Men in Childcare

The elephant in the room. A known-by-all gender inequality that is rarely remarked upon in any childcare setting.

15/11/2021

 

As childcare recruitment experts, Tinies are very much aware of the issue - there's a lack of motivated young men in the childcare industry, accounting for just 3% of the Early Years workforce in the UK

David Magill, Director at Tinies Essex, shares his thoughts on the matter. 


"My first experience with the imbalance in men-women ratios within the childcare sector was highlighted back in 1990. I was finishing my studies and wanted to work with children in some capacity, so I approached my careers officer for advice. The advice I received was that, at the age of 21, I was too old to embark on a childcare career, but even worse, being male, it was unlikely I would be afforded any chances in the childcare sector.

Over 30 years forward and the lack of males in the childcare sector is still a significant problem, although at least now they are encouraged to become childcarers. In the 7.5 years I have owned Tinies, I have had two male applicants; one was an area manager for a chain of nurseries, so was not a hands-on childcarer, and the other was a newly qualified nursery nurse."

When trying to understand the reason behind this inequality, we recognise many factors at play continually interlocking, making it challenging - although not impossible - for this matter to be addressed. 

We can all agree male stereotyping is a big concern. Childcare has been traditionally constrained by gender conventions - it was the woman's role to look after the children at home. In contrast, men have been historically hindered from taking on child-related roles and encouraged to take on more stereotypically defined male activities.

In a world that thankfully evolves towards diversity and equality, childcare continues to be a female-dominated industry. These stereotypes continue to play a threatening role for determined young men, making it very difficult for them to pursue a career in childcare. 

 

"As a parent, I appreciate what a demanding but rewarding role caring and nurturing children is, and I still regret not pushing more when I was younger to get into the industry back then" shares David. "While I feel attitudes toward male childcarers have softened slightly over the years, there has been a stigma towards men looking after children. In 1990 it was viewed as a man's job to work and a woman's job to raise the family - thank goodness we have moved on from those times!

If you look around you these days, you will see fathers out with their children, stay-at-home dads, single dads and same-sex partnerships with two dads. Men have come a long way in taking more responsibility for the raising and caring of children, but I still feel there's inequality in the childcare industry."

Negative responses from friends and family can undermine young male childcarers, and in some instances, can sadly translate into bullying scenarios. It doesn't help that, in the childcare department, some employers proactively welcome female staff in their homes and settings. 

"I still find it unusual that there are so few men in childcare, especially as more clients are now open to the idea of a male role model caring for their children."

What men bring to the equation

Let's start by recognising that men can offer the same skill and expertise to the childcare industry as their female colleagues, but also allow childcare settings to open up to a more comprehensive array of caring styles. Not only that, the positive impact of having a more diverse workforce goes beyond talent, and it has a more significant ripple effect.

Professional childcarers have an undeniable role in children's development. Having positive male influences in the setting can help children challenge gender stereotypes from an early age. It opens a broader range of career opportunities and a culture of pursuing 'the job we like' versus 'the safe choice'. 

How we can enable positive impact

No single individual can resolve the current situation by themselves, but we can all contribute to challenging these stereotypes and making the childcare sector a more diverse and welcoming industry. 

David says, "I am happy to discuss with the client their reasons for not considering a male if they only want a female, trying to plant the seeds of acceptability for male childcarers for the future"

But challenging families and settings to help them question what inhibits them from considering a male candidate isn't enough. Offering supportive career advice and keeping an open mind towards those historically considered men's or women's roles is critical in fighting the stigma. 

At Tinies, we believe having positive male representation on childcare-oriented marketing materials and recruitment advertising also sets recruiters up for a good start - it's challenging to feel attracted to an industry that hasn't traditionally showcased male professionals - and we'll continue to do our best to encourage more men to consider more opportunities in childcare.

"For the record, I would let a male look after my daughter. I would also wish them good luck too!"




David spent over 10 years working in recruitment. He finally pursued a career in the childcare sector by became owner of Tinies Essex in 2014 in an effort to provide peace of mind to families, and the perfect match to childcarers.

"If you are looking for full or part time, temporary or permanent nanny or nursery job in the Essex area, please get in touch with me at essex@tinies.com"

 
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