Written by Sharon Shi
We need more men to break the stereotype of the female-dominated child care industry in today’s gender equity world. From the Hechinger Report, males total only 3% of early childhood educators (1). In our society and history, we have these very specific stereotypes of gender roles, and it’s important for children to see other possibilities and other paths they can take. Men are welcomed and encouraged to step up and step into the early child care provider’s positions as much-needed role models. Male early childhood teachers can make a more positive difference in our next generations’ growth and in our community.
Here are some benefits to having men in early child care settings:
- Gender integrated care environments have a big impact on young children as they begin to form their conceptions of gender roles and identity. The presence of male caregivers provides a particular benefit for boys’ development. They have a bonus space to seek out positive role models, especially for those from father-absent homes. Also, a male presence in caregiver settings may encourage fathers to participate more in their child’s educational experience, which in turn expands positive influence into communities.
- For the youngest learners, they are more likely to get exposed to different varieties of play and communication styles, which helps them to develop healthy ideas around gender, social interactions, and balanced environments.
- The pay disparity that exists for all professional women is especially profound in education. In the late 1800s and early 20th century, being a teacher was one of the few “professional” occupations for women – an opportunity to use their intelligence to do something greater; “have a wider world of ideas, politics and public usefulness.(3)” Pay was meager and the conventional thinking of that time was that a woman’s income was only supplementing her husband’s income or for a single working woman living with her parents or in a shared housing arrangement until she married, and thus did not require a livable income. To this day, preschool and K-12 educators are overwhelmingly women and the compensation for this workforce remains structurally underfunded and undervalued. While it is an unfortunate reality, increasing male participation in early education will lift all boats and increase compensation for all early care and education professionals.
Despite the benefits listed above and the support from across the industry, male early child care providers are still facing societal barriers and cultural resistance. Some parents are skeptical or concerned about having men in classroom settings. In some child care centers, male teachers are advised not to hug children, change diapers, or monitor toilet training. This perception of anticipated misconduct is at the forefront of men avoiding careers in this industry. Welcoming men into this sphere means changing the perception that we hold of care and the face of caregiving.
A study (2) from NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) shows how several education professors have recommended concrete ways to increase male participation in the field. The recommendations include: 1) increase all early childhood educators’ compensation to that comparable to elementary school teachers 2) in child care programs, establish support groups for male early childhood educators and provide mentoring and professional development opportunities 3) outreach and offer young men more opportunities to work with young children through internships and volunteer programs, and also create marketing materials which include male caregivers in the early childhood education fields in the advertisement.
To increase gender balance by encouraging more male educators, we must be intentional and proactive in how we recruit and retain men in the field—especially men of color. We need to take concrete actions to ensure this transition and to solidify children’s rights to meaningful and comprehensive education, in balanced environments. This course will truly benefit children, families, and our communities and have a lasting impact on the most critical period in a child’s life.
In the spirit of appreciation, BANANAS is grateful for PROVIDERS and the inclusion that you show daily. We know creating healthy environments for educating our youngest children is what you do best! We thank you for helping us to create a climate of inclusion, and for getting the word out that male educator’s matter.
- NOAM SHPANCER PH.D. Insight Therapy No Man’s Land: Where Are the Male Daycare Caregivers?
- KIRSTEN COLE JEAN-YVES PLAISIR MINDI REICH-SHAPIRO ANTONIO FREITAS Building Gender Balanced Workforce https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/yc/sept2019/building-gender-balanced-workforce-supporting-male-teachers
- PBS Online: Only A Teacher: Teaching Timeline https://www.pbs.org/onlyateacher/timeline.html