Men working in spaces previously reserved for women

The labor market is now full of surprises. It takes courage to go for what you want, no matter how loud.

For example, on the other side of the coin of gender equality in the workplace is the aspect of men in spaces formerly run by women.

Ordinarily, certain jobs and businesses have been stereotyped for women. You will find very few men in child care, nursing, social services, cosmetology, kitchen work, and housekeeping, among others.

However, as times change, you realize that life has no remote control, so you have to get up and change it yourself in the direction you desire.

Over the years, more and more men have dared to challenge stereotypes by entering spaces dominated by women. The returns have been good, despite the challenges.

Collins Bwambale was forced by circumstances to become a nurse. He had, well, not played as expected. Thus, he did not cross the threshold of medicine after his postgraduate certificate in Uganda.

Bwambale had thought that by doing nursing first, he could apply for his dream course – medicine.

“With the stereotype that male nurses receive from the community, I never imagined that this job would fulfill me,” he says.

It’s a known fact, it’s a rare opportunity to meet a nurse.

But Bwambala went there and fell in love steadily over the years.

Amazingly, he also found solace in his work, as many patients choose him over others whenever they get the chance.

However, even though he has settled down now, having a nursing title, in itself, was a challenge that Bwambale had to overcome somehow.

“I realized that in the end the patient hardly cares about our titles. All they need is relief and nursing provides a special opportunity to get to know the patient better, given that we spend more time with them than any other medical staff,” he says.

The nursing profession, even at the administrative level, is mainly the prerogative of men.

Therefore, Bwambale had to deal with women on many levels which gave him different experiences.

“I am always sensitive to everything. Sometimes I hold back because I would come across as bossy or disrespectful,” he says.

Plus, he says, nursing brings you closer to people’s suffering and if you’re not made of tough skin, you could collapse.

“A patient succumbing to an illness on your watch is the greatest emotional strain. It’s usually out of our control, but it really affects you in a very unique way,” he says.

For Stephen Kateeba, he could never get used to being a midwife.

“I always wanted to be a doctor, which was totally doable given my grades at school. However, the deal breaker was when my parents, the only financiers at the time, died in an accident when I was in S5 during the third term in 2000,” says Kateeba, who has been a midwife for 10 years.

Just like Bwambale, circumstances forced Kateeba to become a midwife as it was the only course he was able to get a scholarship for.

“During my school practice, it occurred to me that this job offered me a rare opportunity to take care of two lives; mother and newborn, a priceless gift,” he says and notes that over the years he has found fulfillment as many mothers have found pride in having passed through his hands.

The job has also given him much more than he thought, supporting his siblings at school and buying land he is currently developing.

However, all was not rosy.

As a midwife, says Kateeba, I often found myself having to explain to patients that I could actually work on them like any other midwife.

“The perception is that midwifery is women’s work. Many find it strange that a man is a midwife. It’s generally accepted,” he says, noting that some mothers ask that he be replaced by a midwife.

Unlike nursing and midwifery, men slowly gained acceptance as hairdressers. The same can be said of women who now work as barbers.

Michael Ochieng, hairstylist at Jael Unisex Salon, says that in fact many women these days prefer to be worked by male hairdressers, especially when it comes to certain hairstyles.

“Clients tend to trust male hairstylists easily,” he says.

You would think this only applies to referred clients, but Ochieng says even walk-in clients exhibit the same trait.

This, he says, worked in his favor given the nature of the job where the number of clients worked translates into revenue.

“Clients are happy to book ahead or stick with appointments as far back as three months just to make sure it’s me working on it and not someone else. That even happens when I recommend another hairdresser,” he says.

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