Gender Divide in Librarianship: Past, Present and Future
Over the last century, women have consistently made up a large majority of librarians, and librarianship is widely considered to be a female-dominated profession. Interestingly, the field has also seen the emergence of a minority-dominated male management force, despite the overwhelming majority of female librarians. This gender divide between female librarians as the majority occupying lower positions and the minority male librarians assuming higher-level and higher-paying management positions has greatly impacted the status of librarianship as a profession throughout the last century. This paper will explore the foundations of librarianship as a profession defined by a gender divide with a discussion of the history of gender in librarianship, including: the influx of women into the profession and the establishment of female-dominance; recruitment of males into the field and the rapid rise of males to management positions that created a gender divide; and the impact of this gender divide on the status of librarianship. Then, attempts of librarians to bridge that divide and progress made will follow, including a discussion of the discourse about this gender divide and its role in the status of librarianship that began with the rise of feminism in the 1960’s, as well as a discussion of the efforts that have been made to call attention to the gender gap in librarianship and its role in the status of the profession, including a review of the studies focused on the gender gap and measurements of progress. Finally, current professional trends will be explored for the possibility of the emergence of a new gender divide, just as the traditional one begins to disappear. This exploration will include a look at patterns suggesting a move from traditional service functions of professional librarians to technological and administrative functions, the emergence of a view of women as increasingly associated with management in the modern organization, a discussion of trends associating men with information and technology and evidence of men dominating technological positions within LIS, and, finally, a consideration of the threat of a new gender divide emerging between autonomous, technological roles filled by men identified as information scientists and bureaucratic, administrative roles filled by women identified as librarians.
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