Gender and sexuality in clinical training

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Gender and sexuality in clinical training

Post by miriam » Sun Apr 08, 2007 1:45 am

Psychology degrees and CP training courses tend to be dominated in numbers by women (CP trainees are 80% female). Amongst the small proportion of males, gay men are highly represented in my experience. Most straight males on undergrad psychology that I knew were very pleased with the gender ratio. They would have the same chance of making friends and a greater chance of finding a partner than any other gender/sexuality combination. I know some males hope that it also gives them a little "positive discrimination" when applying for clinical training (as perhaps it should, if we continue to train 8 female CPs for every male).

I also think that there is perhaps a slightly higher incidence of gay men in the caring professions generally and in CP. I'd suggest two possible reasons: one is that in that context I would hope people are generally more open and expect to meet less prejudice (hence are more likely to be "out") and the other is the mixture of personality characteristics associated with CP as a career are also characteristics more associated with gay men than straight ones. I did some dreadful undergraduate research on the personality characteristics of people aspiring to clinical psychology. I can't really remember it, apart from the fact that on some traditional personality questionnaire the women who made it onto clinical were more "masculine" (read assertive, confident, career oriented, etc) than other female psychology undergrads and the men who did psychology were more "feminine" (read caring, able to express emotions, good at listening, interested in other people, etc) than other men. I don't think we had a large enough sample of male CP trainees to make any comparison though! And I don't know that there is research to show that gay men have more "feminine" characteristics on personality questionnaires either....

If you look historically, the gender proportions in medicine, CP, and other "caring professions" have grown gradually from a totally male dominated population (say 50-100 years ago) to being more and more female dominated. This rise corresponds with an increase of women succeeding in education and being present in the workplace and as professionals. It is also associated with a change in the perceptions of these professions from scientific/factual/impressive to more kind/caring/nurturing - characteristics seen as more feminine. I'm not sure whether this is a good or a bad thing. I think the gender ratio in medicine has become more balanced, so I don't know why CP isn't. However, it does seem to be the case that although there are less men in CP as a profession, there are more of these men at higher levels of seniority and involved in publishing/teaching/researching. I suspect it is partly due to the fact that the gender ratio has changed over time, so there are more men with a lot of experience, by proportion, and partly because career advancement is limited by the increased likelihood of women taking career breaks or working part time whilst they have children.

Spatch added Do straight men get on training? The short answer is yes, and in increasingly larger amounts.

However, the question about why are a relatively small proportion of psychologists male, may be related to more general factors.

A study by the HESCU (2006) reported that male graduates were more likely to gravitate towards higher paying roles, and jobs that have a quicker start in the graduate job market. Women on the other hand were more likely to take up voluntary unpaid work, combine work with further study, or choose to study full time while considering their employment options. They were also more likely to take a more strategic approach to gaining relevant experience and obtaining soft skills.

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As psychology careers often require periods of voluntary and/or low paying work, combined with a need to have some strategy about which jobs are picked, this may partly explain why fewer men go onto chartered status.

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