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Men in Pink

Guys are moving in on traditionally female careers

By Rich_Maloof May 21, 2012 4:01PM

Photo: Hans Neleman/Stone/Getty ImagesThe term “women’s work” has long been moot, deader now than a male chauvinist at a book club meeting. Work is work for whomever can find it, and over the past forty years women have proven as capable as men in occupations ranging from Ivy League president to tech-company CEO. But now the tables are turning again. In increasing numbers, men are pursuing career paths that have always been dominated by women.

Chances are good that you have already have encountered a guy in a pink-collar job such as nurse, receptionist, or grade-school teacher. Or maybe, as the New York Times front-page story opened this week, you’ve had your teeth cleaned by a male hygienist before your dentist arrives to do her job.

According to a Times analysis of job data, men have been finding their way through the old girls’ network for over a decade. Census information covering the years 2000 to 2010 reportedly shows that careers that are more than 70% female, including teacher, bank teller, cashier, and legal assistant, accounted for almost a third of all job growth among men. By the end of 2010, the number of men in pink collars was twice what it was in the 1990s.

Though it’s easy to ascribe the shift to the recession, with job seekers taking any port in a storm, the trend began before the economy tanked. It may more simply be a matter of finding stable, satisfying work in a society that has aimed, in fits and starts, to achieve equal opportunity for men and women. Women have been successful in burying many gender stereotypes, and now male nurses and kindergarten teachers are growing from the fertile ground.

The Times also notes that in decades prior, the men in such jobs tended to be foreign-born, non-English speakers without much education. But now the shift is most pronounced among young, white, college-educated men. The kicker is that men tend to earn more than women even in these female-dominated fields. White males in particular may get a ride on the glass elevator, moving up through a professional hierarchy while women in traditionally male-dominated jobs are more likely to hit the glass ceiling.

But don’t be a hater. The guys aren’t stealing jobs from women; pink-collar occupations still account for almost two-thirds of women’s job growth. Plus, we learned just days ago that non-Hispanic Caucasians are for the first time becoming a statistical minority in America. Give a white man a fighting chance.

Photo: Hans Neleman/Stone/Getty Images

May 23, 2012 12:27AM
As a male nurse i find you point mute... calling nursing a "pink collar job" is an argument that there is still a strong stereotype applied to such professions. Thanks for perpetuating the idea that my job is gender specific and insulting what I do, I know many cops who dont have the stomach for the work I do... it takes real gut check to be able to keep your cool as you keep someone's heart beating with your bare hand and their chest cracked wide open so you are actually holding their life in your hands!
May 22, 2012 10:06PM
I find the cavalier tone of this article towards feminism and the job market to be highly offensive, sexist, and so uncouth in its promotion of privilege. This is nothing more than salacious journalism at best and at worse (which is where I fall in the spectrum) to be highly misguided and an attempt to turn a statistical fact into fodder for discrimination.

Saying things like "finding their way through the old girls’ network" and nearly all of the language of this article is crude. This is not merely an issue of semantics, it is about the pervasive and and highly caustic attitudes being perpetrated at the expense of women and their chosen professions.

People aren't nurses because it's women's work. People--both men and women-- are nurses because the health care system would falter without, personal reasons aside. People aren't teachers because they're women; they're teachers because someone must education the youth.

These jobs that are so called 'women's work' were not created to fulfill some sort of biological imperative or with any thought towards gender. These jobs exist because they are necessary for society to function. Continuing to call them 'women's work' neglects this fundamental fact and is promotion of patriarchal, high-handed views and revisionism.

May 22, 2012 10:01PM

We need a better employment management and resource utilization, including human resources. While it’s OK for a PhDs to sweep the floors, economically it would be advantageous to let them do a job compatible with their training. There is an oversupply of nurses now, because of false advertisement of non-existing opportunities for self-perpetuation of the ever-expanding nursing departments. Planning and foresight does not seem to be job management’s vocabulary.

May 22, 2012 9:37PM

In 1968 when I got out of the Army as a medic I became an LPN. It was soon obvious to me that I was not welcome as a male in a field dominated by women, even doctors looked at me with suspicion. My solution was to become a paramedic. Worked great, paid a lot more. The same doctors & nurses I had worked around before as an LPN suddenly thought I was great. After a few years I tried to get back to hospital work but the ladies in HR looked at me with disgust. Either I was over qualified or under qualified or they just needed someone with more current experience.

I finally found a machine shop willing to hire a vet. Worked with metal every since. As long as I stayed out of the office nobody cared that I might have some grime on me, or that I worked longer hours than they did. My wife works in a factory as a machine operator (26 years same co.), the women in the office look at her as a freak.

I guess what I'm saying is "ladies, y'all need to wake up. None of these jobs out here are just for a man or a woman. Both are people, & people are what jobs are created for.

May 22, 2012 9:28PM

I am a current nursing student and I have to say that anyone trying to label nurses as "pink collar" doesn't know what they are talking about! It is a very strenuous field with long hours and extreme responsibility. It is definitely a blue collar position and has become gender blind (there are a few guys in my nursing classes). A person's life is in a nurse's hands when they are in the hospital. Many nurses have had to retire early due to injuries on the job (mainly back injuries) and you never know what a patient will do when they are approached with a needle! I have personally had to question a doctor's orders because of the way they were written and/or the medication was contraindicated with another prescription. Nurses are (or should be) the patient advocates and make sure that the patient's safety and health are the top focus. To anyone that tries to say that nurses don't work hard, let them try to handle medications for six people administered four times during their shift to each of those patients, doing head-to-toe assessments on those patients, starting IV lines on four of them, ordering equipment for those IVs, do specific assessments on three patients every two hours per physician request, getting glucose checks on patients every four hours, and (if the techs are not around/short staffed) getting vital signs, giving baths, and changing linens for those six patients. At that point, I would not care what you're packing below the belt, as long as the care I receive is to the best of the nurse's ability!


PS - Nursing did not become primarily a woman's job until Florence Nightingale in the early 1900s. Before then, only men held that position (since ancient Roman times).

May 22, 2012 9:27PM

Nursing is not pink collared nor has it ever been pink.  Nurses work hard long hours.


I wonder if the starting pay for men being in these jobs is higher?
May 22, 2012 8:56PM

"...strong workforce made up of men and women is nonexistent, without the foundation of family. Which is still comprised, primarily, of the union of man and woman."


No matter what your slant or persuasion - and I am not against any two human beings cohabitating, the human race continues through the contribution of what a man gives

and what a woman gives towards a new life. Sperm and egg. The discourse is not about

lifestyle choices, as some imply in their response. It is about man vs. woman concerning jobs and gender roles and expectations.

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