This post orginally apperared on Thegrindstone.com blog
by Ruth Graham
Have you heard about the “pink ghetto”? Beware! It’s the new workplace danger that could destroy your career. As one worried columnist describes it, pink ghettos are “highly feminized industries dominated by gangs of women.” Here are just a few of the pink ghettos identified by concerned career experts in the media lately: PR is a pink ghetto. HR is a pink ghetto. Fashion and parenting startups are pink ghettos. But, wait a minute, why is female success something to be worried about in the first place? And why isn’t anyone wringing their hands over blue ghettos?
In a way, plenty of people — including us! — fret about blue ghettos. Every time we talk about a male-dominated industry, we’re talking about a “blue ghetto.” But no one ever uses that infantilizing term.
And terminology isn’t the only problem. The primary “victims” of male-dominated industries, like technology and finance, are presumed to be the women who can’t get access to them. Even in male-dominated industries associated with lower socio-economic status — think truck-driving or factory work — we don’t lament the fate of the poor men “ghettoized” by working among other men. We worry about the women who can’t break in.
But when we take a look at female-dominated industries, like HR, PR, and fashion, is it men who are the victims? Nope! It’s women again. “I really worry that it makes us appear to be a bit of a ‘pink ghetto,’ so that we’re perhaps taken less seriously by management,” one concerned executive laments in response to an Australian report about the phenomenon. Other top executives in the survey worried that “having too many women meant they were ‘pigeonholed’ in certain roles, that there was a ‘logistical nightmare’ managing maternity leave and flexible working arrangements for mothers, and ultimately a lack of diverse views.”
So let’s get this straight: Male-dominated industries help perpetuate male power and privilege, and female-dominated industries help perpetuate … male power and privilege.
Why, even when women dominate an industry, do we worry about women, not the men who (arguably) are failing to get access to it? And why don’t we worry about the men in finance and engineering who are “pigeonholed” in their roles, and lack diverse views? Why do we wring our hands over what the “pink ghetto” does to women, and not what the “blue ghetto” does to men?
Gender diversity is a good thing — a vital thing, even — and it’s important that women who are interested in truck driving and men who are interested in PR have a real chance to excel in those professions. They should be encouraged and welcomed by their opposite-sex peers, and we should continue talking about ways to facilitate that in both directions. But the idea that if we did something right, every profession would end up with a perfect 50-50 gender division is a utopian fantasy. Meanwhile, women who are excelling in industries populated mostly by women are doing just fine.
So let’s stop worrying about the women of the pink ghetto. Success is not a ghetto.