Explaining gender divisions of labour in physiotherapy and radiography : a qualitative study
In this sociological study, physiotherapy and radiography are examined as two predominantly female health professions. The emergent objectives of the research were to explore experiences of women and men within the professions and to consider and compare 'insider' and 'academic' explanations for the gender composition and divisions of labour in them. The research is framed within the methodological traditions of interpretivism and feminism, and uses iterative methods of data collection and analysis informed by grounded theory and analytic induction. The thesis begins with an extensive examination of feminist and traditional literature on sex, gender and sexuality; education; work and employment; caring and professions. The literature review both informs and is informed by the detailed analysis of qualitative data from 48 semi-structured interviews and 69 postal questionnaires. The fieldwork was conducted with student and qualified members of the two professions. The coded data are compared by sex and occupation, and organised into conceptual categories and constructs. Main themes and core issues are identified as relevant to the gender composition and divisions of labour and, from this, an explanatory theoretical framework is proposed. The Nud*ist software package has been used to aid the data analysis. The overall gender composition and horizontal and vertical divisions of labour within the two professions are seen to reflect impressions, evaluations and experiences of the 'caring', 'professional' and 'career aspects of physiotherapy and radiography involving hierarchical, dichotomous notions and norms of gender and sexuality. These notions are variously identified as relevant to the gender composition of the professions at recruitment stages, during training, and after qualifying. In particular, caring and different types of care-work are experienced and evaluated in terms of various associations with female gender roles and responsibilities, feminine characteristics and abilities and sexuality, and linked to activities of the private/domestic sphere that use limited skills and informal knowledge. In contrast, professions and professionals and employment careers are linked to male gender roles and responsibilities, masculine attributes, activities of the public sphere, and rely on expert skills and achieved, formal knowledge. These contrasting aspects of physiotherapy and radiography theory and practice invoke different status. The author concludes the professional status and gender composition of physiotherapy and radiography reflect the inherent gender-based contradictory status of their work and identity as 'caring professions'. Caring represents a problem for professional status at both the individual and collective level: 'caring professions' involve a contradiction in terms.