Boys Should Build Careers in Nursing, Adult Social Care and Primary Schools

The ‘I’ newspaper this week reported my views that more boys should look at careers in nursing, adult social care and primary school teaching. Let me explain a little more why I feel this is an important direction for schools over the next decade.

First, it is absolutely right that society has spent the last three decades focused on encouraging larger numbers of women to take on what had been seen as male careers. We have emerged out from under previous social norms, family life patterns have changed and there is much greater equality. The fact that examples of gender inequality tend to be big news in itself shows us how society has reshaped. This must continue.

What society now needs to address is what the boys should do. This is not an issue to be dismissed with a line of ‘they’ve had it good, now they are complaining’. It may have been that their fathers had it good, but boys in school now haven’t. If we address the problem of getting women into traditionally male roles it makes great sense, and indeed is an inevitable consequence, that we must address the problem of getting males into traditionally female roles.

You can tell what these roles are just by putting yourself under pressure and saying a pronoun when a job is named. Play the game yourself. Mechanic, engineer, builder, the person who mends the boiler. You may have thought ‘he’. With doctor you will pause for thought, and rightly so, as over half of the younger work force is female. Nurse, carer, social worker, primary teacher. You have probably thought ‘she’. Indeed the new electronic button to call a nurse in a north west state of the art hospital has a picture of someone in a skirt on it.

It is also argued that these jobs are empathetic and caring and so are not for boys. Can we really sustain such an argument in a modern world?  Of course not. Setting aside the fact that boys can be empathetic and caring, the whole message of women into engineering, for example, is that women have brought their skill set to the role and changed and shaped it. Men can do the same in traditional female professions. Primary schools may enjoy the impact of a male role model, there are going to be plenty of those in adult social care who may prefer a man to help them. Nursing has for many years been the front line of medicine, not a background caring role.

Finally, some parents may worry about pay. Since male roles had been better paid in the past, it is easy to argue that women would want them. But traditionally female roles have often been lower paid, so there may be concern. But again we reference the past. As the job market changes and people have different careers then salaries will also change.  It seem to me inevitable nurses will be paid relatively more and doctors relatively less. Adult social care is where we may all end our days and overtime we will wish to pay to have the right people there to look after us.

About Philip Britton

Philip Britton is the Head of Foundation of Bolton School. He was brought up on Tyneside, took a first in physics at Oxford and did teacher training at Cambridge. He worked as physics teacher, Head of Physics and Deputy Head at Leeds Grammar School before moving to Bolton in 2008. In 2010 he was awarded an MBE for services to physics and is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics where he has been much involved in physics education, encouraging teachers to encourage the next generation of physicists. Follow at X: @Philip_Britton | View X/Twitter archive | Listen at: Exploring Bolton School | Social Mobility, Leadership & Future School Thinking | Strategic School Leadership with Philip Britton | Strategic School Leadership with Philip Britton