It’s a well known fact that some jobs are more popular and dominated by female workers and others have more men. For example, in the US, around 70% of school teachers are female. On the other hand, roughly 82% of farmers are male.
There are many sociological reasons why some jobs are more popular with certain genders than others and the same is true with EMTs.
In a study conducted between 2008 and 2017, it was found that, whilst the number of female EMTs and paramedics rose from 28% to 35%, less than a quarter of newly certified paramedics were female.
In this article, we’ll be discussing what EMTs and paramedics do, how many females take up the role, and why these jobs are so dominated by male workers.
Why Diversity In Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Is Important
The first thing we need to think about when understanding why so few EMTs are female, is why diversity is important in this industry. Implicit bias is something that exists subconsciously in everyone’s mind, without most people even realizing it.
This is basically any kind of stereotype or attitude about a certain group that affects a person’s understanding or treatment of them without the person acknowledging it.
It’s unfortunate, but implicit bias exists in every interpersonal working environment. Because the role of an EMT is so demanding and often stressful, implicit bias is more likely to crop up here.
So much of an EMTs attention is given to delivering lifesaving medical treatment that it becomes more difficult to acknowledge their implicit biases.
An example of this was found in a 2018 study about how different racial groups received different levels of healthcare from EMTs and paramedics due to implicit bias. It was found that black patients were actually 40% less likely to receive pain medication than white patients.
That figure might seem shocking to anyone, but it isn’t the result of racism within EMS, rather a product of unconscious, implicit biases.
Having diversity within EMS makes it less likely that these implicit biases will have an effect on the way EMTs and paramedics work.
The example we’ve given was about differences between racial groups, but the same concept can still be applied to gender groups as well. That’s why it’s so important to have well balanced diversity in every industry, particularly one as important as EMS.
What Is An EMT?
An Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) is one of the most intense and demanding jobs out there. As an emergency responder, they need to be one of the first people at the scene of an emergency situation to provide lifesaving medical treatment.
Their responsibilities include treating open wounds, applying braces to patients and performing CPR at the scene. Basically, their main aim is to keep a patient stable enough to be able to be transported safely to a hospital where they’ll receive further treatment.
You don’t need too many qualifications to become certified as an EMT but it does require around 500 hours of training, as well as passing some examinations.
Why Are There So Few Female EMTs?
The study we looked at earlier found that females made up around 35% of all EMTs in 2017. This seems like an extraordinarily low number for a job that doesn’t have any immediately obvious benefits or costs for any gender.
One factor that could be a cause of this imbalance is the physically demanding nature of the job. As part of EMT training, recruits are informed that they need to be physically strong enough to lift and carry a weight up to around 100lbs.
This fact alone isn’t enough to prevent any woman from becoming an EMT, but it would be enough to put some people off of applying for a course in the first place.
Another issue may arise with family demands for females. Of course, female workers are more heavily impacted by pregnancy, childbirth and childcare than their male counterparts, which can make the working life of an EMT impractical for women who have or want to have children.
The shift patterns of EMTs can vary so greatly and often require staff to work especially long shifts. This can make it even more difficult for an EMT to provide adequate childcare while working.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that women provided two thirds more childcare than men in 2020. Therefore, it makes sense that this would result in fewer females taking up the role of EMT.
The third reason is something that transcends the EMS industry but is certainly prevalent within it. Sexism between EMTs and patients, as well as between EMTs and other emergency services still exists in the modern day.
In 2016, Valerie Frank Serao summarized her experiences of being a female in EMS:
“When my unit showed up at the scene and I stepped out, cops rolled their eyes, firefighters sneered and derisive comments about why they ever let girls on the job were mumbled at the volume of a public speech.
My partners were peppered with questions about how I performed, and they weren’t referring to my delivery of prehospital care”.
As you can tell from Valerie’s statement, sexist attitudes still persist in the modern day within this industry.
Being forced to interact with members of the public on a regular basis also can’t help. There’s no need for an injured civilian to behave professionally and sexist comments and behaviour have been forced upon a lot of female EMTs.
There are likely many other reasons why females are less likely to become EMTs but the ones we’ve discussed above are seemingly the most prevalent.
Of course, none of these issues are serious enough to prevent any female from becoming an EMT altogether, but they do implicitly discourage them from taking up the role.
What Is A Paramedic?
Often confused with EMTs, paramedics perform a similar role on a slightly larger scale. Having worked as an EMT for a few months or even a few years, an individual can apply to enrol in a paramedic school, pay a tuition fee and work hard to become a qualified paramedic.
These schools require 1200-1800 hours of training and examinations to complete but everyone who passes the course can become a fully fledged paramedic.
Because of their extra training, paramedics have more responsibilities than EMTs and are able to administer more invasive and technically complex medical care. This includes things like resuscitation and inserting IVs into patients.
Other than a slightly higher salary and these additional responsibilities, there isn’t too much difference between the role of a paramedic and an EMT.
Why Are There So Few Female Paramedics?
In the study we looked at earlier, it was found that the proportion of paramedics that were female between 2008 and 2017 was 20-23%. That means there are actually even fewer females working as paramedics than there are as EMTs.
Again, there isn’t a huge amount of difference between the roles of EMTs and paramedics, so it might be confusing that the representation of females drops as responsibility and qualification increases.
The reasons for the imbalance of males and females in paramedic work are very similar to those of EMTs. In particular, the paramedic school training can take up to 2 years to complete and become qualified.
This can certainly intervene with a female’s availability to care for a family and adequately train simultaneously.
Similarly, having experienced the, often overt, sexism that can occur when working as an EMT, it’s not surprising that females would be discouraged from pursuing the career further and making the step up to becoming a paramedic.
It is worth noting that physical demand is likely not a contributing factor to this decrease in female representation. All paramedics must complete some work as an EMT and so will have experienced the physical demands required of both roles already.
One of the only potential differences between the roles that could explain the decrease is the flexibility of career choices that come with an EMT certification.
There are dozens of other careers people can go into with an EMT certification, including being a lifeguard, firefighter, emergency responder and physician assistant.
This means that many people who gain EMT certifications don’t go on to pursue a career in EMS at all. Consequently, there are even fewer who go on to become paramedics.
Being qualified as a paramedic restricts your opportunity to pursue other careers so much more than being qualified as an EMT.
In fact, it’s reported that many females who work as EMTs or are qualified to become paramedics choose to transition to becoming nurses. Nursing is far more saturated with female workers than EMTs and paramedics, with around 85% of the workforce being female.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Percentage Of EMTs And Paramedics Are Black?
According to research conducted by the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians (NREMT), ethnic minority groups are significantly underrepresented in emergency medical services.
In 2017, only 5% of EMTs identified as black and the same figure was only 3% for paramedics.
Is The EMT Exam Hard To Pass?
The EMT exam is fairly difficult to pass, but is easier than the equivalent paramedic exam. There are a few different types of NREMT exams that candidates will take, depending on the type of EMT work they want to go into.
The exams all consist of around 100 questions and take 1 hour and 45 minutes to 2 hours and 30 minutes to complete.
The NREMT prep website recommends spending 2-8 weeks to prepare adequately for the exam, though this number will obviously depend on your existing knowledge and level of experience.
Is EMT A Male Dominated Field?
EMTs are definitely an occupation that is dominated by male workers. Around 65% of EMTs in the US are male. There are a number of reasons why this is the case, which we have discussed in the rest of this article, above.
However, none of the reasons we listed are serious enough to prevent any female from becoming an EMT altogether. All females can work to become physically stronger, learn more about medical care and still maintain a solid family life while training to become an EMT.
So, we’ve looked at the stats and figures around female representation among EMS workers and established that most roles within the industry are dominated by male workers.
It may be surprising to some to learn just how much disparity there is between the genders and how they are represented in the industry, but there are a number of physical and sociological reasons to explain why this might be the case.
However, this definitely does not mean that females can’t work as EMTs or paramedics. Absolutely any woman can work hard enough to complete the necessary training to become an EMT.
If you’re a female, thinking about going into working as an EMT or in the emergency medical services, there shouldn’t be anything holding you back!