У каждого дела
Has its special smell)
This short poem mentions quite a few jobs, all using masculine nouns – маляр (painter), стекольщик (windows installer), шофёр (driver), рабочий (laborer), кондитер (baker), доктор (doctor), крестьянин (farmer), and рыбак (fisherman). Even лодырь (idler) is a masculine word. This simply won’t do it nowadays.
First of all, the word ремесло (a trade) is not used much and instead is replaced with профессия (profession):
Профессия шофёра-дальнобойщика считается одной из самый опасных. (A long-haul trucker job is considered to be one of the most dangerous.)
When it comes to jobs, there’s really no rule, as far as I know, for when to use a feminine form and when to stick with the masculine. Instead, we seem to follow some неписаные правила (unwritten rules) of linguistic and cultural etiquette. So you know what to expect now – confusion.
First, there are jobs for which separate words exist for a male worker and a female worker:
Рабочий (male laborer or worker) and работница or рабочая (female laborer or worker)
Артист балета (male ballet dancer) and балерина (female ballet dancer)
Учитель (male teacher) and учительница (female teacher)
Портной (female tailor) and портниха (female tailor)
Медбрат (male nurse) and медсестра (female nurse)
Лётчик (male pilot) and лётчица (female pilot)
Then there are jobs that do not have a feminine version or, if they do, it is usually restricted to разговорная речь (colloquial speech). These are the jobs that historically were closed to women, i.e. various trades and many professional jobs. Even when a feminine version exists, it’s the masculine form that is used in job ads and on resumes.
Шофёр – driver
Пекарь – baker
Столяр – joiner
Плотник – carpenter
Слесарь – mechanic
Дворник – street cleaner
Врач and доктор – medical doctor, although there is a conversional feminine version врачиха and докторша. Also, words for medical specialties, such as хирург (surgeon), невропатолог (neurologist), гинеколог (gynecologist), педиатр (pediatrician) – are always masculine.
Диктор – network announcer, although дикторша (female announcer) is a common conversational word.
Бухгалтер – accountant. The feminine бухгалтерша is often used in conversations.
Инженер – engineer
Фотограф – photographer
Педагог – educator
Посол – ambassador
Technically, you can form a feminine version from almost any masculine one. However, there are two problems here.
The first one is that many such attempts will sound not only strange, but carry пренебрежительный (contemptuous) connotation as in менеджерша (female manager).
The second problem is that forming a feminine version might, in some cases, be confusing. For example, words such as докторша or инженерша traditionally mean a wife of a doctor (former) or of an engineer (latter).
In general, when in doubt, use masculine form to describe a woman’s occupation:
Наталья – специалист по веб-дизайну (Natalia is a web-design specialist)
Екатерина Васильевна – прекрасный педагог (Ekaterina Vasilyevna is a wonderful educator)
Мне участковый врач выписала больничный (The neighborhood doctor wrote me a sick-leave note) – notice that here we know that the doctor is a female because of the endings of the past-tense verb выписала (wrote).
У Лидии двадцатилетний стаж работы бухгалтером на крупном предприятии (Lidia has twenty years of experience as an accountant at a large enterprise)
Моя жена волнуется, что её сократят, но она же незаменимый и высококвалифицированный работник (My wife is worried she might get laid off, but she is an irreplaceable and highly qualified worker)
Пойми, Маша, если не будешь учиться, то вырастешь и станешь дворником (Masha, do understand that if you don’t study now, you will become a street cleaner when you grow up).
Your turn now – tell us what it is you do and, for our male readers, what does your girlfriend, wife, mother, sister or female friend does for a living.
Пример: Моя мама до пенсии работала врачом (Example: My mother was a doctor before she retired).