"Do You Want Excitement? Don't Join the Army, Be a Nurse!": Identity Work and Advantage among Men in Training for the Female Professions

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Virginia Tech

This study examines the identity work strategies that men students in nursing, elementary education, and social work programs employ in order to manage and assert their masculinity in the face of negative gender assessment, as well as the identity work involved in verifying their professional identities. It also examines the perceived benefits and disadvantages that men experience as numerical minorities in their fields of study. Interviews with 12 men students majoring in these disciplines reveal that while men do perceive disadvantages as men in these educational spheres, they believe that the advantages and benefits they enjoy in the form of special treatment, recognition, and access to opportunity far outweigh them. A key perceived disadvantage is the ongoing challenges they face to their social identity as men and their role identity as rising professionals. These men employ identifiable identity work strategies for doing masculinity; some of which have implications for gender equality in the educational setting, as well as in on-site training (i.e., workplace) settings as well. This study contributes to an understanding of how men verify contradictory identities, and how gender shapes, privileges, and constrains their lives. In addition, it builds on extant literature focusing on men's experiences in higher education as they prepare for careers in gender-nontraditional occupations.

Social Workers, Tokenism, Nontraditional Occupations, Education, Higher, Expectation States Theory, Elementary School Teachers, Nurses, Status Characteristics Theory, Masculinities, Identity Work, Identity Control Theory