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Here come the boys: working in a woman’s world

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There have always been jobs thought of as typically “male” or “female” – but with more men (and women) choosing to cross the gender-divide, old preconceptions are finally changing. Here, three men share what it’s like to work in a woman’s world…

The male PA
Many young people have no idea what they want to do after university – but not Adam Fidler. The 35-year-old knew he wanted to become a personal assistant while still at school.

Now executive assistant to the principal at Salford City College, Adam teaches budding PAs on a part-time basis with Pitman Training in London.

He said: ‘There are more men doing the job now. The role of the PA has been re-professionalised and made more attractive.

‘In the 1990s many organisations downsized and lost the old-style secretaries – believing they were unnecessary because bosses could answer their own emails. At the same time many organisations dispensed with middle managers, leaving more administrative work that needed to be done.

‘The PAs of the future are less reactive, they have to be decision makers and take on more managerial roles.’

Adam insists that men can find themselves at an advantage as PAs, because they have shown drive and determination in choosing an unexpected career path – rather than just falling into a job.

‘I have experienced no discrimination that I am aware of,’ he adds. ‘Back when I started in the mid-1990s there were some preconceptions from female secretaries that I would not have fast shorthand and touch typing qualifications. And some female PAs have been a bit intimidated, but I’ve also received a lot of attention and support from my female colleagues.’

Is it for you?
Adam’s advice to anyone looking for a role as a PA is to take an NVQ level two or three in business administration and to get traditional qualifications in touch typing and ideally shorthand.

‘Anyone hoping to become a top PA will need to get a degree as well,’ he explains. ‘Business studies or business administration would be best, but human resources or marketing could also be valuable.

‘Whatever your gender, the most important thing in getting a job as a PA is whether you are a good fit with your boss, whether they be male or female. You need to share the same values, understand one another and be able to spend all day together frequently.’

Salary: *Starting at £18,000 to £25,000, with pay for senior PAs rising to £40,000.

The male beautician
When Daniel Bester found himself out of a job at the start of the credit crunch in 2008, he decided on a change of tack that has seen him become one of the few male beauticians working in the UK.

The 42-year-old South African told us how he got into one of the most female-dominated jobs of them all.

‘I had two qualifications in massage and I used those to successfully gain work, but I found it physically exhausting and so decided to add more strings to my bow by doing beauty therapy classes.’

Daniel, who runs DanielBeauty from his home in Woking, Surrey, specialises in waxing and 3D-lipo – and says he has got a lot of business simply by being a man.

‘A lot of guys prefer to come to another guy for their back, sack and crack – they tell me they are more comfortable that way.’

But he does have many female clients for the other main part of his business – 3D-lipo.

Is it for you?
Some beauticians work in salons and some work from home, but most are self-employed and as such it can lack the security (however illusory) of full-time jobs.

But it’s definitely a job that would suit a people person – as Daniel suggests: ‘People want to come to you and they leave happy – it’s a lot better than being a debt collector or something like that!’

To become a fully qualified beauty therapist you will need to complete an ITEC level 3 course – although many begin work as an assistant in a salon and train while on the job.

Salary: £12,000 to £17,000 per year. Salon managers can often earn more than £20,000.

The male nurse
Nursing was only meant to be a stopgap for Oliver Robinson – but a quarter of a century later he’s working as a charge nurse in critical care for the Pennine Acute Hospital Trust.

The 47-year-old explains: ‘The idea was that it would be a safety net, something I could turn to if employment became difficult, but I enjoyed it so much that I never looked at other jobs.

‘When I started in the early ’90s, male nurses were few and far between so the three men in our class were a bit of an anomaly. There was an assumption outside of nursing that you were probably gay, and an assumption inside nursing that you were probably lazy; both stereotypes that didn’t really apply.’

Being a male nurse is much more common now than when Oliver started out, and he insists that gender is not an issue in most environments.

‘I think changes in nursing have mirrored those in society and the idea that nurses are always women is no longer accepted or true. There are some nursing roles which lend themselves to a specific gender; those would include working in gynaecology, but generally, we see ourselves as nurses rather “male nurses” or “female nurses”.’

Nevertheless, he has observed that male nurses can to gravitate to certain roles. ‘There is a concentration of male nurses in the more specialised departments in hospitals; in operating theatres, in critical care units.’

Is it for you?
Nursing is a hugely varied field of employment, covering different kinds of patient care in a range of environments – some sedate, some relatively action-packed.

‘In career terms it depends very much where you work and what speciality you choose,’ Oliver explains. ‘Smaller provincial hospitals offer a secure steady environment but with a consequent lack of career opportunity, whereas working in larger cities can offer more in the way of promotion and career advancement.

‘In terms of a career in nursing, my advice would be to get qualified then stop and look at all the opportunities available before choosing to work in a particular area of nursing or a particular place.

‘Nursing as a qualification opens up a huge range of career opportunities, both in the UK and abroad and I think most people don’t exploit the possibilities.’

Salary: £21,388 to £27,901 a year. Experienced nurses working as advanced practitioners, clinical specialists or nurse team managers can earn £25,500 to £40,000 – and nurse consultants can earn between £39,000 and £67,000 a year.

* All salary information provided by the National Careers Service.

Image: © bevangoldswain – Fotolia.com

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