MICHAEL Ho Mun-ka is a man in a woman's world. But it doesn't make him uncomfortable. And he has only once been told he shouldn't be there. As a student nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Mr Ho was one of just 10 men in a class of 60. As chairman of the Association of Hong Kong Nursing Staff more than 90 per cent of his 11,000 union members are women. And as the health-care constituency's representative in the Legislative Council, most of his constituents are women. During the 1988 chairmanship election, one of the women candidates made gender an issue. But Mr Ho doesn't see it that way: ''If that is the case that is really sexual discrimination.'' He says that as a union leader in a mostly female workforce he is doing a job many members would hesitate to take on, ''My feeling is quite a lot of my female members are still affected by the traditional sex role,'' he said. ''That would certainly, I think, affect their degree of participation and these sorts of things. ''I am not a sexist. A lot of these members would support that we should do it, but they themselves may be unable to come out, so they would like someone to do it and I think so long as someone is doing it they do not mind that the person is a man.'' Mr Ho hopes that university education, rather than training in the confines of a nursing school, will broaden future nurses' horizons, teaching them about issues such as sex roles. The union has tried to encourage its women members to take a more active role - ''but we have not tried enough, we should certainly do more'', he admits. Mr Ho took up nursing because he knew he wouldn't get into medical school. Eighteen years on, the job has brought him the chance to influence government policy, to mix at the highest levels of government, to travel, and to become a leading citizen. Ironically they are opportunities that would not have come had he stayed on the wards, quietly caring for patients in his tough and thankless profession. It was because he chose not to do that, but to speak up about the injustices he saw at work, that he now has a life more exciting and more fulfilling than the wards ever were. ''I saw a lot of unfair situations in the hospital,'' he said. ''I wanted to get rid of it, I would say that was my gut reaction.'' Asked whether nursing was the right choice, he paused, shrugged, then said: ''It is God's will. I am a Roman Catholic. I don't mean I leave everything to God, I do my best and God will do the rest.'' But he admits it was not so much nursing as the union opportunities that shaped his life. ''The union has moulded me a lot,'' he said. ''You are talking to a deviant, I am not one of the nurses that you usually meet in a hospital. I joined the union, became vice-chairman, so when I was a junior nurse I had a lot of chances to participate in negotiations, to talk to the directorate of the Medical and Health Department. ''When I was a junior nurse I participated in talking about policy, manpower, administration. I have been handling staff complaints, I had the chance of handling these sorts of personnel issues when I was in my late 20s. ''It is a very much different experience from a nurse within the hospital and I must admit that the union has given me a lot of chances to develop myself.'' So it's more rewarding than just nursing? ''Exactly.'' The 38-year-old became chairman of the association in 1986 and in 1991 won the Legco constituency, which represents health professionals such as physiotherapists, midwives and optometrists, as well as the territory's 17,000 nurses. At the same time his own political awareness was developing. After June 4, 1989, he joined the Hong Kong People Saving Hong Kong campaign and went to Britain to lobby for right of abode. In October 1989 he led a second lobbying group to the Trades Union Congress in Blackpool. ''Then I ran for the election in 1991,'' he said. ''It cannot be planned and that is why I say it is God's will.'' In 1990 he joined the United Democrats. ''When I joined the political party I was not thinking of running for election,'' he said. ''It depends on how you look at democracy and it is clear I support that.'' He and his wife, a nurse at Tuen Mun hospital, where they live in staff quarters, plan to stay in Hong Kong after 1997, when independent unions will become even more important. ''At this time of the shortage of nurses we have a watchdog role, at least we have uncovered the problem,'' he said. ''If the unions are government controlled unions like those in China, I don't know what would happen. ''I really think the days after 1997 are going to be very difficult. I would not say I am nervous but there is pressure, it is not easy.'' Mr Ho believes China when it says it will keep Hong Kong unchanged for 50 years. ''That means remaining as a colony, turning a British colony into another colony called SAR so control will be easy,'' he said, adding that the colonial mentality, plus the Chinese cultural tradition of following authority, had not only held down demandsfor democracy in Hong Kong, but had led to nurses' compassion and willingness to work hard in bad conditions being taken advantage of. ''People in Hong Kong are colonised and nurses are colonised,'' he said. ''They [the Hospital Authority and the Government] have been making use of the goodwill of staff but that cannot keep on.'' Mr Ho says Legco now occupies most of his time, with his union responsibilities delegated to its committee and executive secretary, but he is still in touch with the wards. Several days a month he starts with a 7am breakfast in a hospital canteen, at which any staff member can chat or air a grievance. He still works on the wards part-time. This weekend he is on duty at Caritas Medical Centre, but he admits that's as much for the extra money as to keep in touch. As a senior nurse he would be on $33,000 a month, plus a housing benefit of about $8,000, plus a pension. As a Legco member, he has more expenses but gets just $43,000. His union work is voluntary. Having, in effect, three jobs, makes for a busy and stressful life. Mr Ho plans to stand again for Legco in 1995 and makes a point of taking up bills, joining panels and committees to meet what he says are the very high expectations of his constituents. He is also on the Nursing Board, the Hospital Authority and three of its committees. He sleeps well at night, naps in taxis and recently missed his station for the union's Yau Ma Tei offices because he was asleep. And he has consulted a dietician neighbour for eating advice, to better cope with his pressure cooker existence. ''I told her I was tired, I had a lot of stress, I need to eat well to stay healthy,'' he said. ''With this stress and workload if you don't eat well and sleep well you get sick.'' A handy tip is to have a 10-minute nap after lunch. Eating with the worries of the day on your mind means more stress and bad digestion, said Mr Ho, who trained as a psychiatric nurse in 1982. That work was rewarding, he said. ''I should say I really like it, but if I ask myself whether I would like to be a nursing officer or a legislator I say a legislator because I certainly feel that I can do more and be more effective in helping the profession,'' he said.