Once Caring Pays, Men Will Care


Let's talk about science and money for a bit. Psychologist Scott Barry Kaufmann draws upon new research by Katharina Block, Alyssa Croft, Lucy De Souzaa, and Toni Schmadera published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology for his latest article in Scientific American: "Why Don't People Care That Men Don't Care About Caring?".

The new paper by Block, et al, entitled "Do people care if men don't care about caring? The asymmetry in support for changing gender roles" suggests that while many people work toward breaking down barriers against women working in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), fewer people concern themselves with the barriers against men pursuing HEED (health, early education, and domestic work) jobs. After they account for what seems to me the obvious reason to encourage women to do STEM but not encourage men to do HEED work ($$$), the authors find other reasons for this disparity:

However, I want to take a look at the economic angle.

Let's talk about money. Let's be honest and admit that men are judged by how much they earn. It doesn't matter how kind or caring a man is; people will look down on him if he doesn't earn enough.

We have words for men who don't make enough money to support themselves by having their own apartment or house, their own car, etc. We call them "losers", and other less flattering terms. We mock them as subhumans living in their mothers' basements. We tell boys as they grow up that if they don't have a good job, a job with a high salary or high prestige (ideally both), no woman will want them.

Worse, we express our contempt for work requiring care in dollars and cents.

According to the NEA, the 2017-18 National Average Starting Teacher Salary is $39,249. Their website doesn't have more recent stats.

According to PayScale, the gap between the average salary for a licensed practical nurse (LPN) and a software developer is over $25,000

Entry level salaries are at least 10% less.
Salaries also vary by location and specialty.
Job Average Salary
Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) $43,971
Registered Nurse (RN) $63,698
Software Developer $70,000
Software Engineer $84,762

These numbers don't tell the whole story. A licensed practical nurse must obtain a diploma after a year-long course, pursue additional certifications in skills such as CPR, and be licensed by the state in which they want to practice. The educational and training requirements for registered nurses are more onerous, as are those for teachers.

By way of comparison, a software developer can bullshit their way into a job after a six-week bootcamp or doing a few months (or a couple of years) of pro bono work on various Free/Open Source Software projects if their GitHub profile is sufficiently impressive and they come across as a good "culture fit".

The stakes for nurses and teachers are higher, too. If a nurse makes a mistake, a patient can die. If a teacher isn't good at their job, children don't get the education they need, or are traumatized.

I think it stands to reason that we value STEM jobs more highly than we do HEED work, and it shows in how little we pay people doing these jobs compared to what we pay techies. What does this mean for men, and for encouraging men to do caring work?

Men don't care, and aren't encouraged to care, because our culture values men who make bank. You're not going to make bank as a teacher or nurse, and you sure as hell aren't going to pay off your student loans before you're 40 on what they make. Nor are you going to have an easy time moving out of your parents' house, or even have enough free time and privacy for a sex life not limited to furtive quickies with Rosie Palm.

If encouraging men to care about caring mattered, we would put our money where our mouths are. We would pay teachers more and pay nurses more. We would give them the respect they are due.

Once caring pays, men will care.