For unemployed men, there are benefits to looking at careers in female-dominated fields

There’s a working problem for men in the US.

Roughly 1 in 7 men considered working-age (between ages 25-54) are unemployed in the US, according to data by the US Labor Department. That number is worrisome considering the US job market has rebounded in strides, strengthening to its highest peak in five decades, but even still, there are more men without jobs than there were during the Great Recession.

With studies showing traditionally male-dominated work sectors have shrunk over the last few decades, men have started to look elsewhere — in fields predominately occupied by females.

A new study headed by researches from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the University of Minnesota found that unemployed men are branching out into sectors dominated by women — like education and healthcare — and while enjoying the perks of employment, men are also seeing benefits in other areas due to their career pivots.

The research, published in the journal Social Science Research, discovered that men who had previously worked in male-dominated or mix-gender job fields were far more likely to transition to female-dominated jobs after unemployment. As for the benefits, men who made the switch saw a rise in their wages, an increase in pay by about 4%, compared to their previous employment. In addition, men who switched to female-dominated fields also felt a higher prestige at their new job, which researchers said was different from men who rejoined either male-dominated or mix-gender fields, where prestige levels remained either the same or lessened.

“What our study suggests is that unemployment may act as a shock that encourages men to consider job alternatives that they might not otherwise consider while employed,” Dr. Jill Yavorsky, an assistant professor from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, said in a press release. “When men are facing potentially missed housing, car payments, or the lack of an income stream, that’s really meaningful.”

Using data compiled by the US Census Bureau, researchers initially thought that unemployed men would be less willing to accept a job that attacks their masculinity. They also thought that due to the current circumstances of unemployment, the stresses of life would push men to explore different opportunities from perhaps ignored career paths.

Researchers found the latter claim true — wages and occupational prestige could increase following a transition from unemployment to a field often dominated by women.

Yarvorsky said that these findings could help men get over stigmas of taking a job in a field that could seem foreign to them.

“These potential wage and prestige benefits are meaningful because they suggest that taking a female-dominated job may help some men to avoid the common scarring effects of unemployment,” she said.

“A host of social science research has shown that workers often take a hit to their wages and job status in the position they take after unemployment. Thus, it is significant that in some cases going into a female-dominated job may help offset typical costs associated with unemployment.”

While Yavorsky said the study has limitations due to it only analyzing short-term events, it does provide a pathway for men to make transitions into places unthought of before.

“Our study highlights the fact that men open up their job options to include female-dominated fields when faced with unemployment. Not only that, but there may be benefits associated with going into these jobs–benefits that could have real implications for men and their families given the financial constraints typically associated with unemployment,” Yavorsky said.

Beyond this study, there have been job movers across both genders. In a survey conducted by CareerBuilder, both men and women are swapping traditional job fields to enter sectors previously dominated by men.

Looking across a 12-year gap, more women are entering fields such as law, veterinary, and commercial industries in 2017 than they were in 2009. On the flip side, more men were seen entering careers previously dominated by women such as culinary arts, merchandise, retail sales, and pharmaceuticals.