Assessing Admiration for Women Who Do "Men's Work". By: Pike, Isabel; Pierotti, Rachael S. and Mbaye, Mame Soukeye. 2024. Social Forces. Vol. 102 Issue 4, p1467-1483.

Drawing on interviews and focus groups from Conakry, the capital city of the Republic of Guinea in West Africa, this article examines how people talk about women working in male-dominated skilled trades alongside women’s accounts of their work experiences in those sectors. We find that the idea of women doing gender atypical work, whom we call “crossovers,” evokes widespread admiration. They are unanimously described as brave and virtuous, contrasted with women who rely on money from relationships with men. However, this celebration falters in the workplace, where crossovers often experience paternalism and harassment. Building on theories of both gender beliefs and femininities, we attribute this discrepancy to the differential threats to the gender order that are posed by accommodating crossovers at work versus speaking positively about them. Working together requires men to confront
actual women’s unexpected capabilities, while rhetorically celebrating crossovers may in fact reify stereotypes about most women and fail to fundamentally undermine men’s authority. Crossovers can serve as sources of inspiration for an alternative gender order, but we find that professed admiration for “exceptional” groups of women has both limitations and risks. We conclude by suggesting that the subversive potential of admiration for gender atypical behavior must be empirically examined, rather than assumed, with attention to why such women are seen as admirable as well as how this admiration is borne out in social interactions.