4950 teaching and gender


Teaching is a classic example of an occupation
that feminized. Today, about 75 percent of tea
chers in grades K 12 in the US are women.
Similarly, in 11 of 20 OECD countries, women
make up 70 percent or more of elementary tea
chers. Preschool teaching is also strongly woman
dominated, with precise proportions hard to
tabulate because few states license preschool
Women gained access to teaching in the late
1800s. Not until the 1920s in the US, and not
until 1995 in OECD countries, did women
represent 70 percent or more of teachers. The
feminization of teaching occurred in part
because with the growth of the middle class
and formalization of schooling, teaching became
a full time job. However, pay did not rise along
with increased time demands. Thus, men left
teaching in the US and internationally for better
higher paying occupations, creating open posi
tions that were relatively attractive for women.
As women entered the profession, the defini
tion, role, and expectation for teachers work
changed. Contracts required that teachers be
single women, and teaching was viewed as pre
paration for motherhood. Teachers work was
nevertheless controlled by male only school
boards and administrators. As in other femin
ized occupations, women grew in numbers, but
not in pay, power, or autonomy. More recently,
pay and autonomy have increased, but pay
remains low (Ingersoll 2001). In fact, as the rate
of feminization increases in OECD countries,
teacher salary seems to decrease.
Teaching became an avenue for upward mobi
lity for farm and working class families and for
black and white men and women. By the 1930s,
however, most US teachers were middle class
white women. Teaching in segregated schools
was an important means of upward class mobility
for African Americans. Under segregation, edu
cated blacks access to positions as teachers
and administrators helped to establish a black
middle class. When the Brown v. Board of Edu
cation decision ended legally mandated school
segregation, many black educators lost their jobs,
even when they were more qualified than their
white counterparts. Blacks now make up less
than 8 percent of public school teachers, although
about 17 percent of students are black. Black
middle class women, and other educated minor
ity youth, nowadays seek more lucrative careers.
At the postsecondary level, teaching remains
a white male dominated profession. Women and
persons of color have made only modest inroads
into professor positions in recent decades in the
US and in most other countries. Before the
mid 1900s, white women in the US comprised
only a small fraction of college faculty, concen
trated primarily at womens colleges or in fem
inized disciplines such as home economics,
education, or social work in coeducational insti
tutions. Womens enrollments in PhD programs
expanded dramatically in the late 1970s, and
affirmative action policies adopted by colleges
aided their entry into college teaching. By 2004,
women were about one third of postsecondary
faculty in the US, up from about 23 percent in
1974. In research intensive universities, women
are only about 14 percent of full professors, but
nearly 60 percent of lecturers and instructors
(AAUP 2004). Women, however, are better
represented across ranks at Historical Black
Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) than in col
leges generally (NCES 2004).


The heavily feminized occupation of preschool
teaching is poorly paid, averaging lower hourly
wages than bus drivers, secretaries, and practi
cal nurses (Whitebook & Sakai 2004). K 12
teachers also earn relatively low wages, with
women averaging only 90 percent of mens
wages in 2000. In countries such as Japan and
Turkey, where men are more numerous in the
teaching ranks, teachers salaries compare more
favorably to the countrys cost of living index
than is the case in the US.
Several explanations have been offered about
the gender gap in teachers pay. One is the gen
der segregated composition of teaching staffs,
with women more dominant in elementary
grades where pay is low and men more numerous
in secondary grades and administrative posts
where wages are higher. Men are about three
times more numerous among high school as
among elementary teachers.