Gender segregation remains the most persistent shortcoming of the labour market. While the emphasis is usually placed on the gender equality as it affects women – the stereotypes and challenges that men face are not to be ignored.
Think about it: there are men who work and thrive in fields dominated by women. Believe it or not, Nigerian men are breaking through gender boundaries to work female-dominated jobs. Whether instigated by the need to earn an income, labour market changes, or career ambition, a number of men are unapologetic about opting for non-traditional work and braving it in these women-dominated fields.
We asked a few of these working men to share with us their stories, why they made the choice to delve into a female-dominated workspace, how they have coped. We were blown away by their responses.
Here are their testimonies:
Stanley, Human Hair Vendor/Wig Maker
Sometimes, I think I have only succeeded this much because I am in Lagos. Some women who buy human hair get especially excited when it’s a male seller. They believe that because he is a man, maybe he has done it better. I blame it on the cultural mentality, because that is essentially what it is. But that is a good thing for me abi?
To be honest, getting into the human hair industry, especially selling online and on social media, was not as difficult as I thought it would be for me as a man. I didn’t have any blockers at all. For the first 6 months, I did not reveal my gender online. But now I do. I am not ashamed. Some women are still shocked when they call to make an order and it is a male voice, or when I go to deliver, and they see me.
Of course, there have been people who have not been as receptive as they are to the other women in the same business. One lady I made a delivery to gave me bad reviews, condemned me and refused to buy my hair when I told her I made the wig myself. She said there is no way I could have done it well and that the hair would not last, all because I am male. A person even made a comment: “Na wa for these Nigerian men, e never do una? Of all the work wey dey, na women work una now dey struggle.” I know she was teasing because she was a friend, still, it hit home.
I started my business because I did have a genuine interest in it, not just for the money, and it does not make me less of a man.
IK, Make-Up Artist
The average Nigerian will still not agree that a man should be a make-up artiste. For real. This is the country we live in. They automatically look at you like you are gay or perverted. When you tell people, women especially, that you are a man and you are a make-up artist, they look at you with reservation. Whether that’s because they just don’t think a man can do as good a makeup job as a woman, or they feel threatened, I don’t know.
Recently I had a negative experience where I felt intimidated and disrespected. When I brought the matter to the owner of the business, she didn’t believe me. Maybe she thought I was making it up. Or maybe she thought because I was a man, such things should not get to me.
I remember when I joined, too, I was watched a little closer in regard to job performance. Any little mistake I did was pretty much picked up on and criticised harshly. But I have learned to just look past that and keep doing my best.
In the end, I love what I do, and the people who matter to me are supportive and love the fact that I am bringing a different perspective and a unique style of work.
I feel that it should be more acceptable now to see men as nurses, but there is this thing that just hangs in the air sometimes like because you are a male nurse, you do not know how to do your job. Its like, you are only settling to be a nurse because you did not make the cut to be a doctor. Hello? I never for one day applied to study Medicine. I studied nursing straight from the beginning. There are many male nurses abroad and they are making it.
It puts a certain kind of pressure on me because I sometimes cannot shake the feeling of always being under a microscope. In fact, I have to be on point and always make a good impression because if I do well, people will have a positive impression of male nurses, but if I mess up, they will project my mistake onto male nurses as a whole.
When people tell me I am a great nurse and show surprise, I make sure I tell them that I’m not “great” because I had to go against the stereotypes to get here or because I’m in the minority, I am because I just am “great” as any other great nurse in spite of gender.
Oga Ayo, Mama-Put Seller
I think a lot of people think that the mama-put business – because it has the word “mama” in it – is one for women alone. I am proving them wrong. Am I not making it? When I met my wife, she had this business and I was a bus conductor, but when she passed, I knew the rough life would not help me feed my children. My first daughter and I took over the business. I cook all kinds of food and you see people pushing and rushing for it. They place their orders even a week ahead. Some people even have a standing order for my pepper soup. My daughter cooks sometimes, too, but I am the one with the magic.
Trust me, I wouldn’t be doing this business as a man if I was not capable. It’s not just the money. I enjoy it. My children are in school, they are happy, I am happy. My other competitors in the neighbourhood are women of course and they try to shame me sometimes, but God wins for me. I am proud of my source of livelihood.
There is no doubt that being in a space where you are the minority you really have to find your voice. This includes men who find themselves in women-dominated occupations or offices. Do you have any advice for these men though? Share it with us!
Photo Credit: Dreamstime