Gender Equality in a Female Dominated Work Field

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When most think of the profession of nursing, the majority will immediately think a 'woman's job' or a field that is predominantly dominated by female presence. This is not a hoax. Today, male nurses only make up approximately 5.4 percent of the nursing force. However, it is thought that the demand for male nurses is on the rise and male nursing will be rising in popularity within the next decade. However, one can conclude that nursing is thought of as a 'woman's job' and is somewhat true in today's world. Why is this so? If one looks back in history, you will find that men have taken the role of 'care-taker'/nurse for an extended period of time and for many events. During the Roman Era there were many 'brotherhoods' who provided care to the sick and plagued during the great plague, 'Knighthoods' were arranged during the crusades and many Knighthoods were there to help the wounded during battles of the middle ages and renaissance time-periods. All of these caretakers were one-hundred percent male. Even during the mid 1800's, during the Civil War, the majority of the military nurses were male. It wasn't until 1894 when female nurses started to organize and Female Nursing Schools were created in New York and the American Nursing Association(ANA) was formed. The ANA excluded men until 1930 and in essence had the goal of keeping men out of military nursing. At this point in history military nursing had been a predominantly male job, had turned into an exclusively female position and would continue on to become the most stereotyped female dominant job. It wasn't until after the Korean War when males were finally accepted back into the field of nursing. Now, one can expect that on all military nursing teams there will be at least one male. It is much more likely to have male nurses in military nursing than in civilian nursing such as you would find in a hospital (RN). As one can tell, because while the percent of RN's in the US today are a mere 5.4%. Whereas in the Army 67% of their CRNA's are mean and 40% of their nurses are men. This is a staggering statistic and helps emphasize that there are male nurses out there, they just aren't in the general locations that the average person could observe such as a Hospital when you go for a check-up. Another big improvement in nursing gender-equality is the increase in male's in nursing schools. Today, approximately 15% of the nursing students are male. This is quite a significant increase from the 5.4% male RNs today. Male nursing is possible for any man, and is definitely on the rise. However, this doesn't negate the fact that nursing is currently and will be for awhile a predominantly female populated career whether one agrees with it or not.


  1. I don't think the lack of male presence in nursing has anything to do with discrimination, if that's what you're driving at, but it does make me feel optimistic for the future knowing that nursing is becoming more popular among men. It's really interesting and unexpected that this kind of work was done by men up until the 1900s. I wonder what caused the shift? Nursing took a pretty radical turn pretty fast considering nowadays when people think "nurse" they're usually thinking "female."

    It's my understanding that the majority of nurses are women because care work like that is associated with women. Men have a hard time socially if they're interested in other traditionally female jobs such as childcare or secretarial work as well. Even though this is a problem I don't think we can compare it to the problems women have when trying to enter a male dominated profession. Men trying to become nurses aren't thought to be incompetent and no one fears they aren't going to take the job seriously because they have a family - but these are problems that women face when trying to get past that glass ceiling. In fact, I've heard the opposite to be true: when men go into work that is considered "feminine" people wonder what they're doing there and why they're wasting their talents and time on such a profession.

    So, I think we should absolutely pay attention to how sexism affects both men and women, but I think we also have to keep in mind that men are not the disempowered group here, even if situations exist where women outnumber them.

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This page contains a single entry by Mal published on February 26, 2010 1:11 PM.

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