Early Childhood Education and Care: men wanted

Image: Felipe Salgado/ Unsplash.com

Considering that around 97% of teachers in pre-primary education are women, the lack of male workers in ECEC settings should be addressed for a number of reasons.

Considering that around 97% of teachers in pre-primary education are women, the lack of male workers in ECEC settings should be addressed for a number of reasons.

Why does ECEC need more male staff?

  • Male ECEC workers can enrich everyday relationships in ECEC centres, and this can have a positive influence on the team culture.
  • Male staff can facilitate relationships with parents, as some fathers feel overwhelmed when liaising with staff in female-only settings.
  • Employing more men in ECEC could help improve child development and learning, particularly in the development of children’s attitudes towards gender roles.
  • The inclusion of trained male workers can address the negative stereotypes in society about men and their abilities to nurture and care for young children.
  • Making the ECEC profession more attractive to men could also increase the pool of potential recruits, a real bonus in a sector where staff recruitment and retention is a challenge.

So, why are so few men working in the ECEC sector?

ECEC teams and employers may be reluctant to trust men’s ability to nurture very young children, pushing them towards leading “male” activities (like outdoor play). Some parents may have concerns about child safety and having men take care of their children – in particular, babies. Men’s own perceptions of working in the ECEC sector – strongly identified as female, with low pay and low status – and their perception of how they will be seen by society, are significant obstacles.

How can this improve?

As an example, the Irish Men in Childcare Network enables male staff to contact one another, share experiences, and offer support based on mentoring and coaching. In Denmark, young men are encouraged to take an ECEC assistant role; once employed, they are encouraged to qualify as a trainer.