In white male–dominated professions like law, engineering, or medicine, black men are in the majority because of their gender, but in the minority due to their race. Consequently, they occupy a somewhat contradictory position where they simultaneously fit in even while they stand out. It’s not quite the token experience that Rosabeth Moss Kanter describes in her classic study of women working in male-dominated spaces. Those women, mostly white, were constantly reminded of the ways they stood out, faced a paradox of visibility and invisibility, and were relegated to gender-typed positions as secretaries or wives even when they were high-ranking executives. Black men’s experiences in these types of environments are a bit more complicated.
Fields that have traditionally been male-dominated—especially manufacturing and construction—have been hit hard over the years, and especially since the 2008 recession. Consequently, some have hoped men would be attracted to nursing given that it is a field that offers stable, well-paying work in a growing industry. Yet nursing still remains predominantly female and white. While many have focused on the barriers to getting men in general to enter nursing, my research shows that black men, who are drastically underrepresented in nursing, may in fact be the group of men most motivated to enter the field, even despite an often racist environment.