Blazing a trail in the workplace

Updated: 2013-01-03 07:58

By Wang Hongyi (China Daily)

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 Blazing a trail in the workplace

Li Dabin, a college teacher-turned maternity matron, can be easily recognized among his female classmates at a training session. Bai Yu / Xinhua

Men taking up work traditionally done by women seen as progress in gender equality, although they need more time to be recognized, Wang Hongyi reports in Shanghai.

In recent years, men have been entering professions that have traditionally been regarded as women's work.

Li Dabin, 39, with a master's degree, used to be a teacher in a college in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in South China. But last year he quit the job to learn postnatal care and train to be a maternity matron, which encompasses the role of nanny, nurse, cook and pre-school teacher.

"Actually, I wanted to be a nanny nine years ago when my child was born. I think children can benefit from a male nanny's energy in a family. Men have an irreplaceable role in children's development," he said.

Having finished his training, he has now set up his own domestic services company. Last year, he conducted some research in local communities in Kunming, Yunnan province, and found that there was a large demand for domestic workers, especially quality service providers.

"The standards of domestic service in China are rather uneven. The education level of nannies is generally not that high," he said.

"I can see a promising future in this industry," he added.

Li expects to receive his certification and officially start his career early next year. However, he does not know if the market is ready to accept a male maternity matron.

"But I believe in my professional skills and that there will be someone who will want to hire me," Li said.

He may find it hard going, though.

"It's unusual for a man to take care of a new-born baby and the mother," said one woman in Kunming called Chen Yi.

But others think some families will be more open to hiring a male nanny.

 Blazing a trail in the workplace

Li Dabin learns how to take care of a new-born baby. Yang Huafeng / China News Service

"It might work for some families, especially a single mother or a family with a boy," said a woman surnamed Liu.

"When a family needs a nanny, they look for one that will fit the family. The gender is less important," said Liang Yun, deputy director of the Hunan Domestic Service Association. "Ultimately they will want someone who is qualified, dedicated, and can do the job well."

"It may need a time for people to accept a male nanny. Li is the bold man that first ate an oyster. Maybe more men will be encouraged to join this industry in the near future thanks to his example," Liang added.

In big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, the monthly wage for a maternity matron can be more than 6,000 yuan ($950).

Men are starting to make inroads into other jobs traditionally associated as women's.

"Many people think nursing is an occupation for females," said Liu Lijun, a 25-year-old nurse at Shanghai Xinhua Hospital.

"This stereotype stops many young men from taking a job that is full of a sense of accomplishment and very satisfying," Liu Lijun said.

According to the Ministry of Health, China urgently needs professionally trained nurses, especially male nurses. In 2010 there were 2.18 million nurses in the country, but only 21,000 of them were male, about 1 percent of the total.

Liu Lijun said being a nurse is far more than simply drawing blood, taking notes, giving injections and dispensing medicines.

"It is both physically and emotionally demanding," he said.

He has been working at the hospital for three years. Like other male nurses, he found that patients didn't accept him at first, but that has now changed.

"Many patients can remember my name even though we have only met once or twice, which shows that the patients now recognize me as a nurse," he said.

"There is still a social stigma on gender for some jobs," said Yang Yang, a university teacher in Tianjin. "People's expectations are often stereotyped when it comes to jobs. It just needs someone with the courage to try something different and break the boundaries to change people's perceptions."

"The country has a lot of graduates each year. The tough and competitive employment situation will eased to some extent if jobs are not restricted to just one gender," she added.

Zhu Jun, 30, is Shanghai's first male graduate of pre-school education studies. He is also the first male kindergarten principal with a professional education background in the city.

In addition to designing courses and teaching classes, he is also working on attracting more men to become kindergarten teachers.

"I believe men can help children with their all-round development," he said.

Now that the glass doors are beginning to be broken, more men are likely to follow in the footsteps of these pioneers.

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(China Daily 01/03/2013 page8)