Dietitians Week: Where Are The 'Guyatitians' (male dietitians)?11 June 2014
As part of Dietitians Week, the British Dietetic Association (BDA), looks at why the dietetic profession is almost exclusively female! Where are all the male dietitians? Or, as they have become known in some circles, Guyatitians!
Dietitians Week, organised by the BDA, is running the week commencing 9th June 2014 and, in addition to events being organised by the BDA, BDA members are running well in excess of 100 individual events around the UK from the tip of the country in Devon to the Isles of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides (in addition to events happening around the globe)! Dietitians Week is the world’s first awareness week that profiles to work and value of dietitians. A full list of Dietitians Week events can be found at www.DietitiansWeek.com/Events.
The BDA, founded in 1936, is the professional association for registered dietitians in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is the nation’s largest organisation of food and nutrition professionals with over 7,000 members. The BDA is also an active trade union.
Less than 4% of dietitians in the UK are male. That means less than 280 of the BDA’s 7,000+ members are men. This is not just a UK phenomenon, men represent a tiny minority of the profession globally. The question needs to be why?
Is dietetics seen as a ‘female’ profession, if so why? Is it a profession that is not known to potential male dietitians? Is it simply not suggested in schools and colleges to those interested in science, health and food?
“When one looks at other food related professions, such as Chefs for example, many of those we can think of are men,” says Dr Duane Mellor, a proud ‘Guyatitian’ and dietetics lecturer at the University of Nottingham. “It isn’t that men are not present at all in the world of dietetics. In the UK alone we have two male professors who are dietitians and a number working in all areas of the profession in every specialty and type of work.
“Could the lack of men in dietetics potentially limit the development of the profession? A more balanced and representative workforce may have more in common with the communities they work within, as communities tend to exist on a 50/50 female to male ratio. Dietetics is a growing and vibrant profession in the UK, using messages of enjoyment of food to improve health. A more diverse profession should benefit and further this growth.
“Dietetics is an exciting and dynamic profession with a lot to offer both men and women. When working clinically it can involve ‘detective’ work to find the nutritional issue with a patient, listening and counseling skills to understand how a person thinks about food and then great powers of negotiation to ‘sell’ food and nutrition as a treatment”.
“The science of nutrition is always evolving” and Duane adds:
“The ability to translate complex scientific findings into messages that can help and improve people’s lives is amazing. When this involves food, something we all share and most of us enjoy and need, it cannot be beaten!”
Adding her views, Chairman of the BDA, Siân O’Shea, added:
“The gender issue is indeed very interesting and if we look back in the history of UK dietetics emerging circa 1920, therapeutic diet treatment was entrusted to those senior hospital nurses who developed specialist knowledge and skills and became known as the sister –dietitians. Nursing began as an all female profession, so perhaps it is not unsurprising that we reflected this as well. The gender balances within nursing and indeed medicine have shifted over time but we are lagging behind so we may well have nutrition balance but not gender balance!!
“Perhaps we need to be look more closely now at how we promote dietetics as a career and I would strongly encourage anybody thinking about their future career, with an interest in food and nutrition, to think about dietetics. It is such a broad and wonderful career, working in the NHS, private practice, the food industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, Non-Government Organisations and government, the list just goes on and on.
“Dietetics is a truly rewarding, vibrant and developing profession, and as such it should appeal to both men and women.”
For more informatio0n about a career as a dietitian, please visit https://www.bda.uk.com/Careers.
For more information / interview requests,
0800 048 1714
Notes to the Editor:
- Visit the BDA website at www.bda.uk.com
- Dietitians are the only qualified health professionals that assess, diagnose and treat diet and nutrition problems at an individual and wider public health level. Uniquely, dietitians use the most up to date public health and scientific research on food, health and disease, which they translate into practical guidance to enable people to make appropriate lifestyle and food choices.
- Dietitians are the only nutrition professionals to be statutorily regulated, and governed by an ethical code, to ensure that they always work to the highest standard. Dietitians work in the NHS, private practice, industry, education, research, sport, media, public relations, publishing, Non-Government Organisations and government. Their advice influences food and health policy across the spectrum from government, local communities and individuals.