Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Pink Collar Ghettos

The label "pink collar ghetto" has applied to all of the jobs I've had in the past. The term applies to female dominated jobs. Generally these positions are lower paying and often so even when blue collar jobs in the same industry pay significantly more. It also means that many women are stuck in certain jobs, The word ghetto is used to suggest an career area where women are marginalized economically. Pink collar denotes jobs historically held only by women (cleaning, administration and health care workers). In the past these were referred to as maid, secretary and nurse. 

While I was reasonably well compensated during my telecommunications career, the systematic discrimination was eventually acknowledged and it resulted in human rights complaints that culminated in a large cash payout. The reaction of the company I worked for was to hire many more men into certain jobs to more evenly balance the numbers, yet at the same time they did not hire more women into the male dominated jobs and the women who went after the internal job postings for those positions did not find it easy to get those jobs.

I worked in the stock brokerage industry for four years. I was shocked by how much more openly women there were discriminated against. In those four years there were some blatant examples of offensive behaviour that still make me cringe with horror when I remember the details.

Many things have changed in our culture as evidenced by the change of language in the job titles I listed above. Women have made great strides in all areas of education and career advancement. However the realities of our responsibilities, children and other care-giving functions still have an impact on the working lives of women.

The knitting industry is also dominated by women and as evidenced by my interviews and personal observation compensation is very low. It's often a topic among knitting professionals but none of us see clear solutions and many in the industry are unwilling to speak openly on this topic.

What do you think, are we perpetuating another pink collar ghetto within the knitting industry?

1 comment:

  1. From my perspective, it's less an issue of "someone in charge" keeping women down (consciously or unconsciously), but more of knitters taking designers for granted and not being willing to pay more for patterns or yarn.

    My knitting group recently had a tiff when one person asked in our forum if someone would give her a copy of a (for sale) pattern she wanted to knit; I said she should either pay for the pattern or choose a free pattern instead, and several people argued me down. I was shocked and disgusted that people I consider my friends were shamelessly taking from designers and felt entitled to get patterns for free. If people aren't even willing to pay a few measly dollars for a pattern, how are designers supposed to earn a decent wage? I think some of it is ignorance (of how much time and expense it takes to develop a pattern, get editing, testing, sample knitting, photography, etc.) and some of it is selfishness -- people are only thinking of the money in their own pocket, not the designer's pocket.

    Designers aren't too shy about talking about this topic, but I don't think the discussion has spread to the Average Knitter, and as long as the pattern consumers are unwilling to pay much for patterns, this will continue to be an underpaid industry.