proportion of professional, community and personal service workers, and clerical and administrative workers. For both men and women, sales assistant was the biggest job category, but more women than men were in this occupation.

In 2006 there were still a few jobs that had more than 99% either male or female workers. These include the occupations of mothercraft nurse (a nurse trained to care for babies and young children), daycare worker and midwife for women, and railway-track worker, gasfitter and bulldozer operator for men.

Women in the professions

Some occupations have undergone considerable changes in the gender mix of workers. Teaching is one example – in 1982, 66% of primary teachers were female, but by 2007 this had risen to 82%. For secondary school teachers, women went from being a minority in 1982, at 39%, to a majority at 58% by 2007. This is likely to rise in the future – in 2007, 68% of secondary school teachers under the age of 30 were female.

A similar pattern can be seen with doctors. In total, the proportion of women doctors rose from 22% in 1986 to 40% in 2006. And there were more female than male doctors in the younger age groups. In 2006 55% of doctors in the 25–29 age group were female, but only 23% of those in the 55–59 age group. However, some strong gender differences remained in the speciality areas of medical practice. In 2006 women formed just under half of resident medical officers and 41% of general practitioners, but only 9% of surgeons and 29% of anaesthetists.

How to cite this page:

Paul Callister and Robert Didham, 'Occupational structure - Gender', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/occupational-structure/page-5 (accessed 20 November 2017)

Story by Paul Callister and Robert Didham, published 11 Mar 2010