Stands out: Per Arthur Andersen knows how to be appreciated by his female peers.
Stands out: Per Arthur Andersen knows how to be appreciated by his female peers.

Want gender neutral names on studies

What do you call a male nurse? HiOA now demands neutral professional names to open traditionally gendered occupations for everyone.

Per Arthur Andersen is studying to become a nurse at Oslo and Akershus University College (HiOA), and is one of eight male nursing students nationwide. When he turned up at the faculty first day of school last year, he was therefore prepared to be the only man in the class.

– It was unexpected that a male student should show up at beginning of term in January, so the teachers and my colleagues are happy that I am here, says Andersen, who enjoys the attention.

He believes the study content does not appeal to a single gender alone and asks young people to disregard the title. A professional title or name of an educational direction should not be decisive in taking an interest in the work, he says. What attracted him was the variation in the profession and the social benefit he will contribute to in a few years.

Name change

– Midwifery and nursing school (note: translates from Norwegian to health sister) are both disciplines with names that provide guidelines for what gender students should have. We believe this is fundamentally wrong and detrimental to gender diversity on these studies, says Christoffer Storm Tiller Alsvik, head of the Student Parliament at HiOA.

Midwife refers to mother earth, where the child at that time was born on the dirt floor -Anne-Marie Lilleengen, lecturer and midwife to the nursing program at the Cellar

After a visit to Andersen’s class, containing 63 students in January, it became clear to the student politicians that the traditional gender stereotypes in choosing a study are still there. The resolution

on a change in professional courses came to the table shortly after.

Anne-Marie Lilleengen, lecturer and midwife to the nursing programme at Kjeller. Photo: Private.
Anne-Marie Lilleengen, lecturer and midwife to the nursing programme at Kjeller. Photo: Private.

Anne-Marie Lilleengen, lecturer and midwife to the nursing programme at Kjeller, is more optimistic about neutralizing the nurse name than midwife. But with traditional and culturally strong names, it will be challenging to change the study's name and job title.

– Midwife refers to mother earth, where the child at the time was born on the dirt floor, says Lilleengen, who believes that the proportion of women applicants for midwifery education will be fairly constant regardless of whether the education gets a new name.

Demands for diversity

Challenger: -I would challenge students to demonstrate research showing that men opt out of these professions because of their names, says Curt Rice, principal at HiOA. Archivephoto: Hans Dalane-Hval
Challenger: -I would challenge students to demonstrate research showing that men opt out of these professions because of their names, says Curt Rice, principal at HiOA. Archivephoto: Hans Dalane-Hval

Curt Rice, principal at HiOA, is taking a great interest in the case, but dares not propose any new names for the gendered occupational titles Student Parliament wants to change. Challenges: I will challenge students to demonstrate the research showing that men opt out of these professions because of their names, says Rector at HiOA, Curt Rice. Stock Photo: Hans Dalane Whale

He rather chooses to question whether it is a social problem that we have 100 percent women in the midwifery profession. A gender-neutral employment should apply to all professions, he says.

– If the name changes to something gender-neutral, it may provide society with a heightened awareness of gender segregation of occupations, but it must come in the wake of the conclusion that the imbalance in the profession is a social problem. I would challenge students to demonstrate research showing that men opt out of these professions because of their names, says Rice.

As the only male nursing student, Per Arthur Andersen prepares for a work day equivalent to the classroom when he is fully trained. Despite many women around him, he is no less motivated. He envisions a job within the school health or mental health.

– I got one little «breastfeed shock» on the first day of school, otherwise I think we men have much to contribute in this field, says Andersen.