After the Pioneers: Prospects for women in nontraditional blue-collar jobs

Sharon Harlan, Brigid O'farrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


This article uses data from a three-year study of one large industrial firm to illustrate fundamental distinctions between the pioneer era, when women and minorities struggled individually for access to predominantly white male jobs, and the postpioneer era that occurred after equal employment policies were institutionalized by the firm. Internal labor market theory provides a framework for analyzing the effects of organizational changes during the latter period. Our sources include intensive, structured interviews with 75 of the firm's blue-collar employees, 27 unstructured interviews with union officials, 388 responses to a mailed survey of blue-collar employees, and plantwide data on the employment status and job classifications of over 7000 blue-collar workers. We find that the 1978 affirmative action agreement did not address many of the organizational barriers at the plant level that impede women's access to and advancement in traditionally male jobs. Although the current policy has increased the number of women being hired, it may be promoting new patterns of sex and race segregation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)363-386
Number of pages24
JournalWork and Occupations
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1982
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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