Gender Equality Issues in Nursing Careers

Nursing is still a female-dominated profession.

Nursing is still a female-dominated profession.

Some people think that “male nurse” is a contradiction in terms. As of 2011, only about 7 percent of nurses were men, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. That may change in the future, as the Institute of Medicine recommends that more men be recruited into the profession to increase workforce diversity and help prevent a nursing shortage. However, nursing is often portrayed as being strictly for females and remains a female-dominated profession. One disadvantage of this stereotype is gender equality issues.

A Woman's Profession

Despite the inclusion of women in previously male-dominated careers such as medicine, engineering and law, nursing remains a “woman’s profession.” Men who enter nursing are often treated as less competent, of lower intelligence and considered to be homosexual, according to Tim Porter O’Grady, an advanced practice gerontology nurse and international health care consultant. O’Grady says female nurses regard men as “muscles” who prefer specialties such as intensive care or emergency in the same way that men are perceived to enjoy tinkering with mechanical things. O’Grady wrote in 1998, but male nurses were still making similar comments in 2008, according to a March 2008 article in “Nursing Times.”

Disproportionate Representation

Despite their small numbers, men tend to be disproportionally represented in senior posts, according to a September 2011 article in “Scrubs Magazine.” Women make up the overwhelming majority of nurses in obstetrics and in midwifery. However, military nurses are more likely to be male and made up 30 percent of nurses in the Army, Navy and Air Force in 2010, according to the article. Men are also more likely to go into advanced practice roles, such as that of certified registered nurse anesthesiologist.

Gender and Wages

Staff nurses in equivalent positions are likely to be paid about the same irrespective of gender, but women in nursing are less likely to go into high-paying specialties such as the practice of anesthesia, which was almost half male in 2010, according to “Scrubs Magazine.” The magazine says men are also more likely to hit the books for a graduate degree and may be more assertive in salary negotiations, which could affect their pay. In 2011, 8 percent of nurse practitioners were male, according to "Advance for NPs and PAs,” and earned an average salary of $97,329. Female NPs earned $89,933 annually in 2011.

Physicians and Nurses

Gender plays a role in relationships between physicians and nurses. Medicine is still slightly skewed to men and nursing heavily skewed to women, according to an article in the January 2010 “American Medical Association Journal of Ethics,” which notes that sexual harassment reported by RNs actually increased between 1990 and 2010, when more women were entering the field of medicine. However, the article’s author, Beth Ulrich, Ed.D., RN, editor of the “Nephrology Nursing Journal,” reports that many areas of friction are related to cultural beliefs, personality, education, training experiences or a lack of understanding and respect for each other’s knowledge and scope of practice.

 

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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