(2 of 4)
For women, the trend is a mixed blessing. Some advocates have long argued that pay in fields like child care and teaching would not rise significantly until men moved into them. But amid today's persistently high unemployment, some women are worried that men are muscling into the last reliable sources of jobs for females--not to mention the management posts. With men around, for women "it's like being an apprentice who never becomes a journeyman," says Tina Abbott, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO in Michigan. Certainly the job market remains bleak. Overall unemployment rose again in April to 6%, with job searches for laid-off workers averaging five months. Half of all job seekers have switched industries over the past year, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Given that the industries with the most openings include nursing and teaching, notes CEO John Challenger, "artificial barriers like gender begin to break down when people have to make ends meet."
It isn't always desperation that drives the shift; sometimes it's simply the quest for job satisfaction. Nick Peters, 48, of Des Moines had spent years in hospital administration when he hit a wall. He had grown up believing "the man gets up, puts on his suit and tie, goes to work from 9 to 5 at the same place for 35 years," he says. "But I realized that's a bunch of hooey." In the fall, he will begin course work to become a "real-time" reporter, the modern moniker for a court reporter. The skill is in brisk demand, in part to provide closed captioning for TV, and reporters average $64,000 a year. Membership in the National Court Reporters Association is 90% female. Peters will join the other 10% when he starts his reporting course in the fall, although no men are enrolled in that course today.
The "female" professions tend to offer more flexible hours. Ron Patrizio, 43, a biotech-firm sales rep in Central Florida, got sick of his old routine. He spent much of his time wining and dining doctors, hoping they would prescribe his firm's drugs. He made as much as $67,000 a year, and constantly accompanied clients to operas and hockey games. "But you have no life," he says. "You live and die by how many vials of insulin you sell that month. They expected you to schmooze 24-7." On a whim, he took a class in massage therapy. Men make up less than 20% of the profession, but at the Pinellas Park school Patrizio attended, a third of those enrolled were men. In his first year he earned only $18,000, but the job gave him time to meet the woman who is now his wife.
Some men making these choices are perceived to lack ambition. Fraternity brothers were baffled when Michael Strumph chose nursing as his major. "They said, 'You're so much better than that,'" he says. Strumph, 27, had his priorities. His volunteer work as a paramedic attracted him to the medical field, but as the single parent of an 8-year-old boy, he wanted the flexible schedule a doctor doesn't have. Plus, he says, "doctors give orders and plan someone's care, but it's the nurses who actually make them better." While his frat brothers scrambled for scarce jobs in finance and technology, Strumph had three offers before he graduated in 2001. With extra shifts at his Montclair, N.J., hospital, he earns $90,000 a year.