Table of Contents
The existing tradition of the quantitative methods of collecting and analyzing information in line with the applied sociological and socio-psychological investigations has allowed accumulating huge amount of statistical data. However, it is not always able to reveal the underlying mechanisms of the mass consciousness. An attention of the researchers to the establishment of causal relationships and motivational mechanisms of the studied social phenomena contributes to the search for other techniques. The examples of these are the qualitative research methods that are more appropriate for achieving the objectives in the field of socio-psychological knowledge in comparison with the quantitative ones. Nevertheless, their application is controversial due to the lack of the statistical data of the obtained results that often raises doubt about their validity. Therefore, this approach requires an attentive usage otherwise it would have the subjective errors. In particular, the use of the qualitative research methods can be observed in the article “The Glass Escalator: Hidden Advantages for Men in the “Female” Professions” by Christine L. Williams. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the author’s work on the subject of an essence of the research and the ways to achieve its results. Moreover, it will investigate whether the conclusions correspond to the assigned tasks and where the mistakes have been made.
Sociological Questions Asked and Answers to Them
The Discussion of Questions
In the article, Williams (1992) considers the problems of “men’s underrepresentation in four predominantly female occupations – nursing, librarianship, elementary school teaching, and social work” (p. 253). In this connection, the researcher asks the following sociological questions and draws attention to the next problems:
- What is the current degree of gender segregation of the U.S. labor force? Why is it difficult to find the jobs with equal numbers of men and women? The issue focuses primarily on men’s experiences in female-dominated occupations (Williams, 1992, p. 253).
- In what forms does a discrimination against women working in the “male fields” appear? Do men in female-dominated occupations experience the same difficulties that women face in male-dominated occupations? The issue is connected with the theory of tokenism (Williams, 1992, p. 254).
- Is there a discrimination or preference for men in employment in one of the four of the listed areas? Are there the exceptions to the advantages for men in the most female-dominated specialties? Why may these exceptions be affirmative for men to move up the career ladder? In this case, the researcher compares the same opportunities for women (Williams, 1992, p. 256).
- Is there a negative attitude to men working in female-dominated occupations by their supervisors and colleagues? This issue is related to the reasons of why male workers have a good relationship with them (Williams, 1992, p. 258).
- Why do men occupying “women” positions experience discrimination of outsiders? This question is related to the problem that certain negative stereotypes are imposed on these workers (Williams, 1992, p. 261).
The Discussion of Answers
The researcher answers that gender inequality in the labor sphere is considered to be “one of the most perplexing and tenacious” social problems. Accordingly, it is difficult to define an accurate degree of sex segregation in this field (Williams, 1992, p. 253. In addition, many professions can be divided into male and female groups. And, if some man or woman works in the sphere of another gender, he or she feels discrimination. However, the last one has different forms depending on the sex of the worker. Williams (1992) emphasizes that women experience legal, informal, and cultural discrimination (p. 254).
At the same time, the respondents reply that men do not face “prejudice when they integrate predominantly female occupations” (Williams, 1992, p. 254). Moreover, because of their gender, men have an advantage while looking for a position in female occupations. However, there are some exceptions to the following preference. For example, sometimes men are not allowed to work with small children or in the department of gynecology. On the other side, such cases permit them to move up the career ladder taking not specified but higher administrative positions (Williams, 1992, p. 256). Furthermore, through the gender and the fact that they are in the minority, men have good relationships with their directors and other workers (Williams, 1992, p. 258). Nevertheless, there exists discrimination by outsiders as nurses, librarians, social workers, and elementary school teachers are perceived solely as female professions. For this reason, society believes that something is wrong with men who hold such positions (Williams, 1992, p. 261).
The Way the Findings Are Presented
As Williams (1992) pointed out, the researcher uses the method of in-depth interviews for finding answers to the above-mentioned questions (p. 254). The author examined 76 men and 23 women in four occupations from 1985 till 1991. The age of the respondents ranged from 20 to 66, and the average one was 38. There were open-ended questions on the following issues: “motivation to enter the profession; experiences in training; [and] career progression” (Williams, 1992, p. 255). Another topic under consideration was “general views about men’s status and prospects within these occupations” (Williams, 1992, p. 255).
The researcher presents the findings by dividing the responses into three groups depending on the areas. These are “hiring practices, on-the-job rapport with supervisors and co-workers, and prejudice from clients and others outside their profession” (Williams, 1992, p. 255). The author analyzes the answers of the interviewed people and provides summary conclusions that relate to every man working in “women’s field”. Furthermore, the researcher uses direct quotations of some individuals whose answers underline the results better than the others. Apart from this, Williams repeatedly indicates statistical data obtained by other scientists concerning the issues under examination. For instance, the researcher provides information about the percentage of women’s positions occupied by men in the form of a table (Williams, 1992, p. 254). Furthermore, for comparison purposes of discrimination against men or women, the author uses the examples of other scientists who have worked on the female integration into “male fields”.
The Evaluation of the Article
The article should be evaluated according to its relevance, correspondence of the methods to the theme and topics of research, the proper application of the selected technique, conformity of the results to the task. As for the issue of appropriateness, it is worth noting that, on the one hand, the researcher argues that the object of the article deserves an attention. However, on the other hand, the question arises of what exactly is the main object of this investigation. Article heading inndicates that those are hidden advantages for men in the “female” professions and the opportunity to experience “the glass escalator”. Nevertheless, the analysis of the work shows that it has a number of important objects and sociological issues. Not less important among them is the study of not only men in women’s professions but also female representation in males’ areas. However, using the method of interview the author relies only on one of the issues – the presence or absence of discrimination in relation to men. The remaining objects are considered indirectly. As a result, it reflects the negative side of this study because there are multiple points to which Williams draws attention but cannot reveal to the end.
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Conduction of in-depth interviews demonstrates that the author applies the qualitative research method. In this connection, it should be mentioned that the qualitative data differs from the quantitative in that the content of the first one conveys the meaning directly characterizing the carrier, while the second one indicates the scale, scope, intensity of characteristics of the phenomenon being studied. The advantage of the applied method is “its ability to provide complex textual descriptions of how people experience a given research issue” (“Qualitative Research Methods,” n. d.). It is appropriate not only in the researches of human sides maintaining “behaviors, beliefs, opinions, emotions, and relationships of individuals” but also “effective in identifying intangible factors, such as social norms, socioeconomic status, [and] gender roles” (“Qualitative Research Methods,” n. d.).
Therefore, it is important to realize in what situations it is necessary to use quantitative or qualitative methods. In some cases, a sociologist is interested in the description of objective relations between certain social phenomena or their parameters. Sometimes, a researcher analyses the reliability of the repetition of these connections, their measurement and causal explanation. Moreover, they might conduct the classification and systematization of events (cases) and the respondents’ attitudes to them. The above mentioned cases require the implementation of a quantitative approach. However, sometimes, a sociologist wants a description of the overall picture of the social phenomena or some event. They need the interpretation and understanding of internal and subjective in the actions of a person and a statement of particular facts of individuals’ life stories. In the following cases, a qualitative approach should be used.
However, the analysis of the article proves that the researcher has applied the selected technique improperly. The first mistake lies in the fact that actually Williams has not chosen a single research topic. Consequently, because of the fairly large number of the objects, the author has not been able to provide generalized conclusions. It also explains why the beginning of the work does not conform to its results. The second mistake is discrepancy of the method with regard to the topic. If the main object of the article is hidden advantages for men in the “female” professions, then the technique should be appropriate. However, the researcher focuses the interviews on the other topics. Moreover, Williams examines women who actually cannot express their personal opinion on the subject of what it means to be a man in female’s position.
In conclusion, the qualitative research methods can be effective when used correctly. Thereby, the researcher should choose a single object of investigation and interview exceptionally concerning its issues and purposes.