Nursing not for men? Many men avoid certain jobs due to gender bias

WASHINGTON — Many men avoid certain careers and fields traditionally associated with women, according to researchers with the American Psychological Association focusing on typical male career choices. Their report finds men are less likely to pursue careers in early education and a few other fields that have a reputation of being more feminine.

While earlier studies have noted bias against men in health care, early education, and domestic (HEED) fields, this current project set out to measure the tangible influence of that bias.

One experiment involving 296 U.S. online participants involved one group reading an article that accurately described research finding educators prefer a female elementary school teacher applicant over a male applicant with the same qualifications. Meanwhile, another group received a different article to read claiming there is gender equality in early elementary education. Finally, there was a control group that didn’t read any article.

Male participants in the cohort that read about male gender bias reported anticipating more discrimination in early elementary education and felt less sense of belonging, less positivity, and less interest in pursuing a career in that field. Female participants in that same group, on the other hand, weren’t affected and reported similar responses across the other groups. Additionally, another experiment involving 275 students at Skidmore College reached similar conclusions.

Female gender bias in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is well documented, having received significant public attention in recent years. Male gender bias in HEED careers, however, has largely been ignored, despite its negative consequences, explains lead researcher Corinne Moss-Racusin, PhD, an associate professor of psychology at Skidmore College.

“It’s a detriment to society if we keep slotting people into gendered roles and stay the course on gender-segregated career paths, regardless of whether those jobs are traditionally associated with women or men,” Moss-Racusin says in a media release. “That’s a powerful way of reinforcing the traditional gender status quo.”

Male nurses and teachers face several workplace problems

Statistically, men represent just three percent of preschool and kindergarten teachers and 13 percent of registered nurses in the United States. Prior studies have also found male nurses deal with far more workplace bullying than female nurses. Male early-elementary teachers report higher rates of discrimination and are reportedly perceived as less likable, less hirable, and a greater safety threat to children than their female counterparts.

Prof. Moss-Racusin theorizes these trends are rooted in traditional views of motherhood, like the stereotype that women are more caring and inclined for care-oriented professions.

“There’s no evidence that men are biologically incapable of doing this work or that men and women are naturally oriented toward different careers,” the researcher concludes. “Both men and women are deterred by gender biases they may face in different industries, which is understandable.”

The subject of pay likely deters many men from HEED fields, considering the low pay commonly found in such positions. This may be connected to discrimination against women and a devaluing of work associated with them, Prof. Moss-Racusin adds. She believes more active recruitment tactics and mentoring of men in HEED fields could help reduce gender bias and encourage more men to enter these professions.

The study is published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.

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