International Women’s Day – Social Care: The Female Industry
Today is International Women’s Day, which is likely to be close to the hearts of many of the people reading this article. Social care is one of the few industries which is dominated by women and in 2012 apparently 82% of Care Home Managers in England were women. Certainly when Creative Support recruits the number of women interested in our social care roles compared to men is generous.
Why is this?
Traditionally caring roles, including nursing and support, have always been perceived as ‘female’ roles. Women are generally believed to be more nurturing, warm and compassionate than men, and are therefore more suited to this career.
This perception is really quite offensive to both men and women. It reduces billions of individual women into one group who are assumed to have exactly the same characteristics. It also suggests that men as a rule cannot be kind, or considerate, or caring. These generalisations towards men and women are particularly grating when social care today is focusing on personalisation of services, and recognising that people are individuals whose preferences cannot be defined simply because they fit into a certain group of ‘old person’ or ‘autistic’.
Of course, as a female, there are huge benefits to working in a female-dominated industry. It is comforting to know that my career progression is not limited by my gender but will instead be focused on my skills, ambition and hard work. This should be a given, but on numerous occasions I have listened to female friends working in corporate industries, like law and accountancy, complain that they have often felt belittled or patronised by men. Creative Support’s Chief Executive, Anna Lunts, started the organisation in 1990, and it is incredibly inspiring to have such a strong and focused woman leading the organisation that I work for. It is easy to forget, in this industry, that in many other situations you might not be taken seriously solely because of your gender.
And let’s not forget there are many men out there who could be huge assets to the social care industry. Our staff may be female-dominated, but the people we support certainly are not. To provide high quality support our staff teams need to be representative of the people we support, and unfortunately enticing men is something that all care providers struggle with. Social care doesn’t even appear to be a consideration for many men as a career. Alongside the media rarely presenting men in social care, Skills for Care suggests this may be due to common perceptions of social care as:
• Essentially unskilled
• Low paid
• With flat management structures
My personal understanding of International Women’s Day is that it is a day to remember how far women have come in the struggle for equality and respect. It is also to remember that women and men are essentially equal, and in an ideal world all social and career opportunities will be available to everyone and not based on gender. Social care is fantastic in that it provides women with enormous opportunity for development and it is my belief that many other industries should take note of strong, successful women like Camila Batmanghelidjh. However, the industry must also strive to present social care as a role that is also readily available for men, with opportunity for development and career fulfillment.
Creative Support is holding a number of events throughout the country to celebrate International Women’s Day. Keep a look out on our website and other publications for photos!
To read a brief history of women’s rights check out our Winter 2013 edition of Creative Life.
By Suzy Kennedy, Development Officer