Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.) in Sociology






Women in the professions -- United States, Professions -- United States



Physical Description

1 online resource (3, vii, 109 leaves)


The general concern of this thesis is with the position of women in the United States. Specifically, the focus is on women in the professions. The theoretical perspective is taken from Everett C. Hughes’ 1945 discussion of “Dilemmas and Contradictions of Status.” Hughes maintained that when an incumbent of a status holds an unexpected auxiliary characteristic he is in a dilemma because others do not know how to respond to the contradictory stimuli. Others’ responses tend to reflect unfavorably back on the individual’s self-image and he seeks to avoid reactions from others by adopting behavior to reduce the impact of the discrepant status. The professions in the United States are characterized by a basic body of abstract knowledge and the ideal of service. Thirteen occupations were established as professions, ranked on the basis of those characteristics and a boundary line was drawn between professions and non-professions. A selection of seven professions was made on which to test the hypotheses. These seven were: medicine, university teaching, dentistry, natural science, social science, with veterinary medicine and social work marking off the lower boundary. Women in these professions were considered to be in an inconsistent status because they hold the unexpected characteristic of a female in a male-dominated occupation and meet the other conditions of status inconsistency. Since the female professional can do nothing about changing her discrepant characteristic of being female, it is hypothesized that she adopts behavior which brings her status characteristics in accord and reduces the impact of her inconsistent status. This behavior may consist of avoidance, isolation and/or social segregation on the part of the female professional and her clients or colleagues. The modes of adaptation selected are the basis of the eight hypotheses of the study: 1) women enter the professions in smaller proportions than men, 2) women professionals do not participate fully in the colleague-group, 3) women enter positions isolated from the public, 4) women tend to be salaried rather that self-employed, 5) women tend to be in career lines apart from positions of power and prestige, tend to be in career lines apart from positions of power and prestige, 6) women fill the lower echelons of a profession, 7) women specialize in those areas relating to the normatively accepted women’s role, and 8) women tend to deal with patients of equal or lower status. The data on which the hypotheses were tested were obtained from many different published sources relating the seven professions. These sources consisted in the main of census tabulations, professional directories, sample surveys, National Education Association publications, and the National Register of Scientific and Technical Personnel. It was found that the data generally supported all the hypotheses with the exception of hypothesis number three which could not be tested. There seems to be a consistent pattern for the few women who do enter the professions to enter a limited number of them and to specialize in those areas which are consistent with the prescribed role of women in American society. Moreover, they tend to teach or enter research, work in educational institutions and be on salary. Women are not usually found in the top positions nor the most lucrative positions within a profession. Further, their career lines do not lead to the top positions and they tend to fill the lower echelons within each profession. It may be concluded that women professionals adopt this pattern throughout the professions, that their career pattern is very different than that of male professionals, and it is suggested that they adopt this pattern in order to reduce the impact of their inconsistent status set.


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Portland State University. Dept. of Sociology

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