More Men Entering Woman-Dominated Professions

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More and more men are taking “pink collar jobs” like teaching and nursing, fields that traditionally have been dominated by women.

While the economy definitely has a part, the trend began well before the crash, and is being driven by a variety of factors including financial concerns, quality-of-life issues, and a gradual erosion of gender stereotypes. This article in the New York Times analyzed census data and found that from 2000 to 2010, occupations that are more than 70% female accounted for almost a third of all job growth for men. That’s double the share of the previous decade.

It’s not just economics, though. The article quotes a 35-year-old who had a good job in tech support but chose to go back to school to become a nurse. “I put myself into the recession,” he said, “because I wanted to go to nursing school.”

These numbers also do not mean that men are elbowing women out of their jobs — the same occupations accounted for almost two-third’s of women’s job growth.

To the extent that the shift to “women’s work” has been accelerated by recession, the change may reverse when the economy recovers. “Are boys today saying, ‘I want to grow up and be a nurse?’ ” asked Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress. “Or are they saying, ‘I want a job that’s stable and recession proof?’ ”

In interviews, however, about two dozen men played down the 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.

Daniel Wilden, a 26-year-old Army veteran and nursing student at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said he had gained respect for nursing when he saw a female medic use a Leatherman tool to save the life of his comrade. “She was a beast,” he said admiringly.

More than a few men said their new jobs had turned out to be far harder than they imagined.

But these men can expect success. Men earn more than women even in female-dominated jobs. And white men in particular who enter those fields easily move up to supervisory positions, a phenomenon known as the glass escalator — as opposed to the glass ceiling that women encounter in male-dominated professions, said Adia Harvey Wingfield, a sociologist at Georgia State University. More men in an occupation can also raise wages for everyone, though as yet men’s share of these jobs has not grown enough to have an overall effect on pay.

“Simply because higher-educated men are entering these jobs does not mean that it will result in equality in our workplaces,” said Ms. Gatta of Wider Opportunities for Women.

Still, economists have long tried to figure out how to encourage more integration in the work force. Now, it seems to be happening of its own accord.

“I hated my job every single day of my life,” said John Cook, 55, who got a modest inheritance that allowed him to leave the company where he earned $150,000 a year as a database consultant and enter nursing school.

His starting salary will be about a third what he once earned, but database consulting does not typically earn hugs like the one Mr. Cook recently received from a girl after he took care of her premature baby sister. “It’s like, people get paid for doing this kind of stuff?” Mr. Cook said, choking up as he recounted the episode.

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