Enough with the Gender Stereotypes – Women in Emergency Medical Services

03-08-2021 | Blog article

Women are sensitive, women are responsible for the household and child rearing, women are the “weaker sex” – prejudices towards women are widespread. This has not only social, but also professional consequences. Although debates on gender equality have gained momentum in recent years, there are still disparities between men and women in the world of work. For the most part to the disadvantage of the female sex. However, there is good news: gender roles are changing and stereotypical professions are undergoing a transformation. Whereas until the 1970s women in Germany could only work with the permission of their husbands, they can theoretically now pursue any occupation they like – such as a career as a paramedic.

Ever greater womanpower in EMS

Although there is still a higher share of men in EMS, the gap has narrowed significantly in recent years. For example, 28 percent of the workforce at the Emergency Medical Services Cooperation in Schleswig-Holstein (RKiSH) is now female (as of 2020). An upward trend. “This year we had a high proportion of women entering the application phase for an apprenticeship. More women applied than men”, cheerfully says Christian Mandel, emergency physician and spokesperson for RKiSH. The traits that someone is expected to bring to EMS include diligence, empathy, mental stability and a good physical constitution. “Characteristics that are not gender-specific – both men and women can have them”, Christian remarks.

There is no typical woman or typical man

Everyone has their strength and weaknesses – in both their private and professional lives. That applies to men and women in equal measure. “These gender stereotypes are annoying. There is no such thing as a typical man or typical woman in our team. There are women who have bigger arm muscles than some of the men. Likewise, there are men who are more empathetic than some of the women”, asserts 28-year-old Lena Söth, paramedic at RKiSH. She has already been working in EMS for six years. In addition, she is also a practical trainer for apprentices and assists the PR team of the Emergency Medical Services Cooperation. “I enjoy the responsibility that I have as a practical trainer. I can imagine taking on even more duties in future”, says Lena. For this reason, she has spent a semester studying the subject of rescue management alongside her work. “My studies qualify me for a role in the EMS middle management such as team leader or leader of an emergency vehicle”, explains Lena.

No special treatment for women

Lena has faced virtually no prejudice towards women. “Patients, including female ones, sometimes look at me and my female colleagues sceptically if we have to carry them down a flight of stairs, for example. It is almost like a motto: two women, that won’t work!” Every time, the women prove that it does, in fact, work. If they were unable to, they would be in the wrong job. “There is no special treatment for women. And that is a good thing!”, exclaims Lena. If someone does not meet the physical requirements, they will have already failed during the selection process. Sometimes, however, it is not until the training that it becomes clear who is made for the job and who is not. “Some apprentices simply do not have the right physical abilities. And, unfortunately, other apprentices do not have the necessary people skills. I see that with both men and women. There is no difference in that respect”, states Lena.

Male or female? Both have their advantages!

While physical strength may often be more pronounced among men, it helps to be a woman in certain situations – especially those involving children or pregnant women. “Children are usually more attached to their mother and perhaps that is why they prefer to be approached by a woman”, offers Lena as a possible explanation. It is similar with pregnant women, who think that women can more easily put themselves in their position. However, women also have an advantage in certain situations involving intercultural communication. “In some religions, women are not allowed to be examined by men”, explains Lena. “And the same applies vice-versa. We once had a case where women were not allowed into the home”, she recalls. To overcome such situations, mixed teams are ideal for EMS operations. This helps ensure that the patient is treated as quickly as possible – with no time wasted unnecessarily because the families first have to discuss the gender of the EMS field providers.

Believe in yourselves!

The positive influence of both men and women is undeniable. In many operations it even proves advantageous to have both male and female EMS field providers. Lena has found her dream job and wants to encourage other women to take up the profession: “The work in EMS is incredibly varied. On a personal level, you develop tremendously. Six years ago I was definitely not as confident as I am today. And my ability to assert myself has also grown considerably.” Enough with the gender stereotypes in the world of work: Lena and her colleagues in EMS show that women make equally good paramedics as men.