For gender equality, we need more male secretaries, like Obama's Jeremy Bernard
Jeremy Bernard is the new White House social secretary – the first male to ever hold the position, and a signpost in the fight for gender equality. We need to tackle not just the stereotypes restricting women, but men as well. Excluding men from nurturing roles in our society is bad for all of us.
The White House just hired a new social secretary, and for the first time since the position was created, the position was given to a man – Jeremy Bernard. While there have certainly been qualified male candidates for the post in past years, many mused whether any would take the job, given its history as a woman’s post. The White House Social Secretary is just one position, and a high-powered and glamorous one at that. But these musings represent a new front in the fight for gender equality.Skip to next paragraph
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Yes, today women can be CEOs, scientists, and senators. But if a man won’t take a job just because it has traditionally been done by a woman, we still have a long way to go.
IN PICTURES: Inside President Obama's White House
Consider nursing. While women have made great inroads in medicine, from nearly no presence in medical schools in the 1950s to roughly even enrollment today, nursing has remained a primarily female role. Despite efforts to recruit male students at many nursing schools, the Department of Labor estimates that only about 6 percent of nurses in the United States are male. Yet this is a good profession! Men are missing out on a stable, moderately well paying job that is always in demand. Furthermore, the lack of male enrollment contributes to a nationwide nursing shortage expected to intensify in the coming years as the baby boomers continue to age.
Other stereotypically “female roles” have also failed to attract male interest: estimates show that 82 percent of elementary and middle school teachers, 96 percent of child care providers, and anywhere from 71 to 98 percent of secretaries are female. Like nursing, these industries might benefit from higher male enrollment.
Why so few men?
For example, many school superintendents and principals lament the short supply of male teachers. They are not suggesting that male teaches are better, but with so many students from single-parent, usually single mother, households, more male role models in the classroom couldn’t be a bad thing. Like nursing schools, many districts have even made efforts to specifically recruit men for teaching positions, especially in early education.
So why are there still so few men in these roles? Part of it may be pay. Nursing and teaching are stable jobs with benefits, but not huge moneymakers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that elementary school teachers start at an average annual salary of about $33,000. The median annual salary for Registered Nurses is about $62,000. Childcare workers are likely to be self-employed, and make a median annual salary of $20,000 or less.