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Pink-Collar Ghetto

Are Women Workers Still Stuck?


Traditional Office Gender Roles

Traditional Office Gender Roles

Getty Images / George Marks

The term “pink-collar ghetto” means that many women are stuck in certain jobs, mostly low-paying jobs, and usually because of their sex. “Ghetto” is used figuratively to evoke an area, especially an urban neighborhood, where people are marginalized, often for economic and social reasons. “Pink-collar” denotes jobs historically held only by women (maid, secretary, waitress, etc.) 

The Women’s Liberation Movement brought about many changes for the acceptance of women in the workplace throughout the 1970s. However, sociologists still observed a pink-collar workforce, and women still did not earn as much as men overall. The term pink-collar ghetto reflected this discrepancy and revealed one of the major ways women were at a disadvantage in society. 

Sociologists and feminist theorists who wrote about the pink-collar workforce observed that pink-collar jobs often required less education and paid less than white-collar office jobs, but also paid less than blue-collar jobs typically held by men. The blue-collar jobs (construction, mining, manufacturing, etc.) required less formal education than white-collar jobs, but the men who held blue-collar jobs were often unionized and tended to receive better pay than the women stuck in the pink-collar ghetto.

The phrase was used in a 1983 work by Karin Stallard, Barbara Ehrenreich and Holly Sklar called Poverty in the American Dream: Women and Children First. The authors analyzed the "feminization of poverty" and the fact that the increased number of women in the workforce were largely working the same jobs as they had since the previous century.

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