Women in Cleaning

In our society there are certain jobs that tend to fall to one gender or the other, and as a cleaning company we felt it important to address the gendered industry that we are in. With female-heavy jobs tending to fall to those stemming from traditionally domestic work (such as cleaning or childcare) how does this affect the industry?

The following study by Career Smart shows a breakdown of different roles by sex, and some of the results are fascinating! Even within the cleaning industry, take a look at the division of labour between two sexes (figures based off 2020 UK results):

Job Title% Male% Female
Window Cleaners91.238.77
Vehicle Valeters86.9913.01
Elementary Cleaning Operations*47.2952.71
Cleaning and Housekeeping Managers21.1778.83

*General cleaning roles in commercial settings that do not fall within another category

As you can see, there are clear divisions between different sectors of the cleaning industry, with one of the largest discrepancies falling under the title ‘Cleaner’ where an overwhelming number of employees with this job title identified as female. ‘Window Cleaners’ and ‘Vehicle Valeters’ show even higher imbalances, this time favouring male employees.

What is the reason for this? A lot of the explanation can fall on traditional gender roles, where women stayed in domestic settings and men had more agency to leave the home to seek work. But this argument became redundant at least a century ago, longer for working class women. As job opportunities opened up to women there was a tendency to take up posts that were similar to domestic life, but is that still the case in 2021? There is no reason a woman can’t clean a car or a window as well as a man, or a man can’t clean a toilet as well as a woman! Take a look at the below image, a group of female window cleaners at work in 1917. Whilst they likely had to take up this role because of the War, it shows how even then women were equally capable.

Photo credit: picturenottingham.co.uk 

At ELANSE we tend to fall under the ‘Cleaner’ job role, with 54.83% of our team female and 45.17% male. Way above the average for male employees, but somehow they still manage to do a fantastic job! 60% of the leadership team are female, which is typical for the industry but in general rarely the case across sectors. 

It is important to be aware of statistics like this as we as a society move toward gender equality in the workplace. The notion of ‘female’ or ‘male’ jobs is outdated and does not make sense for modern society. We want to see more women window cleaners and men running a hoover around an office! 

NB: This article uses the term ‘gender’ to refer to the social and personal identity of an individual. This is unrelated to sex, and is determined by the individual. Whilst focusing on the genders ‘male’ and ‘female’, ELANSE recognises that gender is a spectrum and that there are many forms of gender identity not referenced but equally valued and important.

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