EFFECTS OF THE MALE-FEMALE RATIO AT WORK

Policewomen and Male Nurses

Authors

  • E. Marlies Ott

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Amsterdam
      and requests for reprints should be addressed to: E. Marlies Ott, M.I.T. Sloan School, Behavioral and Policy Sciences, E52/503, Cambridge, MA 02139
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  • This report is based on part of a doctoral dissertation, completed in June 1985, at the University of Amsterdam. The study was supported by a grant from the Justice Department of the Netherlands. The author would like to thank Dr. John Van Maanen, Dr. Henk Thierry, Dr. Beverly Birns, Dr. Gary Marx, Dr. Robert Thomas, Dr. Virginia O'Leary, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier draft

and requests for reprints should be addressed to: E. Marlies Ott, M.I.T. Sloan School, Behavioral and Policy Sciences, E52/503, Cambridge, MA 02139

Abstract

Difficulties faced by women in work organizations are often explained as indirect consequences of their numerical minority. Their sex plays no role in these explanations: Men in a minority position are claimed to experience similar problems. The results of this empirical study challenge this: Policewomen are seen to face many of the disadvantages pointed out by Kanter (1977) and others, whereas male nurses enjoy advantages from being one of the few among female colleagues. Also, while the male majority in police teams do indeed resist women when their number reaches a critical mass, the female majority in the nursing teams do not show a similar resistance to men. The study involved 50 police teams and 49 nursing teams of approximately 15 members each. Comparisons were made only within each occupation, between skewed and tilted settings. Data were gathered by means of 297 semi-structured interviews. The opposite effects on men and women of being in a minority are attributed to a difference in status.

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