Americans get sick quite a bit — as a whole, we fall sick with about 1 billion colds each year. With this in mind, it is no surprise that there is almost a constant demand for nurses nationwide. However, while there is a lot of potential in this job, more and more men are refusing to join the medical field as nurses simply because the job has been labeled “pink collar.”
Unfortunately, this label has been seemingly driven into American culture for generations. For years, girls grew up to be nurses, teachers, and secretaries, while men became doctors, lawyers, and businessmen. Even though times are changing, and women are currently breaking through the glass ceiling in the male-dominated workforce, the same cannot be said for men.
What’s even more interesting is that this comes at a time when fewer men are employed. Nationwide, about 20% of men are unemployed, and the majority aren’t running to join the health care sector despite plenty of opportunities.
Why? For some, these traditional values are hard to break. A wide array of unemployed men are trained in technical jobs, but the requirement of different skills is just too much to learn. They are also paid less, despite the fact that there is higher job stability and wage growth compared to blue-collar trades.
Plus, the availability of blue-collar jobs is dwindling, leaving men who refuse to join different fields out of luck.
Sociologist Andrew Cherlin of John Hopkins University explains to the New York Times that “Traditional masculinity is standing in the way of working-class men’s employment, and I think it is a problem. We have a cultural lag where our views of masculinity have not caught up to the change in the job market.”
This trend was noticed in the past year’s election. Many working-class males voted for Donald Trump simply because of his promise to bring back working class jobs that have been lost to the overseas market. This urge for new jobs is in part due to misconceived notions about “pink-collar” jobs being boring — even though nurses are on their feet and moving all day — and also the fact that they don’t want to take the time to learn a new skill when they have bills to pay.
However, according to Harvard economist Lawerence Katz, this refusal for change all ties back to the skewed gender assumptions of days past. He calls it retrospective wait unemployment or looking for jobs they used to have.
“It’s not a skill mismatch, but an identity mismatch,” he told the New York Times. “It’s not that they couldn’t become a health worker, it’s that people have backward views of what their identity is.”