Men in midwifery: 40 years of the perfect social experiment

Activity: Academic Talks or PresentationsConference Presentation


It is over 40 years since 28 men were tentatively admitted on to pilot schemes to train as midwives in 1977, with restrictions to men entering the profession fully lifted in 1983. Resistance to this radical change from female midwives was strong with a fear that the advent of men into the profession posed a threat from ‘perverts’ or those seeking male domination by occupying senior posts. In the intervening years, however, there has been no significant increase in the number of men entering the profession, with men currently representing only 0.3% of the midwifery population in the UK.

Despite being described as ‘the perfect social experiment’ there has been no primary research about the experiences of men working as midwives. As one pioneering male stated, ‘the complete absence of data about men in midwifery is surprising in view of the controversy that had surrounded their initial introduction into the profession’. This presentation will discuss some initial data from an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis of interviews amongst 13 men who have practised midwifery, ranging from early pioneers to those who have been practising for only a year and seeks to understand their experiences in arguably the worlds most mono-gendered profession.

I suggest that there can be a radical divergence between anticipated and actual changes that occur when gendered bodies enter spaces that are not designed to accommodate them. Rather than dramatic upheavals and cataclysmic changes to the existence of the midwifery profession, the extreme numerical minority of men in midwifery, I argue, leaves men inhabiting liminal spaces without adequate language to articulate their experiences. I illustrate this with a discussion on how the rhetoric of equality and diversity used by participants exposes the frustrations and shifting narratives of men when they become gendered in female spaces.
Period15 Sept 2021
Event titleEast Midlands Doctoral Network Annual Conference: "Change"
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionRegional


  • Male Midwives