97% of Dietitans are Women

We’re in Denver for ADA’s annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. One of the most interesting aspects of this conference is that you hardly see men here. Nutrition and dietetics is a field dominated by women.

In speaking with several dietitians yesterday, we learned that the field of nutrition studies branched out from what used to be called Home-Economics. And Home-Ec, as people may recall from high-school, is something that girls took, while boys took shop classes.

This may have put the profession at a disadvantage compared to more gender balanced fields from a salary perspective. Dietitians on average make less than $50,000 a year, compared to doctors with $200,000.

We recently posted a comparison of doctors vs. dietitians pointing to the fact that if more energy was invested in prevention through sound diets, many of the obesity related healthcare costs the US is facing would be slashed.

Unfortunately, eating healthily is perceived by many men in this country as effeminate. “Gimme my meat and potatoes… / I’ll have 2 double cheesburgers with extra mayo” we hear many guys saying proudly, pointing to the fact that salad is for girls and wimps. But fact is that obesity and diet related disease are almost in parity between genders.

Would men be more apt to healthfully if the dietetic profession was dominated by XY chromosomes?

Although the number of men entering the dietetics field is slowly rising, the gender imbalance will continue for years. As one RD pointed out last night at a pre-conference dance, she’s looking forward to not just better shots of a dance-floor partner, but more respect and higher salaries in the field.

We’d love to hear what you think. Shoot away at the comments below.

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  • http://www.mvprofessionalnutrition.com Dennis Allio

    I was also very surprised to learn that the field has so few men. I first met my RD (Manuel Villacorta MS, RD, CSSD) and had no idea as I lost nearly 50 pounds that he was an exception to the normal way registered dietitians interact with clients. In the past few years I’ve had a chance to meet and work with many RDs as we’ve been creating our dietitian software. We’ve found that one of the things that keeps the salaries low is that many RDs are not in private practice for themselves. So we’re putting together tools, tips, and training to help RDs break out of the traditional career path. Registered dietitians are our best resource to help conquer the obesity problem.

  • http://www.semisweetonline.com Sarah

    I think it would definitely help to have men in the field – it’d lend credibility to the notion that good nutrition is something that men need to think about too. We all just need to get more creative w/”marketing” the nutrition message, and having more males in the profession would give better insight into what would be acceptable and workable for men.

  • Claude

    As a male who will become an RD in May 2010 (in Canada – where the % are the same), I think that the perception of nutrition as food / home ec is certainly one of the reasons why there are so few men. I know that, for me, my passion of dietetics does not come from a deep love of food / cooking (although I do love those things) but more out of a firm belief that good health has more to do with nutrition than society realizes and a frustration over all the misinformation that exist on the topic. I think if more men understood the vast diversity of roles a dietitian can play, many more would be attracted. Show them everything involved in setting up a TPN or the true depth of complexity behind obesity and it will certainly peak their interest. As with anything, with time and effort more can be attracted going forward. Oh, and there will always be the macho extra-large cheeseburger guy in society but they don’t represent every man.

  • James

    I am currently enrolled in school to become an RD, and I feel the same as Claude, I am quite passionate about cooking, my wife is amazed at the things I can come up with with what little I may have to work with. But I am more passionate about the nutritional aspect of it. I am working at a steakhouse (don’t know if I can say the name, but they are almost right outback from where I live. wink wink) and I am continually amazed and often disgusted at how almost everything contains butter or mayo. And the fried food is fried in beef tallow. It’s atrocious. Not to mention being incessantly told how “yummy” this or that is, especially anything fried. And being reminded that salads are for wimps. One of my managers (who is a large guy) joked while I waited for my ride after for about whether I was waiting for my salad to cook (because I’m vegan). I am surrounded with constant reminders of why obesity is such an epidemic. And nutrition is indeed a topic which is treated by many with the same regard as knitting, it’s for women. So I agree completely that is a big part of the reason the dietetics field is so heavily dominated by women. But hey, there are some of us who are “seeing the light” as it were.