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The origins of gender discrimination

Concentration of women in typically female jobs  

Women have been active on the labour market for decades. When women first entered the labour market, they held jobs that were an extension of their work at home. These jobs were often related to services and personal care. Then society began to consider that the qualities needed to hold these jobs were so-called female qualities.

Today, women can hold any job they want, regardless of whether it is considered a female or a male job. For example, women are increasingly employed in sectors formerly reserved to men, such as construction, and men are increasingly employed in the service and personal care sectors. Despite these changes, typically female jobs  are still undervalued on the labour market. 

Stereotypes and prejudices that influence remuneration and create wage differences

Stereotypes about the role of women and prejudices about the value of their work have influenced their remuneration and created wage differences with typically male jobs.

Over time, certain qualities have mostly been associated with female or male jobs.

For example, empathy for nurses, courtesy for receptionists, dexterity for seamstresses or organizational skills for secretaries could be stereotypes associated with women. It is the same for qualities that could be associated with men, such as strength and stamina for a carpenter-joiner or leadership skills for a bank manager.

Qualities that have mostly been associated with female jobs have been devalued because they are considered to be related to the role of women in the family. The closer the tasks are to the tasks done at home or in the family, the lower their value in the eyes of society, resulting in lower wages for typically female jobs.

Society had long held the view that a man should be paid more than a woman because he had to support his family. A woman's wages were considered additional, but not essential, income.

These stereotypes and prejudices can lead to gender discrimination. This means that women are treated differently, without even realizing it, because discrimination is rooted in the ways and practices of society. 

This discrimination occurs without people necessarily being aware of it. It is subtle and often involuntary.

Assessing the value of jobs better

In the tools used for several decades to assess jobs, the qualifications required to hold typically female jobs were undervalued.

Job assessment (in French only) must focus on objective factors such as qualifications, responsibilities, efforts and working conditions.  These factors make it possible to assess female jobs fairly. They also make it possible to correct the wage differences between female and male jobs of the same value.

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