Globally, Early Years settings are dominated by females. Research has shown that only 3% of the Early Years workforce is male and in more than three-quarters of settings, there is not a single male employee. Here at Showcase, we are passionate about breaking down these barriers and encouraging more men into the Early Years workforce.
The reason for the lack of male figures in Early Years is often debated. It is argued that men are not interested or that the caring nature of the role would threaten their masculinity. Old-fashioned attitudes and myths about maternal instincts may discourage men to undertake a career in Early Years. They may also feel out of place, intimidated or isolated being the only male in the setting. Additionally, people may be suspicious when they encounter men seeking to work with children.
However, despite these attitudes and views, men can positively impact an Early Years setting in a variety of ways. Firstly, children benefit from the care of both genders to create a holistic and nurturing environment. Males and females bring different styles of caring and behaviours which means that children may benefit from the different approaches, perspectives, and experiences that men can bring. Children who do not have a male figure at home may particularly benefit from the experience of a positive male role model. Men might also bring in more active movement or ‘rough-and-tumble’ play which will support the children’s physical development. Another benefit of men in Early Years is that it challenges stereotypes for the new generation. For example, male practitioners can get involved in small world play, such as the toy kitchen and role play babies.
When recruiting for Early Years staff, employers should be careful with the language that they use. Job titles such as ‘nursery nurse’ may be off-putting to potential male recruits. ‘Early years practitioner’ or ‘Early years educator’ sound more gender neutral.
Overall, encouraging and recruiting males in Early Years education is a step towards achieving gender diversity and better reflects the gender mix in the community. It promotes a more inclusive learning environment and is important in shaping a brighter future for children.