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

Sharon C. Bolton, Daniel Muzio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-299
Number of pages19
JournalWork, Employment and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2008


  • Feminization
  • Horizontal segregation
  • Professional projects
  • Professions
  • Vertical stratification

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