By Jan Peeters (University of Ghent, Belgium)
Published in the NZRECE Journal, Vol. 10, 2007, pp. 15 - 24. (All NZRECE articles are available from the journal page on the ChildForum website)
The European Commission Network on Childcare introduced gender as an issue in early childhood services in Europe. In 1996 the Network set a target of 20% male workers in childcare that had to be reached by 2006. Several campaigns and interesting initiatives were set up and were successful in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the UK and Belgium, but no European country has reached the target. This has led us to investigate the reasons why early childcare and education is so gendered. Childcare is seen as women’s work, something that women naturally do and are intrinsically better at. In addition, as gendered work assumes a female workforce, it is constantly reproducing its own patterns in recruitment and training. Several authors advocate on the one hand a gender-neutral culture that does not exclude men, and on the other hand they plead forgender pedagogy, a reflection on the differences between boys and girls, men and women. This paper examines the crucial question of what can be done to increase the employment of men. It discusses possible policy measures, men-only training courses, male mentorship of trainees, recruitment procedures that give equal opportunities to men, ways of remodelling the sector and of creating a men-friendly climate to make men visible in services.
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