Uphill climb for female paramedics

4 12 2008

Kara Bertrand
Life Reporter, Humber Et Cetera
Published: February 6, 2008

Physical demands can be blamed for fewer women enrolling.
The strength requirements of the paramedic program are linked to the decrease in women successfully completing the course, said program co-ordinator Lynne Urszenyi.

“At the end of the day you can be a great paramedic, but if you can’t lift your patient into the ambulance to get them to the hospital, you’re of no use to the patient,” she said.

Urszenyi said the lift weight requirements were raised two years ago by nine kilograms to reflect the changing weight of the population.

“In the last two years, we’ve had more male students than female students,” she said. “For about eight years prior to that, it was exactly 50-50 split between men and women in the program.”

The paramedic program this term has 71 per cent men and 29 per cent women, said Patricia Van Horne, associate registrar of records.

Other programs are seeing the same imbalance between genders, which can often bring different perspectives into industries generally dominated by one particular sex.

The police foundations program at Lakeshore, has 73 per cent male enrollment, with only 27 per cent female enrollment.

“Historically, policing has been a male dominated industry,” said Arthur Lockhart, a teacher in the program. “But women are very powerful human beings and they bring great insight into the program.”

For all programs at the North, Lakeshore and Orangeville campuses combined, male enrollment is 48.9 per cent, and female enrollment is 50.6 per cent, said Van Horne.

Susan Roberton, co-ordinator of the fashion arts program, said females take leadership roles more than men in classes. The program has 94 per cent female enrollment.

“There are more of them,” she said. “The guys already stand out, so they tend not to be vocal. Most of the content relates more directly to women’s apparel.”

The admissions process and the subsequent hiring process of paramedic graduates do not discriminate based on gender, said Urszenyi.

“The employers don’t know for the first few phases if they’re men or women,” she said. “There certainly isn’t any type of quotas one way or another for men versus women.”