Why Men Are Steering Clear Of Nursing & Other "Pink-Collar Jobs"

Photographed by Megan Madden.
For years and years and years, career paths were driven by gender: Girls grew up to become teachers or nurses, while boys became lawyers or doctors. Of course, times have changed. In the 21st century, women have no problem breaking into overwhelmingly male-dominated industries and are more likely to have a college degree than men. But their male counterparts aren't exactly jumping head-first into what have been traditionally considered "female jobs." It's not surprising to hear of a woman doctor, but how many male nurses do you know?

Today, the service industry is growing at a rapid pace, especially health aide careers, The New York Times reports. Think nurses, physical therapists, and occupational therapy aides. These roles have traditionally been filled by women, leading them to be viewed as "pink-collar jobs." They tend to be low-paying and undervalued, and that's a big reason men aren't pursuing work in this burgeoning industry.

This might come as a surprise, since one-fifth of American men are unemployed. And when they do take jobs in these female-dominated industries, they usually see more job security and wage growth than in blue-collar occupations, according to the Times. But researchers have found these men struggle to overcome the stigma that comes with taking a job in a female-dominated industry.

"Traditional masculinity is standing in the way of working-class men’s employment, and I think it’s a problem,” Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist and public policy professor at Johns Hopkins, told the Times. "We have a cultural lag where our views of masculinity have not caught up to the change in the job market."

Think, for example, of the overwhelming number of working-class males who supported Donald Trump in the election. Their support was based, in part, on the idea that Trump would bring back jobs that have been lost to technology or relocated overseas. But it also seems to reflect an overwhelming perception what a "real man" is: strong, unemotional, the primary breadwinner.

So, how do we get rid of these negative stereotypes that are holding everyone back? Will we ever reach a time when we don't attach a gender to a job description? Because, in reality, 42% of working mothers are either the sole or primary breadwinner in their families, and another 22% are co-breadwinners. The fabric of our society is fundamentally changing. Women continue to push forward and break down boundaries. It's now time for men to do the same.