By Sarah Alexander
Drawing on research, knowledge of best practices, and ethical values a list of key reasons for opening up childcare teaching to men are given.
In the 21st Century it is highly unusual to see a profession still as biased against one gender as early childhood teaching and care work is. Strange as it may seem the proportion of men to women employed in early chilhdood services is now lower than it was back in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Why should men be involved in childcare and early education?
Perhaps the strongest reason is that the profession should represent society – and society is made up of men and women, boys and girls. For men to be absent or not employed in childcare and early education services sends out a message that only women can care for and be responsible for children. We know this is not true.
A variety of literature points to a range of benefits for children of men working in childcare/early education:
- Girls and boys can observe that it is socially acceptable for men to participate in the care of children and do domestic duties (e.g. cuddle and comfort children, wipe tables and change nappies).
- Boys need men around them. Boys are more likely to admire and model the behaviour of male, rather than their female adults.
- Boys’ interests are more likely to be respected and catered for by male adults (e.g. ball games, more boisterous play).
- Girls need men around them. The involvement of men in early childhood programmes lead to an increase in the range and variety of activities and conversation for girls.
- Male educators are important for girls and boys who do not have a father or who have little contact with a male in their family. Also they may provide a stable, positive male figure for children whose “fathers” are constantly changing, regularly absent from home, or are abusing them.
- Men may help to give boys in particular a better early foundation for learning because men are more likely to create a “boy-friendly” environment whereas the evidence points to women favouring girls and rewarding feminine behaviours.
- Having men working with children can signal to fathers that (a) it is a cool occupation for men and (b) it is a good thing for fathers to be involved in their children's care and learning.
- When men are working alongside women in an early childhood programme it can help to sensitise female staff and mothers to the possibility of their own (possibly latent) sexist attitudes as they become used to working with men and seeing men caring for children.
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