READING GUIDE TO: Payne, G.
P. (eds) (1990) The Social Mobility of Women:
Beyond Male Mobility Models, London: The Falmer Press.
Even if Goldthorpe is right that
the class position of women
is still closely linked to that of men, we still need to understand why. The Scottish Mobility Study identified
competition for jobs as an aspect of relations between the classes, but
increasingly act as players in the job market, and it is clear that the
market is segregated according to gender.
This book includes work that
draws on a variety of data
which are not primarily focused on class mobility, as was the Nuffield
study. The focus is really on
occupational mobility, and occupational classes need not be social
classes. There are data on individuals
households, and the personal occupations of women in households,
households are still common when talking about origins.
The notion of a head of household
referred to men, although recent studies ask for the ‘chief childhood
supporter’. The influence of mothers is
relatively neglected issue, although it is known to be important,
for the destinations of daughters.
Markers of mobility for women are
still largely unknown. It is common to
look at lifecourse data,
which include matters such as marriage and re-entry to labour markets. Together, these provide distinctive
employment patterns for women. These can
act as ‘a bridge to class experiences’ (6).
[This discussion reminds me of work on the mediate
and proximate factors
that structurate classes in the work of Giddens --
A. (1973) The Class Structure of the
Hutchinson.] The themes of individual chapters are then
summarised. The general result is that
new patterns and implications, many of them critical for traditional
research, have arisen.
The more substantial work on
women include issues such as
the influence of mothers and daughters.
This influence seems to operate both directly and
through the educational
level of the mother. Daughters still
under achieved relative to sons, however because of current gender
effects. The data here is drawn from the
Ireland Mobility study, which generally showed that there are separate
for mothers. Intragenerational mobility
is also different, in that women are often downwardly mobile before
their positions. In fact they seemed
three times more likely than men in the service class, and four times
likely than men in the intermediate class to have experienced some
downward mobility. There is a slight
effect of age here.
Women are concentrated in
the ‘less attractive sub sectors of
the larger classes’ (8). However, there
is a recent trend in women gaining qualifications, although they still
seem to lead to linear careers, but to the old patterns of more career
and flexibility. Again, there is some
notion of a separate labour market for women [clear hints here of the
labour market theory’ to explain the characteristics of women’s work --
see for example Beechey in Kuhn, A. and Wolpe, A-M (eds) (1978) Feminism and Materialism, London:
Routledge and Kegan Paul].
Cross-class families seem to have
effects for both men and
women. Overall, the choice of a marriage
partner seems to ‘confirm other aspects of the class process’ (9). Many women still married men in the same
social class, but some might marry into their class of destination
especially if they have high levels of education], while other women
partners who are also undergoing social mobility.
Women seem to undergo initial
downward mobility followed by
upward mobility. There seem to be many
other factors at work here apart from their class of origin, including
the deliberate choice of nonlinear careers.
These examples show a clear need
for a rethink of ‘class
trajectories’. Women classically combine
work and domestic commitments, so their occupation at any one time
reflect both their social class and their
level of non work commitments. Despite
the flexibility of women’s work, they tend to cluster in ‘the primary
non manual sector… [such as] teaching… The
women’s primary sector… nursing,
clerical, intermediate, even skilled factory work…[and]...the
women’s secondary sector [which may be]
semi skilled work, often part-time' (10), the last sector is
sometimes a temporary location following re-entry to the labour market
It is important to study
household dynamics apart from social
class, such as the effects of divorce.
Households also have careers, as family members age
and change. Subjective experiences of
mobility are also
important—for example feeling downwardly mobile can affect voting
which is ‘traditionally one of the key tests of class behaviour’ (11). Of course, members of households do not
benefit equally from occupational mobility: for example women
lower pension rights.
Overall, we need new models of
mobility itself. The differences between
men and women
probably do not converge as effects of class similarities.
[Out of the quite detailed and
interesting range of studies
in the book, I have chosen two which seem to me to be particularly
P. ‘A Reexamination of “Three Theses Reexamined”’
The three theses which were to be
critically examined by Goldthorpe
(and rejected) need to be retested using data on women.
The three theses were the closure, buffer
zone, and counterbalance models of mobility, all of which predicted
mobility. Abbott proposes to use data
from recent studies to review this classic work.
The general finding was that
women were more likely to be
downwardly mobile. The data used was
from an Open University longitudinal survey—the People in Society
was based on a national quota sample, and has been running since 1979. Data from the Scottish Mobility Survey, and
the Essex Class Survey provide confirmation.
These surveys enable a calculation of the mobility
rates for women,
compared to both the occupational class of their fathers (inflow), and
how their occupational
class affects the destination occupational class for their daughters
On social closure,
Goldthorpe and Llewelyn found no evidence
for members of the service class being able to close entry to men from
other social classes, in order to protect their own sons.
Members of the service class came from a
large variety of social class backgrounds. However, the female data is
rather different: only 8% of the daughters of
service class parents were still in the service class themselves, and
of female service class members had fathers from manual working class
backgrounds. For that matter, there were
few women from any kind of social background in the service class—only
per cent of women as opposed to 21% of males in employment had service
class occupations. The evidence seems to
suggest there has been
a real closure strategy by men against women, far more so than when we
consider social class.
On the buffer zone [the
idea that there is a special group
of intermediate occupations to absorb social mobility and prevent real
mobility], daughters from service class
families who were downwardly mobile ended up in the routine non-manual
occupational sector. Daughters of
upwardly mobile working-class fathers also ended up in that sector. So the routine non-manual occupational sector
does seem to be a buffer zone for women.
On countermobility, the
Nuffield study found that half the
men in the service class had worked their way into that class after
initial downward mobility. It was also
the case that of those working class men who began their own career
working-class jobs, only half of them ended with a working-class job
is a great deal of mobility available to those who work their way up
occupational system, showing there has been no decline in such
mobility as credentialism
develops]. For women, however,
educational qualifications seemed to be very important, both
as being responsible for women leading working class occupations
there is some considerable upward mobility into non manual jobs as
well). Staying on at school seems to be
factor, and the ‘vast majority of women in semi or unskilled jobs were
leavers’ (42), although there are problems with the data here. Further, women do not recover in terms of
entry to the class of their fathers, as well as men do.
Early mobility seems the most common [showing
the results of education?]. Childless
women tend to do better than married women with children, but still not
So, overall, there is
considerable fluidity, movement both
up and down, for women. But there is a
definite tendency for downward mobility, more so than for men, and less
mobility than for men. Even service class
fathers seem less able to protect their daughters than to protect their
sons. There does seem to be some kind of
zone. Domestic arrangements increase
fluidity, especially the demands of child rearing, and decrease
chances of mobility. As a result, all
three theses predicting limited mobility seem to be back on the cards
women. Overall, there is some long range
mobility for women but not as much as for men, and some clear evidence
closure by gender.
R.& Sanderson, K. ‘Credentials and
This chapter presents complex
results from the Women and
Employment Survey, undertaken in 1980, drawing on data about the return
for women. Generally, women’s work is
concentrated into specific occupations, or into the lower levels of
jobs in the
same hierarchy. There is more part-time
women’s work to suit their family requirements, and there may be a
market, focusing on part time work, largely occupied by women. For these reasons, it might seem that women
are less likely to be interested in getting relevant qualifications,
seemed destined to enter a secondary labour market or some reserve
patriarchy intends. The debate about whether women’s position is
the class position of their partners has been advanced by Goldthorpe, and
challenged by Heath and Britten (1984).
Overall, from the supply side,
there has been the
considerable increase in mobility and an expansion of the service
together with the recruitment of women to fill lower levels of the
occupations. Such women met with poor
work conditions, and this was justified on the grounds that they were
leavers and had typically broken work records.
One implication is that if women improve their
qualifications, they might
reduce the career prospects of men.
The desire to gain qualifications
is likely to affect only a
minority of women, and they might be expected to focus on the most
qualifications. The authors are aware
there are no simple matches between occupations and qualifications, and
the possibility that some women will be substantially over qualified. They are also aware that many female
qualifications are clearly linked to gendered occupations, such as
nursing, taking Arts A levels and so on.
Nevertheless, there has been a considerable increase
in women wanting to
The employment careers of women,
in terms of their waged
work, are quite unlike the pure ‘linear’ career, with no breaks, which
is usually used to explain the role of qualifications. The
same goes for the implicit notions of
rational career planning and choice.
Women are far more likely to find an occupation
according to the local
labour markets. However, they still had
to have some room to choose, and their motivations are therefore an
for research. It should be said that
their motivations can lead to a variety of careers, including no career
all. Typical female patterns include
phased careers, and unexpected careers, showing the influence of life
events. While higher proportions of
women are entering higher education, the rest trained for gendered
vocations—classically those which permit a combination with domestic
Qualifications themselves are
rather complex , with some
related to specific organisations, and others offering more national
portable qualification. They also vary
in terms of how tightly they are related to a specific vocation. They seem to have different importance for
different employers and different occupations—sometimes they are seen
genuine licence to practice, really important to the vocation, while at
times they are used simply to screen applicants. In
some cases, qualifications are necessary
to practice at all, while in others, they appear as essential steps in
career. [Lots of specific examples of
qualifications and occupations are given].
Generally, women tend to find themselves gaining
employment as ‘practitioners’
rather than linear ‘careerists’ (91).
The increase in qualified women
entering the labour market
may mean that there will be fewer recruits in the future for the
army. It could mean that women will
enjoy more upward mobility if they re-enter the labour market. It will depend what sort of qualifications
women are interested in, however, since some will be specific to
and/or to continuous bureaucratic careers, while others will be more
portable. There is also the issue of
whether credentialism is on the increase, so that all young people will
There are considerable
differences between vocational
graduate occupations, such as those in medicine, which tend to have
regulated by the government rather than by employers.
In those circumstances, there are signs of
real opportunities for women, and a subsequent real gender shift. Medicine, accountancy and chartered insurance
seem to reveal such gender shifts. Is
still likely, however, that female graduates here will still end up as
practitioners rather than careerists, since these occupations also
opportunity for acceptable part-time work (less so for accountants). Further, despite being all graduate
professions, these occupations can still provide gendered niches. In teaching, the concentration of women as
certificate level teachers is an example.
For pharmacists, there are further complications. The seemed to be three main kinds of
pharmacist—hospital, retail and community—with different implications. Thus men tend to occupy the retail
apparently requires some sort of long term careerism] but increasing
pharmacy allows part time work, which means more female opportunities. These patterns are changing, although in
general, males are still able to take the most advantage of
change. Other factors include the
effects of conglomeration of retail pharmacists, equal opportunities
legislation, the general ease of employing part-time or career break
as opposed to bureaucratic rigidity, and the degree of segregation of
practitioners as opposed to careerists.
The increased demand by women for
therefore end in women being particularly well placed to become a
flexible reserve, which could be what technological advance actually
require in the future. There seems to be
a likelihood that this will reduce the availability of male fulltime permanent careers. However,
we can also predict an increasing
convergence between male and female career paths [as men also realise
technological change will imply an compete in that labour market too?].
Payne G. & Abbot,
P. ‘Beyond male mobility models’
[This is the concluding section. It does tend to rather repeat the
introductory section, but it is good for revision].
There are still lots of questions
to resolve about social
mobility. There is no clear large
picture. It seems, however that mobility
itself needs to be explained, and not as just the process involving
formation, including its objective and subjective dimensions and issues
the supply vs. the demand sides of the labour market.
It is clear that the old model is
inadequate though, and it
is wrong to take male versions as typical patterns.
Households in terms of origins for mobility
are complex, and the usual picture, taking a snapshot when the man was
is inadequate, since female members of the household could easily renew
career afterwards. There have been
considerable changes in female employment.
Reliable data on female careers, however, is ‘almost
collect by the conventional retrospective survey methods’ (161) [which
takes snapshots and relies on standard definition of occupations] .
There is no doubt that mothers do
the ‘mobility potential’ of children, however, and that female
occupation is a
useful way to index possible influencing factors such as standard of
attitudes and values—but so is the level of maternal education. Female employment modifies families, improving
health and providing cultural enrichment, although these effects are
still not well researched. The Irish
mobility data do show the general effects of female social class on
educational attainments, and thus on their occupational attainments
subsequently. The labour market is
changing rapidly though. However the
concentration of women’s labour makes it hard to disentangle the
parental social class [as compared to the flexibility of the
Careers obviously depends on
employment structures, such as
the size and scope of routine non-manual occupations.
Males seem to get a higher return to their
qualifications. Females in the service
class are better qualified, however.
Qualifications are a complex matter, as the chapter
shows. Breaks in career following
childbirth are also important. Overall,
however, downward mobility is ‘the most widely shared experience of
Female mobility patterns are
different. They do actually move class
when they change
employment, unless we are really to treat female routine non manual
working class [I think Stanworth was proposing this in fact]. Marriage crosses classes in about half of all
marriages, and often provides an upward mobility option for women. As a result, it is possible to sketch a
typical career for women (diagram on page 165) which might feature:
downward mobility when they start work, some upward mobility as they
way up and/or get married, downward mobility again after having
children and reentering
the labour market, and a final period of upward mobility as they work
up in the job again. Around this typical
pattern, a number of common variants can be found.
Nevertheless, women’s mobility seems to offer
a profile rather than a straightforward progression from origin to
as with males, and lots of fluidity is normal.
What this sort of pattern implies
for feelings, both
personal and in terms of images of society, needs to be researched. Goldthorpe was able to ignore feelings, since
he was interested in the objective position of the relation of classes,
feelings are relevant here because experiences are interpreted
example, when do women actually experience an occupational position as
Marriage mobility is another
interesting case. It is not just a matter
of class mobility,
but also a status transition towards independent adulthood, and
implies a financial improvement and a chance to leave the class of
family [at times, it looks like this was building towards some sort of
worker’ thesis, where skilled working class families moved location
new industries and higher wages, and left their family of origins
including their leisure pursuits and political allegiance, but dfod not
simply embrace bourgeois ones].
A lot of behaviour seems to be modified by both
partners in the
marriage, except in the single case of the vote, which still seems to
explained best by the occupation of the man alone.
Why should this be? It
might even be simply the result of some other
factors, perhaps the influence of the family of origin; it might be the
of different layers in occupations; it might be a sign that when people
married they tend to confirm the values of their partner; or it might
confirmation of the residual importance of male occupation.
What are the implications for
class analysis and
formation? It looks as if female
experiences are quite different from men as in Abbot’s article. It is still unknown whether this experience
has an effect on its own or whether it is somehow overwhelmed by the
of the male partner [in terms of things like images of the class
perceptions of openness and so on?] Overall, there does seem to be some
sum involved—male opportunities are increased because women are doing
There is no evidence as such of
complete independence of female
experience, but there are certainly problems for the conventional model. For example, female participation in
employment clearly does affect male employment as well.
Thus gender is clearly related to social
class. [actually marriage and gender?] One thing
that women seem able to
do is to permit or ease the intragenerational mobility of men, enabling
to cope with lifestyle changes, for example.
[Or sometimes acting as a career handicap,
especially if they have come
from a lower class?]
It is necessary to study female
mobility—after all, they do make up half of the population!
Studies of female mobility have raised questions for
mobility in general
– how fluid is the occupational system?
What is the status of occupations like non-manual
clerical work? What segments are
occupational classes? What is it about
some occupations that do permit fathers to promote their daughters,
occupations do not? On the latter, the
families of the ‘intelligentsia’ (both parents are in professional
and the woman is established in a career) seem to be most successful in
There are questions about
‘career’ as a concept. The
traditional pattern, based on male experience, assumed that the career
stable and thus it would have a strong effect on class attitudes and
beliefs. However we know that women’s
careers are far more fluid and likely to be effected by domestic
as well [so what are the effects likely to be here?].
There are even considerable
measurement problems following
the study of female mobility. How should
we measure the main occupation for women, for example—the highest one
attained? The current one?
To what extent is occupation
still a useful index of the
meaning of mobility for individuals?
When do people feel as if they’ve been mobile? What do they measure their mobility
of origin, partners occupation? [or what
about the possibilities introduced by Hopper—reference
groups?]. The same goes for the issue of
not only do they seemed to offer a lower return for women, they might
different meaning [certainly confirmed by early studies of female Open
graduates who classically mentioned ‘personal’ reasons for wanting an
which sometimes turned out to be some kind of belated recognition of
views of their own intelligence—see Harris 1987].
At the very least, studies of
women’s social mobility might
help us clarify the issue of residuals in social mobility research,
and education have been taken into account [!].
The study of women’s mobility has shown new light on
to the general
problems faced by social mobility researchers on men as well. Eventually, researchers will need to study
men and women together, especially in terms of the effects on their