Careers and Gender: Changing occupational careers of women and men

This project is part of the Gender Equality Network (GeNet), funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). The fundamental aim of GeNet is to explore the dynamics of gender equality and how these are changing in contemporary society.

Our project, Changing Occupational Careers of Women and Men, addresses the following research questions:

1.     What factors explain women’s and men’s occupational mobility, upward and downward, during the life-course of successive cohorts;

2.     What are the determinants of career success, failure and recovery for men and women;

3.     How are gender pay differentials related to the occupational upgrading and downgrading across successive cohorts.

It is important to chart careers longitudinally to get a sense of the extent of change at key points in the lifecourse. Women have made remarkable educational progress and the proportion of highly qualified women has grown enormously in the last 20 years. However, while the ratio of women's to men's pay has improved, remuneration is still unequal. In post-war Britain, motherhood typically led to part-time jobs, after a break, often at lower occupational levels than before. Has such job downgrading changed? Does gender inequality still open up as people get older?

Evidence is taken from the detailed work and family history data contained in the successive British birth cohorts of 1946,1958, 1970 and the Millennium, which has involved considerable work cleaning employment history data. Employment and fertility histories in the earlier studies provide benchmark career profiles, as necessary background for an examination of the effects of the changing policy environment in the late 20th and 21st centuries. The project analyses the determinants of men's and women's career successes and failures in the light of a wide range of life experiences, support, infrastructure and constraints. Modelling of pay differentials focuses on full and part-time pay after childbearing.




Researchers who worked on this project are:


Shirley Dex (CLS)

Heather Joshi (CLS)

Peter Dolton (NCL)

Diana Kuh (NSHD)

Erzsébet Bukodi (CLS)


Former research officers are:


Kelly Ward (now at NatCen)

Jenny Neuburger (now at LSHTM)


Key publications

Scott, J., Dex, S. and Joshi, H. (eds.) (2008) Changing patterns of women's employment over 25 years. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Dex, S., Joshi, H. and Ward, K. (2008) 'Changes in Women's Occupations and Occupational Mobility over 25 years', in Scott, J., Dex, S. and Joshi, H. (eds) Women and employment: Changing lives and new challenges. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.

Dex, S. Ward, K. and Joshi, H. (2008) 'Gender differences in occupational wage mobility in the 1958 cohort' in Work Employment and Society, 22(2).

Bukodi, E., Dex, S. (2010) ‘Bad start: Is there a way up? Gender differences in the effect of initial occupation on early career mobility in Britain’ in European Sociological Review, 26: 431-446.


All publications

A full list of the project's outputs can be downloaded from the CLS Library.