Pink Collar Jobs: What They Are And Examples

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 27, 2021
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What is a pink collar job or a pink collar worker? You’ve probably heard the terms blue-collar job and a white-collar job. You know that white-collar is used to reference the white business shirts that people wear under their suits at their office jobs. Blue-collar is a clever way of referencing the blue jumpsuits that many people in the trades used to wear.

So, where does pink collar fall in those job classifications? Pink collar began as a term that was usually used to describe jobs held by women. In the sexist world of the (not so distant) past, those jobs were considered “women’s work.”

But what is a pink-collar job today? Especially now that we’re breaking gender stereotypes and people are finding jobs doing whatever they want.

Definition of Pink Collar Jobs Today

The modern definition of pink-collar workers has changed from jobs women held to jobs in the service industry and ones where you primarily deal with people. The catch is that these jobs are still traditionally held by women.

They also, unfortunately, tend to be lower-paying jobs. While we’re making progress in gender equality, we’re still not quite there.

How Pink Collar Jobs Have Changed

It’s interesting that not only have the jobs that were classified as a pink collar in the past changed. The definition has also been altered, but it hasn’t been totally separated from its sexist origins.

Originally, the term pink-collar workers didn’t appear until the 1970s when author, Louise Kapp Howe, used it as a way to focus on social issues. She was primarily referring to nurses, secretaries, and teachers at the time. Obviously, those professions were widely available to women in the 1970s and even for centuries before.

The interesting thing is that in the 1940s, millions of women in the United States entered the workforce in jobs that were traditionally held by men. There also was a surge in jobs that were considered “better” for women.

A couple of things were happening in the 1940s that caused this influx of women into traditionally blue-collar roles; the biggest was World War II. Millions of men were called into service in the war, and not only did they leave vacancies, but there were also new war-related jobs that opened up, and workers were also needed to fill those roles.

If you’re familiar with the Rosie the Riveter character, this image is a direct representation of women called into factories to help out during the war.

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Another thing that began the shift of women’s roles in the workforce around the 1940s was the greater opportunities for education for women. Not every woman was able to get an education beyond high school, but it was becoming a more commonplace option.

In the 1970s, Louise Kapp Howe coined the term pink-collar to refer to jobs women held and focused on teaching, nursing, and secretarial positions. But 30 years before that, you saw a lot of women working as office machine workers, housekeepers, apparel manufacturers, tobacco manufacturers, social and welfare workers, waitresses, factory workers, bank tellers, aircraft mechanics, and riveters.

Why did some of these jobs become less available to women after the 1940s? Because the war ended and men wanted their jobs back.

Some women were delighted to go back to being housewives or to their old jobs. Others had a taste of the satisfaction of working, doing a skilled trade, and earning a decent living, and they weren’t happy.

Today’s Pink Collar Careers

It’s been a slow road since the 1970s for women in the workforce. The giant step backward in between the 1940s and the 1970s didn’t help. Luckily, today the term pink-collar worker is used to categorize both men and women who work in service-related occupations.

As mentioned above, many of these jobs are still held by women, and they can be lower-paying than other blue and white-collar jobs, but things are changing. This field is one that will continue to grow in the future.

15 Pink Collar Jobs

So, does the idea of working with people and possibly helping them feel better, live better lives, or be happier, healthier, and better-educated appeal to you? If so, then one of these pink-collar jobs might be right for you.

  • Teacher. Why not start with one profession that’s gone from almost all female to a field that’s growing in popularity for men. Teachers, especially grades K-12, have traditionally been women, and this has always been a pink-collar occupation, even before that term was created.

    It’s a great example of a job where the public is served, and people grow through direct interaction.

  • Nurse. Another job that was almost always done by women is becoming a better career option for men. If you want to work in medicine but don’t want to spend another 12 years in training after high school, then nursing is an excellent career path – for anyone.

  • Secretary. This term isn’t used very much anymore, but it is a general term that encompasses all of the administrative duties in an office that was once done by the secretary. Today, these jobs are broken down by specialties and have different names. They’re also done by both men and women alike.

  • Interior designer. Do you love working with design, colors, architectural shapes, and space? Then this pink-collar job might be just right for you. There’s definitely a degree of customer service involved, but there’s also an equal amount of creativity necessary.

  • Landscape designer. Much like an interior designer, a landscape designer or architect is creative but also customer-focused. They transform exterior spaces into garden oases. If outdoor spaces spark your vision, this can be a great career, and it’s sure to grow in popularity.

  • Librarian. Another job traditionally held by women. Today, librarians are highly-educated. Most librarians today have a Master of Library Science Degree; some also have degrees in education or law. You’ll find that about 83% of librarians today are women.

    The interesting thing is that this pink-collar job used to be a bit more male-dominated. Way back in the 1880s, men held 52% of the librarian jobs.

  • Dental Assistant or Hygienist. The field of dentistry still holds on to more traditional gender roles, but that’s changing. A dentist is classified as a white-collar worker, mainly because of the amount of school necessary to hold the job and the difference in pay grades.

    The support staff of dental hygienists and assistants are pink-collar jobs because they do more patient interaction, earn less, and go to school for a shorter period of time.

  • Social Worker. Social workers step in to protect children and support families in need. Most social workers have an undergraduate diploma and work in a government-run agency.

    The amount of human interaction is great, and this field is based on helping others. It’s a perfect example of a modern-day pink-collar occupation.

  • Hairstylist. Other perfect examples of a pink-collar career are the hairstylist, barber, and beauty expert. These are the people who may have actually worn pink collars at some point. Many beauty schools used to have pink uniforms for their students.

    Although barbers have often been men and hairstylists are often women, that’s changing, and they’re all pink-collar employees.

  • Store Buyer. This person is responsible for researching merchandise, arranging to sell that merchandise, and managing those relationships. This is an evolving role today with the growth of e-commerce and the decline of brick and mortar stores.

    Businesses that sell online are no longer hampered by physical space, so this job might be on its way out.

  • Magazine Editor. Magazine editors typically have bachelor’s degrees, and many have advanced degrees. Unlike the writer who can lead a solitary existence, this professional is constantly dealing with their staff, creating editorial calendars, proofing content, and managing the production process.

    It’s a job that women tend to hold, but men are also often found in this pink-collar job.

  • Flight Attendant. They used to be called stewardesses, and the sexism in this industry is legendary. That has changed, and now men and women both hold this position, and the sexism is starting to fade away.

    If you love to travel, have an affinity for aviation, and enjoy interacting with people, this could be a high-flying field for you.

  • Restaurant Server/Host. Still called waiters and waitresses by many, this position and that of host or hostess is a pink collar job for sure. It’s a great career for some, with tips making up for the low hourly pay.

    For others, this is a wonderful side gig that helps them pay the bills while they work another job or go to school because it requires no education and only on-the-job training.

  • Travel Agent. If travel excites you, then the travel agent job might be your pink collar solution. This job is on the decline as people are making a lot of travel arrangements on their own, but there are still opportunities out there.

    Some people like the white-glove service that an agent offers and many businesses prefer to go through a travel agency.

  • Retail Clerk. Selling things in a retail environment is about as pink collar as a job can get. It’s a job both men and women have always held, but more often, in the past, the men were the store owners, and women were hired to help.

    It’s also all about customer relations. Today, this position is popular for men and women, but it still holds that pink collar status.

Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.
Chris Kolmar

Author

Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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