Do Professions Have a Gender?

Beautician, midhusband, crane operator, doctor. With the feminization of jobs comes the feminization of words.

Sometimes it's not easy to feminize certain professions, both on paper (at least in German or French) and in the flesh.

History of Language

For a long time, certain professions were associated with a more feminine or more masculine gender – not so much in the English language, but in German or French. The feminization of occupational nouns is a much discussed topic and has its own entries on Wikipedia. It is a language policy that aims to feminize nouns for occupations in order to make the role of women in public and professional life more visible.

Attracting women to occupations previously held primarily by men continues to be a current problem. Against the backdrop of the drive for greater gender diversity in companies, the issue also expands to include attracting men to occupations that are perceived as feminine.

Art, Care and Sensitivity

These values are attributed primarily to the female gender. According to the latest annual report of the Swiss Health Observatory, 84% of healthcare personnel in Switzerland were female in 2021. The arts professions were also very popular with women. Could one have imagined a French cancan show aux Folies-Bergères in the 1950s that consisted of female artists?

Manly and Strong You Shall Be

Nevertheless, certain professions that are considered hard or physically demanding are more suitable for men.

Incorporating the concept of gender makes it possible to overcome the male-female dichotomy and work toward taking into account both the masculine and feminine in the profession. Be it in the selection process, the associated behaviors or the perceived recognition.

So the goal is no longer to compare occupations based on how many women or men are in them, but to understand how each occupation integrates masculine or feminine values, codes, perceptions, and behaviors.

In 2023, we are happy and relieved to see that some codes are being jettisoned.

As mentalities changed, we realized that occupations do not define people, but also that social patterns are difficult to evolve. Some career paths take employees far beyond the beaten track and deconstruct clichés about so-called "male" professional worlds - or, on the contrary, confirm them.

Is there a Trend toward Feminization of Technical Professions?

Employees Switzerland put this question to Kareen Vaisbrot, member of the executive board and head of employer policy at Swissmem.

With 13 years of experience in the industry, she notes a huge commitment by the industry to motivate young women to enter the industry, especially at the school and apprenticeship level. "We need to succeed in introducing girls to the professions in the MEM industry. I invite parents and schoolgirls to discover our professions, especially on the website Fascination of Technology," she stresses.

"It takes staying power in this topic," regrets Kareen Vaisbrot, "because if you look at the school orientation of girls, it is still too little focused on these professions."

She also mentions that companies in the MEM sector respect equal pay and create all the conditions for more women to join their ranks.

Swissmem has set up a special career guidance website, "find-your," where numerous publications on exciting professions can be found.

"We don't want to say that women are not suited for technology – the majority of medical technical assistants are women, aren't they?" jokes Kareen Vaisbrot. The industry has an image problem above all; it is often reduced to being all dust and big machines. In fact, it benefits from large-scale digitization and sustainable modernization of its operations. The only problem is that this is not yet sufficiently well known.

The machinery, electrical and metal industry (MEM) in Switzerland

  • Is the largest industrial employer in Switzerland with over 320,000 jobs
  • Employs 27% women
  • Trains 20,000 apprentices annually

In a world that moves, barriers disappear; interest and curiosity come to the fore and overcome gender stereotypes. Isn't it important, above all, to pursue a profession that gives pleasure?

For the Future Generations

Starting in elementary school, structures are created to raise awareness among the youngest and introduce them to all types of professions. The "Future Day" organized in some cantons and companies demonstrates the will to break gender codes.

This day focuses on the future and the numerous career prospects available to girls and boys today. For one day, they immerse themselves in different occupational fields and discover new paths in life.

Future Day enables them to discover new horizons, reflect on their career choices and life prospects, without prejudices or preconceived notions.

Employees Switzerland welcomes this initiative. Please make a note of November 9, 2023.


Anne-Valérie Geinoz

Anne-Valérie Geinoz