In New Zealand, the ratio of women to men is roughly 62:1, there are approximately 25000 qualified teachers who identify as women, there are 400 who identify as men.
This isn’t isolated to New Zealand of course. The figures in Australia, England, Canada, and the United States is roughly the same. The problem with that figure is that it isn’t increasing as you would expect in a profession where it has been historically dominated by a specific gender. The number of men in early childhood in New Zealand has remained fairly much the same over at least the last decade.
So why is it then that the numbers aren’t shifting, and there hasn’t been any kind of gain in the amount of men involved in early childhood?
I think there are a few reasons, and I am going to be completely frank and a little harsh here (disclaimer).
They just don’t want to:
As high school pupils having to decide what degree and ultimately career pathway they are going to take, the first thought for a high school boy isn’t to become an early childhood teacher – not even close. Male students may just not be passionate about early childhood education, or teaching in general really. According to an analysis of university admission statements, those wanting to study teaching (both genders) saw it as a vocation based more on job security, than as a source of passion. A shame isn’t it?
In fact, most men enter early childhood teacher training as a second career option. I am assuming that this choice has been made out of passion because by the time they are ready to explore a second career, they should already know how much we get paid!
This is an obvious and continued argument as to why there are a lack of men in early childhood. The pay isn’t great, in fact in some countries, a degree in early childhood education will barely earn someone over the minimum wage. An exception to this is Australia where they have an award system for bachelor qualified teachers that offer reasonable remuneration. Though for the diploma equivalent I have heard it isn’t as great.
This part is an assumption, but partly based on experience. A large part of normative culture is the expectation that men are the ‘earners’ and women are the caretakers. These ideals I believe are still fairly inherent in the dominant cultures of the west (and perhaps globally). Therefor it makes sense that a career in early childhood education would be less desirable for a male high school graduate because it would make it difficult to…..put food on the table.
The lack of representation:
It’s funny really. Men are hesitant to enter a career in ECE because they don’t really see that many other men in ECE. A dilemma of representation that can only be fixed by more men becoming involved in ECE. This…..will rely on the other areas to gain any momentum.
It’s women’s work:
Another pervasive argument and deeply ingrained in our thinking and practices. Teaching may not be women’s work specifically, but the idea of caring for children who can’t wipe their own bums at the best of times certainly is! This view of early childhood has had an effect on pay, status, and the representation of men in early childhood. It isn’t women’s work, it’s just great work.
Lack of career progression:
the presumption is that teaching in early childhood is all there is for ECE graduates. This isn’t true of course due to the increased privatisation of early childhood in most countries. Middle Management, senior management and centre ownership are now all possibilities, and let’s not forget – we could get into politics and curriculum evaluation right?! 🙂
The elephant in the room:
Then there’s the thing we try to avoid talking about as much as possible. The dark cloud looming over men in early childhood. The stigma that men who want a career in early childhood must be….
The policies created so men aren’t responsible for changing nappies, the placating of prejudiced parents and families who voice concerns and request men not to change their child’s nappies, the justified fear of men not wanting to go anywhere near a child in the bathroom in case a biased or bigoted teacher, parent, or family member were to read too much into it.
Why get into a career that could potentially have you stripped of your teaching accreditation/certification at best, jailed at worst? I have heard some tragic stories over my time, and experienced some of them as well to know that it isn’t in our minds, or it isn’t just an over reaction. Some men in early childhood almost literally spend their entire careers walking a tightrope of suspicion and prejudice. We have to get over this societal view the quickest. All men are vetted just like all women are, and we’re not all child molesters.
So there you have it. Those are the reasons I think for there to be a stall in the percentage of men becoming qualified teachers. The solution to this is complex and will take time of course but it has to start now, and it has to start early – making early childhood education as desirable and as stigma free as possible.