Traditionally, nursing has been treated as a female career and job. However, from the 1960s, the percentage of men in the field has risen from two percent to over 13% (Miller). Factors such as the decline of jobs, higher nursing salaries, and expansion of gender roles have attracted more men to the career (Smallheer et al. 52). Nevertheless, men continue to hold senior positions in nursing in detriment to women. Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) was ranked the best workplace for male nurses in 2019, and they commented that 14% of their advanced nurses are males (Batcheldor). Men’s entry into nursing should expand traditional gender roles and bring a movement away from the patriarchal culture institutions; however, the male advantage and tokenism still affect how men are treated in the field.
When women enter male-dominated fields or careers, they struggle with challenges involving expected gender roles. The glass ceiling is a terminology that describes the difficulty of women rising into senior leadership positions in various corporations and industries where men succeed with ease. For example, females in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers such as computer science and engineering earn less than men in similar positions (Miller). In addition, women in STEM areas face hindrances in career progression to management levels. The increase of females in STEM careers demonstrates a positive movement towards expanding gender roles as women are accepted into the fields and appointed to leadership positions. Surprisingly, when men enter into women-dominated fields such as nursing, they do not encounter such challenges.
The males in nursing enjoy a myriad of advantages over women based on their masculinity. One advantage is the ease of entry, as men are more likely to get nursing jobs due to the low numbers of males in the field (Miller). Such an advantage has not been given to women where females are underrepresented. Therefore, expanding gender roles applies differently for men and women. Various masculine aspects also give men more advantages in female-dominated careers. For instance, men are more likely to be promoted to leadership positions than women are in nursing (Smallheer et al. 53). In addition, males are paid higher than females in the same positions in the field. Although men are only 13% in the nursing field, they still occupy most leadership positions and have the highest salaries (Miller). Therefore, men continue to dominate women even in female-dominated workspaces and careers.
Considering men’s rise in nursing ranks, their entry into the field does not reflect a progressive integration of traditional gender roles. According to Evans (226), three critical factors give men in nursing the privileges of power and status. These factors include men using strategies that set them apart from women, patriarchal culture institutions, and the feminine nature of the career. Most male nurses stay in the company of physicians due to shared attributes, including discussion topics. While women talk about babies and periods, men talk about sports and vehicles (Evans 229). Men nurses are perceived as more competent due to their masculine leadership traits. In addition, due to differences in domestic roles, men are more committed to careers and more likely to advance in education, hence getting a promotion to higher leadership roles more often than women are (Evans 229-230). The nurturing character of women also builds and shapes men nurses into leaders and influential people in the field (Evans 227). A myriad of reasons facilitates the dominance of men in nursing even though they are the minority population.
Batcheldor, Matt. “VUMC Named Best Workplace for Men in Nursing.” Vanderbilt Nursing. Web.
Evans, Joan. “Men in Nursing: Issues of Gender Segregation and Hidden Advantage.” Journal of advanced nursing, vol. 26, no. 2, 1997, pp. 226-231.
Miller, Claire Cain, and Ruth Fremson. “’Forget About the Stigma’: Male Nurses Explain Why Nursing is a Job of the Future for Men.” The New York Times.Web.
Smallheer, Benjamin, et al. “A Historical Look at Men’s Involvement in Nursing and Leadership in GAPNA.” Geriatric Nursing, vol. 41, no. 1, 2020, pp. 52-53.