Stereotypes about gender and work

A research report examines perceptions about typically ‘male’ and ‘female’ occupations in Greece and about the factors hindering women’s professional development. It finds evidence of horizontal and vertical segregation in the labour market. This problem is particularly acute in ‘traditional’ occupations, although it is less apparent in some higher educated professions. State policy and the male-dominated business sector are obstacles to women’s career development.

About the research

A research report on Women at the top: Possibility or choice (in Greek) has been published by the independent Greek research company Focus Bari Marketing Research Services, which conducted the study from 22 September to 3 November 2009. The method followed was the pan-Hellenic quantitative research method on a sample of 1,158 people (men and women) aged 13–70 years. In combination, qualitative research was also carried out with human resource (HR) professionals, following the open discussion method, which lasted 1.5–2.5 hours and comprised four in-depth interviews and one mini-group.

The first section of the research describes the stereotypes regarding so-called ‘male’ and ‘female’ professions. Specifically, it examines commonly held opinions regarding the professions considered ‘more suitable’ for men or women. The second section relates to public opinion on the reasons why women’s access to high career positions remains restricted.

Stereotypes regarding gender segregation of professions

Horizontal segregation is evident in the Greek labour market. For example, there are occupations and fields of economic activity which public opinion identifies with men, such as heavy industry, construction, the army, drivers, economics, sales and commerce. Similarly, public opinion associates certain occupations and areas of activity with women, such as personal care services, education, secretarial or office work, nursing, caretaking, marketing, public relations (PR) and HR.

Vertical segregation in the labour market is also apparent. Within the same sector – for example, healthcare – public opinion identifies the professions higher on the salary and hierarchy scale with men, such as doctors and surgeons, while jobs lower on the hierarchical and salary scale or those connected to self-employment are mostly associated with women, such as nurses or pharmacists.

Traditional roles

The segregation of the labour market is particularly intense in the case of occupations that are traditionally male-dominated and that require skills and characteristics traditionally attributed to men, such as construction contractors, pilots, plumbers or electricians, armed force officers or taxi drivers (Figure 1). Meanwhile, the public mainly associates occupations relating to personal services and personal care with women, as well as occupations linked to the traditional role division within the family – for example, nursery teachers, nurses and hairdressers.

Figure 1: Traditional occupations, by gender perceived as most suitable (%)

Traditional occupations, by gender perceived as most suitable (%)

Note: The data in Figures 1–4 do not add up to exactly 100% due to a small number of no responses.

Source: Focus Bari, 2010

Highly qualified traditional occupations

In a series of ‘traditional professions’ requiring a high educational level – such as accountants, lawyers, doctors and architects – the gap between men and women is narrowing, although it is still in favour of men (Figure 2). The professions in this category that public opinion associates mostly with women or equally with men and women pertain to self-employment, such as notaries, journalists or pharmacists, or are relatively low-paid compared with other professions, such as journalists, secondary-school teachers or other teachers.

Figure 2: Highly qualified traditional occupations, by gender perceived as most suitable (%)

Highly qualified traditional occupations, by gender perceived as most suitable (%)

Source: Focus Bari, 2010

Modern professions

The research categorises a series of ‘modern’ professions requiring a high educational level and which are high on the salary and ranking level in a company’s or organisation’s hierarchy, such as marketing directors, business consultants, sales executives, economists or HR managers; alternatively, they may relate to public office, such as members of parliament or judges. In these roles, the intense differentiation in favour of men resurfaces but not to such a degree as with the professions in Figure 1, which could be described as more traditional (Figure 3).

Figure 3: Modern professions, by gender perceived as most suitable (%)

Modern professions, by gender perceived as most suitable (%)

Source: Focus Bari, 2010

Some professions have the same characteristics as in Figure 3 but are mostly connected with specific sectors and/or very high hierarchy ranks. In this case, the intense labour market segregation between ‘male’ and ‘female’ professions strengthens – in favour of men.

Figure 4: Select modern professions, by gender perceived as most suitable (%)

Select modern professions, by gender perceived as most suitable (%)

Source: Focus Bari, 2010

Factors hindering women’s professional development

According to the study findings, the main impediment to women’s professional development is the fact that the business sector is male-dominated; the second obstacle is state policy (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Perceived reasons why women do not achieve as high positions as men during their career (%)

Perceived reasons why women do not achieve as high positions as men during their career (%)

Source: Focus Bari, 2010

Examining the opinions of men and women separately reveals that they agree on the negative effect of the male-dominated business sector on women’s professional development. However, a greater proportion of women than men consider the lack of facilitation by the state and pressure from men in their immediate professional circle as more important factors hindering their professional evolution. Meanwhile, a greater proportion of men than women believe that it is a choice made by women and that they cannot be as dedicated to paid work as men (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Perceived reasons, by gender (%)

Perceived reasons, by gender (%)

Source: Focus Bari, 2010


The vertical and horizontal segregation in the Greek labour market is linked to the traditional perception of ‘male’ and ‘female’ skills and characteristics, and to the role division within the family. The traditional domination of highly-ranked positions by men as well as state policy are also very important factors. Therefore, it would be essential to enhance and introduce positive measures in favour of women, to encourage men to share family obligations with women – for example, by equalising the parental leave period – and to improve childcare facilities.

Sofia Lampousaki, Labour Institute of Greek General Confederation of Labour (INE/GSEE)

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