The recent recession has been characterized by something that has not happened very often in our nation’s economic history. While women and children were already the most likely to have economic disadvantages men lost their jobs in greater numbers than women1. The reasons for this are hard to pinpoint, but some of the contributing factors can be identified. As the most hard hit industries were in sectors that are traditionally dominated by men, such as construction and manufacturing, so too were men more likely to lose their jobs than women. The reasons for this new situation cannot be known in full, but the end result is that a great number of men found that for one of the first times in their lives, they were in need of public services. For many men who had never experienced this hardship before it was quite a shock and in many cases they held off from seeking assistance due to cultural stigmas until the last moment. This in turn would cause certain economic problems to be exacerbated. With so many new men in the assistance system it is important to be sensitive to the specific needs unique to men.
While it is true that for many years women have formed the majority of the members of the Human Services profession, increasingly men are being sought out to fill jobs and add a male perspective to the workplace. Men are increasingly seen as highly desirable candidates in the Human Services field due to a desire to have a fully rounded perspective in terms of gender as well as race. By having more perspectives on issues agencies are more likely to have a holistic approach to solving larger issues while maintaining a balance of recognizing the unique needs and sensitivities of various groups. Having this kind of competency that recognizes the impact of gender on creating specific client needs is an emerging hallmark of 21st century Human Services. In years past the historical legacies that so negatively impacted women swung the pendulum in the positive direction of ensuring that women had adequate protections in the workplace and that the unique needs of women were recognized and met. Now, it is being seen that men too have a specific framework through which they view the world and that we in the Human Services profession must honor and validate the male perspective as well.
With new emerging trends and sea changes in the economy we are seeing some societal imbalances finally begin to be addressed. So too have new challenges emerged and among them is making sure that all people regardless of background, gender and ethnicity are able to give voice to their specific needs and to have them honored. Being a man in a Human Services profession will present you with different challenges from your female counterparts, but also will allow you to add in your perspective which only adds value to the organization you work in and helps to ensure that all voices are heard.
1 *It is important to note that in the subsequent recovery men have been gaining jobs while women have been losing them according to the Pew Research Center: http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2049/unemployment-jobs-gender-recession-economic-recovery