More men are entering fields traditionally dominated by women, according to a New York Times analysis of 2000 – 2010 US Census data. Occupations that are more than 70 percent female account for about one-third of all job growth for men. The change was already underway before the economic slump and can be attributed to “financial concerns, quality-of-life issues and a gradual erosion of gender stereotypes.”
Once upon a time, men couldn’t be nurses, dental hygienists, kindergarten teachers, receptionists. But now, 12,709 men were registered nurses in 2000 and 22,532 in 2010 in Texas, so that men make up 10.5 percent of nurses there. Men are now 23 percent of public schoolteachers in Texas and make up almost 28 percent of first-year teachers.
More than a third of men entering such “pink collar” professions have college degrees, a shift from those who did in previous decades. From 1970 – 1990, men who took such jobs did so because they had few choices, due to being foreign-born and having limited English skills. The New York Times points out that the recession has played a part. Another article described how a number of men in Michigan, seeing jobs in the auto industry and in manufacturing dwindle and disappear, have become nurses.
These men bring “age, experience and discipline,” says Barbara Redman, Dean of the College of Nursing at Wayne State University in Detroit. Kurt Edwards, an army veteran who used to work at a grocery chain warehouse, now works the graveyard shift as a licensed practical nurse (L.P.N.). The manager of Sheffield Manor Nursing and Rehab Center on Detroit’s west side, LaKeshia Bell, goes so far as to say that male nurses are a “hot commodity” as a “male presence actually helps us in the facility.”
I can attest to that. My teenage autistic son has a male teacher this year and one of the classroom aides is a guy, too. In ways obvious and more subtle, it has helped Charlie to have more guys teaching and assisting him. The majority of special education teachers, therapists and aides are women, in inverse proportion to the number of students (more boys than girls are diagnosed with autism, with the ratio about 4 to 1). Charlie has had many wonderful teachers and therapists who are women but there is something special about having guys as his teachers and aides, who are his height and, in some cases, former athletes, Charlie being nearly 5′ 11″ at the age of 15 and liking to be physically active.
The New York Times interviewed about two dozen men who have chosen “pink collar” jobs; many de-emphasized economic considerations, “saying that the stigma associated with choosing such jobs had faded, and that the jobs were appealing not just because they offered stable employment, but because they were more satisfying.”
“I.T. is just killing viruses and clearing paper jams all day,” said Scott Kearney, 43, who tried information technology and other fields before becoming a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in Houston….
More than a few men said their new jobs had turned out to be far harder than they imagined.
Indeed, this trend of men choosing professions traditionally consider “women’s work” has occurred at the same time as women make inroads into high-paying professions once reserved for men. The entrance of women into the workplace has helped to foster change for both men and women, it’s suggested, with individuals choosing the jobs they’d like to dedicate themselves to because they like them, not because that’s what a man or a woman is “supposed” to do.
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Photo by US Department of Education