Teaching Tokenism with Occupational Sex Segregation Data


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Both male and female Americans perceive that gender inequality has declined more significantly, over the last six decades, than the empirical data suggest (e.g., Kehn and Ruthig 2013). Furthermore, college students report holding more gender egalitarian views about careers than they have in the past (e.g., Anderson and Johnson 2003). These perceptions of progress may lead some students to underestimate the continuing effect of traditional gender roles and tokenism on occupational outcomes. To challenge college students to reflect on the stronghold of these traditional gender roles, this in-class exercise induces a tokenized status within sex atypical occupations and asks students to reflect on any role conflicts they experience. This assignment is appropriate when discussing occupational sex segregation, gender roles, gender egalitarianism, or tokenism theory. In my Sociology of Work class, students are required to read the work of Rosabeth Kanter (1977) before this exercise is assigned because it exposes them to the foundation of tokenism theory. According to Kanter (1977), tokenism exists when individuals belong to skewed minority groups making up less than 15% of the workforce. Thus, each chosen sex skewed occupation has less than 15% men or 15% women. This exercise is designed to achieve three learning outcomes.


Resource Type(s):
Class Activity 
Reginald Anthony Byron, Southwestern University 
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Time:40 minutes Preparation - Print out one exercise handout for each student in your class, one copy of the occupational sex segregation statistics, and one copy of the twenty occupations. Next, cut out each occupation from the sheet and fold them in half. I use two sandwich sized...

Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
Outcome #1: Students will learn about the statistical persistence of occupational sex segregation.
Assessment 1:
Outcome #1 Assessment: Students will demonstrate this learning outcome by answering a multiple choice exam question about the exercise.
Goal 2:
Outcome #2: Students will be able to explain how traditional gender role expectations inform contemporary occupational sex segregation.
Assessment 2:
Outcome#2 Assessment: Students will demonstrate learning this goal by writing a short reflection paper (for homework) that asks them to elaborate on the connection between traditional gender role expectations and contemporary occupational sex segregation.
Goal 3:
Outcome #3: Students will think critically about the experience of tokenism and be able to synthesize their in-class tokenism experiences with Kanter’s (1977) work on the effects of tokenism in employment.
Assessment 3:
Outcome #3 Assessment: Students will demonstrate learning this goal by answering an exam essay question that challenges them to synthesize the exercise and discussion with the empirical literature

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