By: Ashley Rose
It is no secret that professional fields dominated by women, often referred to as “pink collar jobs”, are disproportionately underpaid. But why is this? As we enter March, also recognized as International Women’s Month, it is important to acknowledge the contributions women bring to the world and educate ourselves on ways to advocate for equality.
“Pink collar jobs” include a variety of occupations, most of which are care-oriented, such as service providers like hair stylists, waitresses and dental hygienists, as well as teaching, social work, mental health care, secretary work and nursing.
All of these professions are taken advantage of by almost anyone who participates in the economy at some point in their life, so why aren’t these positions paid similarly to fields dominated by men?
One excuse for underpaying these professions is that many of them do not require a traditional degree. While some of these professions require higher levels of education, often including a Masters Degree, service providers, secretaries and assistants rarely require a degree, and instead have a certification or license.
Another reason some may justify paying these fields less is because they are not ‘labor intensive’ compared to blue-collar jobs dominated by men, such as construction, factory work, welding and mechanics. While many pink-collar jobs may not require as much physically taxing labor, this should not undermine their value.
For example, teaching, social work, human resources, therapy and counseling are woman-dominated and do not require manual labor, but they require high levels of intelligence and resilience. These fields are known to have early burn out rates, as they can be emotionally taxing and require more than the average 40 hours a week.
It is also worth mentioning that many women in these fields still work a “second shift” at home, where they return from a full-time job and must then take on the primary responsibility of managing a home, rearing children and caring for their families.
A potential reason women fill these positions so well is because they are considered and encouraged to be patient, loving, empathetic and nurturing. On the other hand, men are not always encouraged to exhibit such traits, thus discouraging a large segment of society from going into these professions.
It is known that these positions are low-paid for the work ethic required, but how big is the disparity?
For many pink-collar service workers, such as waitresses, beauticians and baristas, a large portion of their earnings are based on customer tips, rather than wages.
While the national minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, waitresses and baristas are often paid $2.13 an hour with the expectation that tips should make up the difference. If a service provider is not paid the difference through tips, the employer is legally required to pay the difference.
The service provider industry is dominated by tip culture, which is another concept further segregating women into a smaller box. The concept of tipping is the idea that customers give you extra money on account of how kind you were, how well you met their needs and how smoothly the interaction went as a whole, even considering aspects that may be out of the service providers’ control.
For example, a recent waitress on TikTok at the handle b_woodward made a video claiming that she received more tips when she wore her hair in pigtails, a hypothesis that was also “proven” by other waitresses on the platform.
I spoke to Teresa Andrade, who works as a secretary in Wiekamp Hall. Andrade has worked at IU South Bend for 30 years – however, her compensation as a long-time employee does not show it.
“It’s embarrassing how much I make considering how long I’ve been employed,” Andrade said, “but of course this is in part because I don’t have a degree, just a certificate.”
Andrade went on to discuss another common occurrence within pink-collar jobs, which is having extra job tasks assigned to you that did not originally fall in the job description. Depending on the job, this can include performing training tasks, completing payroll, acting as an HR representative, taking care of contracts and more.
Teaching is an example of a job that requires more skills and efforts than presented in the job description. While it is expected that being a teacher requires you to be able to teach students and have a love for them, there is no fine print that discloses that teachers also have to fund most of their own classroom supplies, work excessive unpaid overtime to prepare for standardized testing and school events, provide emotional support to students in crisis, pick up slack left by parents and much more. External tasks and expectations like these also play into the teacher shortage occurring nationwide, on top of the low salary.
While the devaluation of pink collar jobs has been a historical issue, there are still ways to properly advocate for women to be paid more in their profession. This advocacy can include voting for legislators looking to raise the pay for teachers, social workers or other woman-dominated fields, properly and fairly tipping your service providers, and encouraging women and men to pursue careers that may not align with the gender roles they were taught.