FEIVMALE PARTICIPATION IN THE OCCUPATIONAL SYSTEM:
A COMPARATIVE INSTITUTIONAL ANALYSIS*
JANE A. WEISS
FRANCISCO O. RAMIREZ
San Francisco State University
This paper uses cross-national data to examine how economic, politi-
cal, and educational structures affect both the participation of women
in the labor force and their employment in more powerful and well-
rewarded positions. We find that both the level of industrialization
and the degree of state corporateness positively influence the partici-
pation of women, but that these fail to affect the proportion of
women in the administrative and managerial occupations. However,
the relative number of women in higher education shows positive
effects on both dependent variables. We interpret this finding as a
process of 'institutional demystification' and discuss the overall
pattern of effects as 'incorporation at the rear of the bus.'
Studies of the status of women in society often take society for granted. Little
systematic research focuses on system-level or societal characteristics that in-
fluence the institutional location of women as a status group. There are two
reasons for the inadequate development of a comparative macrosociological
orientation in this literature. First, research on female participation in the major
institutional structures, such as the educational, occupational, and political
systems, is mainly built around images of sex-role socialization. Often these
studies ignore the fact that sex roles are derived from social structure. Second,
most research compares the experiences, aspirations, and achievements of women
with those of men within a single society (occasionally, comparisons are made
between career-oriented and more traditional women). The background charac-
teristics of individuals thus become the crucial independent variables within this
perspective. Societal characteristics and structural processes rarely constitute an
integral part of the theoretical orientation and the data analysis.
In this paper, we undertake a comparative analysis of the structural processes
that affect the level of female participation in the occupational systems of con-
temporary national societies. The first section examines the relationship of social
This research was supported by a small faculty development grant from San Francisco
State University and computer funds from Stanford University. An earlier draft was pre-
sented at the Comparative and International Education Society Meetings in San Francisco,
March, 1975. The authors wish to thank Rachel Kahn-Hut, John Boli-Bennet, Jacques
Delacroix, Michael T. Hannan, and John Meyer for their helpful comments. We would also
like to acknowledge with gratitude the consulting assistance of William McKeown of the
Stanford Center for Information Processing.
b94 WEISS ET AL
structure, sex roles, and labor-force participation of women. We proceed from a
brief discussion of the conventional sex-role socialization model to an exposition
of macrosociological arguments that link societal characteristics to female partici-
pation in the work force. The next section sets forth and explains decisions re-
garding the research design, mode of analysis, and measurement. In the third
section, we present and discuss cross-national analysis of female participation in
the labor force and in upper-echelon occupations. Last, we assess the relevance
of comparative studies of women as a status group to national public policy con-
SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND FEMALE PARTICIPATION
IN THE OCCUPATIONAL SYSTEM
A. Sex-Role Socialization
Studies of sex-linked attitudinal and behavioral patterns were initially under-
taken to shed light on the nature versus nurture debate. Was anatomy truly
destiny? Or was female psychology mainly a matter of social conditioning? While
this issue is still debated, much contemporary research on women favors the
nurture perspective by employing some sex-role socialization argument. The
assumptions underlying these arguments are well-known and have been discussed
elsewhere (Hochschild, 1973). Briefly summarized, these assumptions assert that
the lower level of female participation and achievement in many institutional
activities outside the familial domain come from an internalized value system
that makes active, independent women experience "role strain" and other
"cultural contradictions" (Komarovsky, 1946; Coser and Rokoff, 1971). Ulti-
mately, sex-based differences in attitudes and values are traced to sex-linked
variations in childhood socialization experiences.
The sex-role socialization model may be questioned on the following grounds:
(1) The idea that childhood socialization experiences have enduring effects on
adult attitudes, however popular, is much too sweeping an assumption. Orum,
et al., (1974) find that situational and structural factors are better predictors of
sex differences in political awareness and participation than differences in norma-
tive orientations presumably reflecting variations in earlier experiences.
(2) In general, while some sex-based differences in attitudes and values exist,
there is also considerable overlap (Maccoby and Jacklin, 1975). With respect to
work-force participation the evidence is mixed. Levine and Crumrine (1975) find
that while work-related achievement continues to be more positively valued by
men, the motivation-to-avoid-success thesis (Horner, 1970) is not supported by
the evidence. While the traditional sex-based division of labor-man as breadwinner
and woman as homemaker-continues to be approved by most women (Mason
and Bumpass, 1975), female professionals seem to be as strongly motivated by
career norms as their male counterparts (White, 1967; Epstein, 1971).
(3) Decades of research on the relationship between attitudes and behaviors do
not warrant the assumption that differences in institutional participation are best
explained by differences in internalized values (LaPiere, 1934; Deutscher, 1966;
(4) Finally, as noted earlier, childhood socialization practices reflect charac-
teristics of the social structure. In principle, it makes as much sense to argue that
the relatively low level of female participation in extra-familial institutions pro-
duces "feminine" childhood socialization experiences as to advance the more
Women in the Occupational System
conventional thesis affirming the impact of childhood socialization on adult
achievement. However useful for some purposes, the sex-role socialization model
offers a limited perspective for interpreting cross-societal variations in female
B. Structural Sources of Female Participation in the Occupational System
The sociological literature is not without references to system-level conditions
that help or hinder female participation in key spheres of activity. Economic and
political development and female access to higher education are often discussed
as important societal forces that favor the amelioration of the status of women.
We have elsewhere analyzed patterns of female participation in the educational
system (Ramirez, Weiss, Tracy, 1975). Here our central concern is with how
structural factors affect female participation in the paid work force as a whole
and in the more powerful and prestigious positions. While the arguments sketched
in this section may be applicable to female participation patterns in other institu-
tional contexts, we delineate only processes directly affecting the participation
of women in the work force in order to simplify their exposition.
1. Economic Development. Economic development is conventionally held
to influence positively the position of women in society. Arguments expounding
this view emphasize the impact of two broad aspects of development: (a) Indus-
trialization in terms of the national level of wealth and its corollary benefits; and
(b) Increased diversity and specialization in the division of labor that accompanies
Lenski (1966) argues that with increasing industrialization women acquire
greater time and freedom to master valued skills, increasing the supply of women
available to participate in the labor force. These skills provide more direct access
to valued resources, such as income and property. In addition, more females are
able to seek employment not only to obtain income, but also to achieve self-ful-
fillment through a greater variety of pursuits (Wilenski, 1968).
Industrialization positively affects the participation of women in the labor force
through two mechanisms: first, a greater number ofjob opportunities is generated
with increasing industrialization; and second, work-related aspirations and com-
mitments on the part of women become legitimate as the educational and occu-
pational structure alter with increasing industrialization. In addition to increasing
the number of jobs and the amount of rewards available, economic development
entails a greater number of differentiated and specialized occupations. The
demand for labor shifts from agriculture and heavy manufacturing to the service
and industrial sectors (especially low-level white-collar jobs and light-industry
blue-collar jobs). Many of the new jobs are defined (or redefined) as women's
work. This phenomenon is captured by Bowen and Finnegan (1965) who find
that an index of the "femininity" of the industries shows a strong positive impact
on the labor-force participation rates of women. The labelling of certain occupa-
tions as women's work-whether undertaken as a stopgap measure to engage the
reserve army of labor which women supply or because some jobs require skills
and talents traditionally defined as female nurturantt or domestic skills, delicate
assembly work)-serves to rationalize the employment of women from both the
demand and supply perspectives.
Another argument, often expressed, concerns the emergence of a modernized
value system that applies achievement-based criteria in the evaluation and assign-
ment of individuals to positions. A more technologically developed and occupa-
WEISS ET AL
tionally diversified labor force is less likely to be controlled by traditional forces;
it is thus more likely to recruit and allocate personnel on the basis of non-
ascriptive standards (Parsons, 1951).
This position is not without its detractors. The extrapolation of the experiences
of Western industrialized nations to contemporary developing nations has been
challenged on logical and empirical grounds. Boserup (1974) goes so far as to
argue that the rush to industrialize negatively affects the status of women in the
Third World. In comparing Latin American with Middle Eastern countries at
roughly similar levels of economic development, Youssef (1974) finds sharp
differences in the degree of female participation in the labor force as well as in
the occupations associated with higher levels of income, power, and prestige.
Finally, the alleged positive impact of economic modernization forces on the
employment opportunities of women in Western societies has also been ques-
tioned. The American case has sometimes been set forth as a negative case. Al-
though the proportion of women in the labor force has dramatically increased
since the turn of the century, female participation at the top of the occupational
heirarchy has not correspondingly increased (Tsuchigane and Dodge, 1974). In
some occupational areas, a downward trend has been reported (Knudsen, 1969).
Although Oppenheimer (1973) warns against thinking that the economic pro-
cesses that favor female employment will have similar consequences across the
occupational spectrum, much of the literature on the effects of occupational
differentiation optimistically assumes a "trickle up" effect in the long run.
2. The Impact of Political Development on Female Participation in the Occu-
pational System. Another system-level perspective stresses the importance of
political factors. Social scientists debate the nature of political development
(Pye, 1966) as well as the consequences of economic modernization in the status
of women. To some of them, political development means establishing a formally
representative and competitive political system (e.g. Lipset, 1959); to others,
the corporate construction of a mobilizing state is the hallmark of political de-
velopment (e.g. Huntington, 1969). These divergent conceptualizations primarily
differ on the character of the political culture and the role of governmental
institutions. From the perspective of the former, a politically developed society
is characterized by a permissive political culture that tolerates competing political
views and groups. Within this milieu, governmental institutions are designed to
aggregate the interests of as many subgroups as possible and to protect the rights
of individuals. If we think of political development in terms of corporate construc-
tion, however, we find a unifying and integrating political culture that emphasizes
the rights and interests of the collective whole. Within this context, the authority
of governmental organizations is highly institutionalized and often concentrated
in some national agency that enjoys the right and power to act on behalf of the
We do not intend to evaluate these rival models of political development. In
practice, many nations seek to emphasize both the moral significance of repre-
sentative politics and a strong unified nation-state.' Proponents of both models
argue that higher levels of political development favor the status of women and
thus increase their participation in the labor force. But different symbolic and
Geertz (1963) has analyzed this dual commitment as stemming from both "the desire to
be recognized as responsible agents whose wishes, hopes, and 'opinions' matter and the desire
to build an effective, dynamic modern state."
Women in the Occupational System
structural mechanisms are emphasized within each perspective. Consider political
development as the institutionalization of a formally representative and competi-
tive political system. The position of women in general and female participation
in the occupational system in particular may be upgraded for the following rea-
sons: (1) An ideological concern with the rights and liberties of individuals may
facilitate female entry into the labor force as well as mobility into traditionally
male work domains. Goode (1963) contends that the amelioration of the status
of Western women is due to the "extension to women of originally Protestant
ideas about the rights and responsibilities of the individual (his italics)." (2) The
greater number of alternative channels through which group interests may be
articulated in a competitive political system may enable women as a group to
form coalitions and strike bargains with other interest groups. This in turn may
generate formal legislation and informal pressure to hire women throughout the
Consider now political development as the corporate construction of amobiliz-
ing state. The institutional location of women as a status group may favorably
change for the following reasons: (1) An official egalitarianism may be effectively
activated to identify and remove barriers to entry into and advancement within
the labor force. (2) A mobilizing regime seeking to transform its citizenry into
agents of the state may take steps to incorporate all of them into the national
mainstream.2 To illustrate, note the sharp rise in the relative number of women in
the Cuban labor force from the pre-Castro to the contemporary era. No doubt
economic dictates have influenced this trend but it may also reflect governmental
attempts to "involve Cuban women in the moral aspects of the revolution. ... to
urge them to take part in bettering the nation" (Olesen, 1971).
3. The Impact of Access to Higher Education. In the literature on the status
of women, no single mechanism has been more frequently cited as a launching
pad for occupational attainment than access to higher education. For this reason,
some researchers have focused on female participation in higher education as the
dependent variable in their cross-national analysis (Anderson, 1956; Zimmer,
1975; Ramirez et al., 1975). There is, however, no direct evidence bearing on the
alleged positive consequences of access to higher education. That is, it is not
known whether at the national level of analysis a relatively large number of
women in higher education leads to a relatively large number of women in the
occupational system. At the individual level of analysis, Treiman and Terrell
(1975) show that the greater number of years of schooling attained by a woman
the higher the occupational status attained. Even if this finding for American
women could be generalized to women in other national societies, we would still
not be able to draw inferences about the aggregate interrelationships. For it is
altogether possible that, while successful women are more likely to be drawn
from the highly educated ranks, the majority of highly educated women may
elect not to get a job or pursue a career. This is not an unrealistic speculation
2 Conceivably, some of these effects may take place indirectly via the modification of sex-
linked patterns of childhood socialization. However, there is little evidence supporting this
line of reasoning. On the contrary, in nations where women have made significant progress
in their participation in the economic, political, and cultural mainstream-in the Soviet
Union for example-change in the sex-based division of labor within the household and in
child-rearing activity tends to have lagged behind (Mandel, 1975). The effects of political
development, however conceptualized, are perhaps best conceived as direct changes in the
institutional location of women.
598 WEISS ET AL
given that in some countries the kinds of occupational pursuits that attract
highly educated people might also be culturally defined as inappropriate work
for women. For example, if the professions, with the exception of nursing and
elementary school teaching, are forbidden territory for women, a large number
of highly educated women may opt for unpaid activities of a familial or cultural
Through what mechanisms may greater access to higher education lead to
greater participation in the work force? First, it is conventionally argued that
greater access to higher education leads to the acquisition of work-related skills,
knowledge, and values. Second, it is asserted that even if precious little of sub-
stance is learned in school, to the extent that entry into the occupational sys-
tem is contingent on educational certification, women with higher education
are more likely to participate in the labor force (Meyer, 1970; Collins, 1971).
Note that both these processes operate at the individual level of analysis: highly
educated women are more likely to become working women later. This line
of reasoning is plausible with respect to high-status occupations, where entry
often presupposes a college degree. But in most countries the majority of wom-
en in the entire labor force are not highly educated. Individual-level arguments
hinging on the acquisition of skills and values or social certification strike
us as inadequate grounds for predicting a positive relationship between access
to higher education and participation in the labor force at the aggregate level.
And yet, access to higher education may have positive consequences through
another route. Higher education and the work force have traditionally been
regarded as male-oriented, institutional sub-worlds. Perhaps overcoming obstacles
to entry into higher education leads to surmounting barriers to labor force involve-
ment on the part of women. Note that our references to employment and educa-
tion do not necessarily cover the same set of women. We argue that nations with
a relatively large number of women in higher education are more likely to open
the labor market to women regardless of how much schooling they have com-
pleted. Or to put it in more general sociological terms, as some members of a
status group gain access to an institutional setting once denied them, other pre-
viously closed institutional settings are more likely to be penetrated by any other
member of the status group.
Last, the symbolic and structural connections between access to higher educa-
tion and participation in the labor force may be dependent on how far higher
education is nationally incorporated, that is, the degree to which connections
are located within a network of national (state-level) rules, resources, and
institutional interrelationships (Rubinson, 1974; Ramirez, 1974). The more
higher education is infused with national purposes and regulated by state agencies,
the stronger the linkage between educational and occupational attainment at
both the individual and aggregate levels-especially for elite status occupations.
Our exposition of macrosociological arguments regarding the sources of female
participation in the labor force leads to six general propositions. Three of these
have been tested and will be discussed in this paper.3 The conventional argument
is that as the percentage of women in the labor force increases, there should
3 Sufficient data are lacking for tests of propositions four and five, and proposition six is
the subject of future research.
Women in the Occupational System 599
be concomitant increases in their participation as a group at higher levels of
employment, given the equal in influence of structural processes on female par-
ticipation rates throughout the occupational system. Predictions for increased
relative participation of women should thus be seen as applying both to the labor
force as a whole and to administrative and managerial positions. The following
propositions were tested:
1. The more industrialized a society the greater the relative participation of
2. The greater the degree of state corporateness the greater the relative partici-
pation of women.
3. The higher the proportion of women in higher education the greater the
relative participation of women.
Three other propositions also follow from the preceding discussion:
4. The greater the division of labor (occupational differentiation and speciali-
zation) characterizing a society the greater the relative participation of
5. The greater the degree of formal political representation the greater the
relative participation of women.
6. The further higher education is nationally incorporated the greater the rela-
tive participation of women.
In order to test the effects of structural processes on the level of participation
of women in national occupational systems, a multivariate, cross-national
analysis was used. The authors are only too aware of the difficulties that arise
in drawing causal inferences from cross-sectional data. This is particularly a
problem when a large number of nation-states are the subject of study and as-
sumptions must be made regarding linear processes of development across nation-
states which have entered into the world-economy at different historic points.
Our models, nonetheless, reasonably represent the factors affecting the partici-
pation of women at a given historical period (1960-1965). In addition, we are
interested in the variation in institutional structures and female participation
rates across countries, rather than their changes over time.
Economic, political, and educational variables are often discussed as highly
interrelated factors that operate jointly in producing changes in social organiza-
tion; this is particularly true in most of the literature examining changes in fe-
male participation in the paid labor force. To investigate one of these processes
without controlling for the others) would leave one's findings open to the charge
of spuriousness. The use of multivariate analysis enables us to gauge the effects
of alternative causal processes and to determine whether the predicted effect
holds after controlling for these factors.
1. Dependent Variables. The variables used to measure the relative level of
female participation in the national occupational system were constructed from
data obtained in the International Labor Organization Yearbook (1972). In
order to determine variations in the relative levels of participation rather than
absolute differences in the number of employed women, each of these depen-
dent variables was conceived as a ratio based on a broader relevant population.
In the case of female participation in the labor force, the measure is defined as
the ratio of the total number of women fully employed to the total number of
persons (men and women) fully employed in a given nation-state (female labor
force ratio). The indicator of participation of women at more powerful and
prestigious levels4 of the occupational structure is defined as the number of
women employed in the administrative and managerial sector as a percentage of
the total number of persons in that sector (female administration ratio).5
2. Independent Variables. The measure of educational attainment, the number
of women enrolled in tertiary level education relative to the total tertiary enroll-
ment (tertiary enrollment ratio), is defined in the same manner as the measure of
occupational attainment. When controlling for relative primary and secondary
participation we constructed the measures in the same manner. We have attempted
to maintain a consistent definition and construction for both these independent
variables and the dependent measures for both theoretical as well as methodo-
logical reasons. These data are taken from the UNESCO Statistical Yearbook
(1971) and are coded for 1965.
The measures of economic development used in these analyses are both con-
ventional indicators. In the regressions presented, gross national product per
capital in U.S. dollars for 1965 is used. These data were obtained from the I.B.R.D.
World Tables, 1971. An alternative measure, kilowatt hours consumed per
capital, 1965 (Hudson and Taylor, 1972), was employed as an additional test in
Three measures of state corporateness are employed in this paper. The first,
political party systems, is an indicator which distinguishes between the following
types of political systems: (a) one-party, (b) one-party dominant, (c) two-party,
and (d) multi-party systems. (One-party systems are coded high.) We assumed
that the fewer the number of political parties the greater the likelihood of the
party becoming a powerful and visible symbol of national unity. This measure is
taken from Banks and Textor (1963) for the year 1955.
The size of the cabinet is taken from Banks (1972) for the year 1955. It
records the number of members in each cabinet. We assumed that the greater
the number of cabinet officers, the greater the number of institutional structures
that have been penetrated by the state and reconstituted as national concerns.
Furthermore, we assume that this measure may capture the degree to which
peripheral groups and interests have been symbolically and organizationally
linked to the nation-state.
4 In most studies examining the participation of women at higher occupational levels, the
percentage of women in professional positions is employed as the dependent variable. This
usage has been questioned in the literature (Tyree and Treas, 1974) on the grounds that the
category often represents elite statuses for men (doctors and professors) while representing
quasi-elite, semi-professional statuses for women (teachers and nurses). The positions most
often filled by women can hardly be construed as powerful and highly rewarded. Additionally,
the mean relative level of participation of women in the professions cross-nationally is .41,
nearly double that of the mean relative level of participation of women in the labor force as
a whole (.27). We have chosen the category of administrators and managers as representing
more clearly positions of greater power and income. Note that the mean relative level of
participation for this category (.10) also reflects its elite character.
s The use of ratio variables in causal analysis opens the authors to the charge of bias in
that part of the observed effect may be attributed to the denominators of the ratio variables
(Schussler, 1973). In this case we feel justified in employing the measures cited as they give
a much clearer picture of the relative level of women as a status group, where the raw num-
bers are likely to convey as much a picture of the effects of expanding population and ex-
panding employment structures as changes in the status of women within these constraints.
Women in the Occupational System 601
The measure of government revenues consists in the total national government
revenue as a percentage of the total national income. The amount of government
revenue includes the amount of tax revenue plus non-tax revenues plus indirect
taxes. The data used are from the World Table 6 developed by the Economic
Program Department, Socio-Economic Data Division of the International Bank
for Reconstruction and Development. The measure is an average for the time
period 1951-1960. We assume that the greater the degree of government revenue,
the greater the extent of state control over economic resources.
We have examined data on the level of participation of women in 66 countries;
each equation includes approximately 45 of these because of missing values on
the independent variables. (A list of the countries included in the analysis and
the values of the variables used may be obtained from the authors.)
A. Analysis of Female Labor Force Participation
The data show support for each of the three propositions tested about the
participation of females in the paid labor force as a whole. (Women have always
represented a substantial proportion of the labor force, but most often an unpaid
-and unreported-proportion. With the transition from an agricultural-and-crafts
economy to an industrial economy, women may more often join the paid labor
Economic development shows a positive impact on the participation of women,
although the results are significant in only one out of the three equations. It
seems clear that women participate more in the paid labor force in countries that
have achieved higher levels of economic development.6 This finding may be a
function of the greater availability of jobs, better pay, or a normative climate
that favors or at least tolerates female employment. Whether it is more specifically
a function of an increasing division of labor is a subject for future research.
The effects of strongly mobilizing states on the incorporation of women into
the paid labor force are very positive. As governments extend equal rights of
citizenship to all of their citizens, they also tend to provide them access to other
institutional structures, such as the paid labor force. The measure of the number
of cabinet ministers shows the strongest and most significant effects. The impli-
cation to be drawn here is that the more a state has penetrated other institutional
structures within its boundaries, the more likely it is to draw women into these
structures. The effect of the political parties measure, while somewhat weaker,
is positive and significant. This, too, describes the consequences of strongly cen-
tralized states which organize all of their members as equal citizens of the state
around symbols of national unity; there is one agency to which appeals for equity
can be directed-the state (as opposed to a variety of interest-oriented parties).
While the effects of the size of government revenues are less strong, they are also
positive, although not significant. The interpretation to be made here is that the
greater the state control over economic resources, the greater the likelihood that
women will be included in the paid labor force. The political incorporation of
6 An alternative measure of economic development, log kilowatt hours of energy consumed,
was also used in these equations in place of gross national product per capital; the findings
were essentially the same. The similarity in the findings is not surprising, however, given the
high correlation between the two measures (greater than .90).
A Cross-Sectional Analysis of the Effects of Economic Development,
State Corporateness, and Female Teritary Education on the
Participation of Women in the Labor Force
Dependent Variable: Proportion
Independent Variables of Women in the Labor Force
Constant .133 B Stnd. Error Beta
enrlmnt. ratio, 1965 .340a .134 .351
GNP per capital, 1965 .002a .001 .298
Party systems, 1955
(One party coded high) .022a .011 .273
N = 46, R2 =.219
Constant .024 B Stnd. Error Beta
enrlmnt. ratio, 1965 .269a .134 .252
GNP per capital, 1965 .003 .002 .180
No. national cabinet
ministers, 1955 .009b .002 .460
N = 49, R = .421
Constant .182 B Stnd. Error Beta
enrlmnt. ratio, 1965 .087 .093 .136
GNP per capital, 1965 .001 .002 .112
as % GDP 1951-60 .003 .002 .276
N =45, R' =.168
ap = .05
women can be seen quite realistically, for example, within the context of ex-
panding national bureaucracies and the institution of civil service systems, which
increase in size as states increase the proportion of the economic resources they
The proportion of women in post-secondary school systems also strongly affects
the participation of women in the labor market. As noted, this may not imply
that those women who acquire tertiary educations are the same set of women
who are employed in the labor force; rather, it seems to us that the demystifica-
tion of one institution in a society for a subset of its members has similar conse-
quences for other institutions in that society. The majority of women employed
in any society work because of economic necessity, and they are not likely to
have access to institutions of higher learning.7
7 It may appear that the effects of tertiary education are spurious, that we are actually
capturing the effects of the relative level of female participation in primary and secondary
education. To check this line of reasoning, we have also employed models where the effects
of female enrollment ratios at the lower levels of schooling are taken into account. In these
analyses, female tertiary education continues to show consistent positive effects (approxi-
mately .25), although no longer quite significant at the .05 level. Moreover, the effects of
the primary and secondary ratios are weak and inconsistent. Although literacy (and other
WEISS ET AL
Women in the Occupational System
A Cross-Sectional Analysis of the Effects of Economic
Development, State Corporateness, and Female Tertiary
Education on the Participation of Women in Administrative
and Managerial Positions
Dependent Variable: Proportion of
Women in Administration
Independent Variables and Management
Constant .024 B Stnd. Error Beta
enrlmnt. ratio, 1965 .293a .101 .447
GNP per capital, 1965 .0002 .0006 .058
Party systems, 1955
(One party coded high) -.005 .009 -.077
N = 39, R =.218
Constant -.016 B Stnd. Error Beta
enrlmnt. ratio, 1965 .344a .098 .512
GNP per capital, 1965 .001 .002 .082
No. national cabinet
ministers, 1955 .001 .002 .084
N=41, R2 =.324
Constant .007 B Stnd. Error Beta
enrlmnt. ratio, 1965 .267a .082 .472
GNP per capital, 1965 -.001 .002 -.086a
as % GDP 1951-60 .002 .002 .213
N =41, R2 =.249
ap = .001
B. Analysis of Female Participation in Administration
While we have found support for each of the propositions about the participa-
tion of women in the labor force, the empirical findings on the incorporation of
women into more elite positions show a very different pattern of effects. The
economic development effect drops to near zero or even becomes a small negative
coefficient. This change mitigates against such arguments as those contending
that the process of industrialization leads to the application of achievement
criteria rather than ascribed characteristics in the recruitment and promotion of
personnel. Industrialization leads women to enter the paid labor market but not
at the higher levels.
All but one of the political effects also disappear in the analysis of the propor-
tion of women in administrative and managerial positions. The exception to this
skills associated with lower levels of schooling) surely increase the chances of employment
for an individual, at the aggregate level of analysis the demystifying effects of increased
access to higher education seem to be more convincing in reducing the use of sex segrega-
tion as a mode of organizing social action. Throughout these analyses, the effects of eco-
nomic and political variables remained the same.
pattern, government revenues, has a positive, but not significant, effect on the
participation of women in administrative positions. The effects of the number of
political parties and the number of cabinet ministers approach zero and are not
significant. The implication is that while mobilizing states and the process of
economic development bring women into the labor force, these structural pro-
cesses do not increase their participation in the more powerful and well-rewarded
positions; a process that can best be described as incorporation at the rear of the
Of the structural processes tested in this paper, the process of including women
in post-secondary educational institutions has the sole positive effect on the
participation of women in more elite occupational positions. In all equations, the
effects of female tertiary education are both strong and statistically significant.
This relationship is somewhat diminished when we control for primary and
secondary enrollment ratios, but maintains an average standardized regression
coefficient of .25. Primary and secondary enrollments themselves, however, have
no consistent causal effects of their own. We infer that those societies in which
greater numbers of women have been certified by institutions of higher learning
as qualified for employment have less rationale for excluding them from positions
requiring such certification.
Three main findings are derived from these analyses: First, increasing economic
development brings women into the paid labor force but has no effect on their
participation at the administrative level. Second, the effects of strongly corpo-
rate, mobilizing states on the participation of women in the occupational structure
operate in a pattern that follows that of economic development. Strong states
increase the participation of women in the labor force but fail to influence their
participation at the top of the occupational structure. "Third, a high level of
female participation in tertiary educational systems shows strong, positive effects
on the participation of women at all levels of the occupational structure."
COMPARATIVE RESEARCH AND NATIONAL POLICY CONCERNS
The status of women in society has become a significant issue in an increasing
number of countries.8 It is often the controversial subject of national reports
and legislation. At the international level, many proclamations barring various
forms of discrimination against women have been issued through the United
Nations. Although social science findings are often invoked as ammunition in
defense of or against proposals affecting the status of women, little systematic
comparative analysis of the institutional structures is available that might influ-
ence the degree of female participation in the major public spheres of organized
This investigation is an attempt to help fill this serious gap. Our analyses show
that variations in the female labor-force participation rates are influenced, often
strongly, by nation-level differences in the degree of economic development, the
level of political corporate construction (state formation), and female access to
For research on the status of women in European countries, see the final report of the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 1970 and Galeson, 1973; for
Asian women, see de Jesus-Viardo, 1969; for a comparison of the status of women in the
Middle East versus Latin American women, see Youssef, 1974; for the United States, see
Women in the Occupational System
higher education. Only the educational variable, however, continues positively to
affect female participation in the administrative occupational category. The
positive impact of female access to higher education on female participation in
upper echelon occupations is not "washed out" when we control for the influence
of female access to lower levels of schooling or female participation in the labor
From a policy standpoint, the key institutions we have focused on as indepen-
dent variables may be viewed as structural levers or constraints that probably
operate on the status of women quite apart from how much women have inter-
nalized liberated values and motives, and how far the organization and strength
of the feminist movement has developed. The latter phenomena may be con-
ceptualized either as intermediate variables with positive consequences of their
own or as collective revitalization movements undertaken in reaction to unfavor-
able societal conditions. Further studies are required to develop measures of
the historical experience of women in different nations with the franchise, with
national decision-making structures, and with organized labor movements.
These studies might shed light on whether favorable external institutional
structures facilitate the development of effective feminist organizations or
whether, as we suspect, the latter are co-opted via incorporation processes that
give women a place in society albeit at the rear of the bus.
Further policy considerations need to be elaborated. First, while demands for
greater female participation in higher education might have an elitist ring, note
that it opens doors not only to highly educated women, some of whom presum-
ably become executives and managers, but also to masses of less educated women
whose employment chances are positively affected. Note also that access to pri-
mary and secondary education does not have similar positive consequences. This
is really not surprising in view of the evidence that school-based competencies
are minimally related to employment skills (Berg, 1971). As we stated earlier, the
effects of higher education take place at the institutional, not the individual level.
Second, the greater participation rate of women in the more industrialized
nations suggests that there is some merit to the thesis that more developed
economies require a greater number of personnel and thus probably employ a
greater number of females. Note, however, that the favorable influence comes to
an end with respect to the higher paying and more prestigious occupations. The
route to industrialization, neo-classical economists argue, often involves tempo-
rary setbacks for the less privileged groups so as to facilitate capital accumulation
and reinvestment. The data show that the windfalls of greater productivity are
somewhat limited for one peripheral group, women.
Third, the positive influence of the state-formation measures should caution
against populist rhetoric calling for more local autonomy and less centralized
authority. The concentration of power in a mobilizing center can benefit minority
groups, such as women by offsetting entrenched interests at the regional and
local levels. The relatively greater representation of women in the French labor
force (France is an example of a highly corporate state in the Gaullist era) may
reflect this process (Silver, 1975). But again, note that stronger states are not
any more likely than weaker ones to insure higher levels of female participation
at the top of the occupational heirarchy.
Finally, on the premise that there is more cross-national variation in female
participation patterns than in their prior sex-role socialization, we hope policy
makers will recognize that individuals often develop the job-appropriate qualities
as they anticipate desirable occupational futures or even after they have attained
these favorable positions.
Yi Y2 X1 X2 X3 X4 Xs
Y1 Proportion of women
in the labor force 1.00
Y2 Proportion of women
in administrative and
managerial positions .18 1.00
X1 Gross National
Product per capital .31 .27 1.00
X2 Proportion of women
in tertiary level
education systems .21 .46 .34 1.00
X3 Number of
Political parties .18 -.17 -.30 -.13 1.00
X4 Number of
cabinet ministers .54 .20 .10 .28 .44 1.00
X5 Government revenues
as a percent of
Gross Domestic Product .37 .18 .73 .13 -.11 .29 1.00
Adeline, Levine and Janice Crumrine
1975 "Women and the fear of success: a problem in replication." American Journal of
Anderson, C. A.
1956 "The social status of university students in relation to type of economy: an
international comparison." Pp. 51-63 in Transactions of the Third World Congress
of Sociology, Vol. V, London: International Sociological Association.
1971 Cross-Polity Time Series Data. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Banks, Arthur and Robert Textor
1963 A Cross-Polity Survey. Cambridge: MIT Press.
1971 Education and Jobs: The Great Training Robbery. Boston: Beacon Press.
1970 Women's Role in Economic Development. New York: St. Martin's.
Bowen, William G. and T. A. Finegan
1969 The Economics of Labor Force Participation. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton Univer-
1975 What are Norms? Oxford: Oxford University.
1971 "Functional and conflict theories of educational stratification." American Socio-
logical Review, 36(December):1002-1019.
Coser, Rose Laub and Gerald Rokoff
1971 "Women in the occupational world: social disruption and conflict." Social Prob-
1966 "Words and deeds: social science and social policy." Social Problems 13(Winter):
Epstein, Cynthia Fuchs
1970 Women's Place: Options and Limits in Professional Careers. Berkeley: University
WEISS ET AL
Women in the Occupational System 607
1963 "The integrative revolution." pp. 105-157 in C. Geertz (ed.) Old Societies and
New States. New York: The Free Press.
Goode, William J.
1963 World Revolution and Family Patterns. New York: The Free Press.
Hochschild, Arlie Russell
1973 "A review of sex role research." American Journal of Sociology 78(January):
1970 "Femininity and successful achievement: a basic inconsistency." Judith Bard-
wick, et al. (ed.), in Feminine Personality and Conflict. Belmont, California:
Huntington, Samuel P.
1968 Political Order in Changing Societies. New Haven: Yale University Press.
International Labor Office
1972 Yearbook of Labor Statistics. Geneva: ILO.
Knudsen, Dean D.
1969 "The declining status of women: popular myths and the failure of functionalist
thought." Social Forces 48(2):183-193.
1946 "Cultural contradictions and sex roles." American Journal of Sociology 52
LaPiere, R. T.
1934 "Attitudes vs. actions." Social Forces, 13(March):230-237.
1966 Power and Privilege. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Lieberson, Stanley and Lynn K. Hansen
1974 "National development, mother tongue diversity, and the comparative study of
nations." American Sociological Review, 39(4): 523-540.
Lipset, Seymour M.
1959 "Some social requisites of democracy: economic development and political
legitimacy." American Political Science Review 53(March):69-105.
Maccoby, Eleanor and Carol Jacklin
1975 The Psychology of Sex Differences. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.
Mandel, William M.
1975 Soviet Women. New York: Anchor Books.
Mason, Karen Oppenheim and Larry L. Bumpass
1975 "U.S. women's sex-role ideology, 1970." American Journal of Sociology 80
Meyer, John W.
1970 "The charter: conditions of diffuse socialization in schools." In W. R. Scott (ed.),
Social Processes and Social Structures. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.
1971 "Leads on old questions from a new revolution: notes on Cuban women, 1969." In
Cynthia Fuchs Esptein and William J. Goode (eds.), The Other Half. Englewood
Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.
Oppenheimer, Valerie K.
1970 The Female Labor Force in the United States: Demographic and Economic
Factors Governing its Growth and Changing Composition. Population Monograph
Series No. 5. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development
1971 Employment of Women. Paris: OECD.
Orum, Anthony, Roberta S. Cohen, Sherri Grasmuck, and Amy Orum
1974 "Sex, socialization, and politics." American Sociological Review 39(April): 197-
1951 The Social System,Glencoe: The Free Press.
1966 "The concept of political development." Pp. 83-91 in Jason L. Finkle and Richard
W. Gable (eds.), Political Development and Social Change. New York: John Wiley
608 WEISS ET AL
Ramirez, Francisco O.
1974 Societal corporateness and status conferral: a comparative analysis of the national
incorporation and expansion of educational systems. Unpublished Doctoral
Dissertation, Department of Sociology, Stanford University.
Ramirez, Francisco 0. and Jane Weiss (with Terry Tracy)
1975 "The Political Incorporation of Women: A Cross-National Analysis." Paper read
at the American Sociological Association meetings, San Francisco.
1974 The political construction of education. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation,
Department of Sociology, Stanford University.
1973 "Ratio variables and path models." In Arthur Goldberg and 0. D. Duncan (eds.),
Structural Equation Models in the Social Sciences. New York: Holt, Rinehart and
Silver, Catherine Bodard
1973 "Salon, foyer, bureau: women and the professions in France." American Journal
of Sociology, 78(January):836-852.
Taylor, Charles and Michael Hudson
1972 World Handbook of Political and Social Indicators II. New Haven: Yale University
Trieman, Donald and Kermit Terrell
1975 "Sex and the process of status attainment: a comparison of working women and
men." American Sociological Review, 40(April):174-200.
Tsuchigane, Robert and Norton Dodge
1974 Economic Discrimination Against Women in the United States. Lexington:
Tyree, Andrea and Judith Treas
1974 "The occupational and marital mobility of women." American Sociological Review,
1971 Statistical Yearbook. Louvain, Belgium: UNESCO.
1967 "Women in the law." Michigan Law Review 65(April):1051-1122.
1968 "Women's work: economic growth, ideology and social structure. Industrial
1974 Women and Work in Developing Societies. Population Monograph Series No. 15.
Berkeley. University of California Press.
Zimmer, Troy A.
1975 "Sexism in higher education: a cross-national analysis." Pacific Sociological
SOCIAL P/O ,LRCALEMS ^