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Why do women and men have different occupational exposures?
  1. Margaret M Quinn
  1. Correspondence to Dr Margaret M Quinn, Department of Work Environment School of Health and Environment 1 University Avenue, Lowell, MA 01854, USA; margaret_quinn{at}uml.edu

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A job is a complex physical, social and economic construct with dimensions at multiple levels of workplace and societal organisation. Hazardous occupational exposures arise from all of the dimensions.1 Occupational epidemiology typically focuses on physical and work organisational exposures, while social epidemiology focuses on socio-demographic characteristics and social exposures. The important study ‘Gender differences in occupational exposure patterns’ by Eng and colleagues (see page XXX) combined elements of both disciplines and conducted a population-based survey to evaluate the full range of jobs in New Zealand and found systematic differences in the reporting of occupational exposures by women and men.2 Additionally, Eng and colleagues analysed the occupational exposures reported by a subset of their survey population consisting of matched pairs of men and women holding the same job title and found that men and women reported different occupational exposures, even when they performed the same job.2

Several studies have investigated gender and occupational exposures and found evidence for systematic disparities.3–5 Broadly, there are three explanations that may be useful to future studies.

  1. Women and men work in different jobs and therefore …

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