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The importance of male role models in childcare

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It’s no secret that men who work in childcare or early years teaching can have a tough time of it. This goes some way to explaining why the childcare workforce is only about 2% male. The guest post below comes from Toad Hall nursery, a childcare setting that wishes to attract more men into the early years world. Please do have a read and leave a comment below with your thoughts.

childcare, men in childcare, Toad Hall, toad Hall nurseries
A male childcare practitioner at work. The childcare workforce in the UK is an overwhelming 98% female. 

Today’s children shouldn’t be limited by gender. Acting or astrophysics; however they aspire to spend their lives, their gender should be irrelevant to their ambitions.

Unfortunately, messages from society and the media don’t always match up to this simple ideal. So children do still pick up on gender stereotypes and come to believe in these limitations. That’s why it’s important for them to see a balanced view of the world with their own eyes, gaining their own understanding of the equal contributions that men and women can make to the world.

Making settings more representative

In order to shake off any preconceptions about gender and have a balanced view of society, children need both male and female role models in the early years. So we are firmly committed to making our childcare settings more representative of the population by recruiting more male childcare professionals into our nurseries.

It’s a difficult task. Did you know that currently only 2% of childcare providers in the UK are male? We’re doing our best to understand some of the reasons why this should be so, and working hard to break down the barriers to men entering the childcare profession.

Social stigma

One factor that puts many men off is the thought of other people’s reactions. What will people think if I choose childcare as a career? Will my mates make fun of me? Will parents recoil in horror? Unfortunately, there is some substance to these fears. But they’re also self-perpetuating. If male nursery practitioners were a common sight, they’d be a lot less suspicious and worrying to parents. The stigma would simply wear off.

Educating parents (and wider society) about the dynamics and benefits that male childcare professionals can offer, and about the importance of different gender role models, can help change their preconceptions and allay any fears or concerns. In turn, hopefully more males will be convinced to embark on a career in early years. Here are some of the benefits of male workers in a childcare setting:

  • For children who don’t have a dad or other male figure at home, they provide a male role model who can offer a positive influence
  • A wide variety of different carers lets children experience a range of different dynamics and ways of interacting
  • Fathers may feel more comfortable and less marginalised if they can see that the nursery isn’t a solely female domain
  • Children will grow up seeing men working in childcare as a totally normal thing.

A rewarding occupation

If we’ve convinced you that more male role models are needed in nurseries, maybe you or someone you know might consider a career in childcare. It’s a meaningful and rewarding occupation for those who have the requisite aptitude and enthusiasm.  These are some of the best bits of the job:

  • Caring for young children is a job where you’ll never get bored. Whether you’re planning educational activities, organising mealtimes or simply playing games, each day is fast-paced and varied.
  • The quality of the relationships we form at work is a huge factor in our likely career satisfaction. And working in childcare, you build bonds with the children that are unrivalled by typical work friendships. Watching them develop and helping them to learn is a heartwarming thrill you just can’t beat.
  • If you’re looking for something altogether more exciting than a deskbound office job, a childcare career has it covered. Spending your day with babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers, you’ll enjoy silliness, unpredictability and fun in abundance.

As well as shouting about the benefits of a career in childcare, we understand that it’s important for male childcare professionals to be visible. Young men need to see for themselves that childcare is a viable career path to follow. We try to encourage this by organising events and get-togethers for men interested in working in early years. Our nursery practitioners are also encouraged to speak out about why they love working in childcare. Just watch the video below for one example.

Paving the way for the next generation

With more men being recruited into childcare roles, the career climate is slowly changing. And this process will influence the next generation. The infants who experience male carers today will go on to aspire to childcare careers in the future.  We believe that’s a good thing – for children, for parents, and for society at large.

10 thoughts on “The importance of male role models in childcare”

  1. My daughter has just finished a couple of years at our local Toad Hall nursery, and her key worker was male – the only one among the dozens of people there. Like her (and her stay-at-home dad) he was also very into Star Wars and superheroes so it was a good match! Like at-home parenting, it would be good to see a greater gender balance in these roles – I’m a firm believer that such a large male/female imbalance should be addressed when it occurs.

    1. Well Simon, isn’t that a coincidence on may levels??!! I also think the imbalance in early years settings needs to be addressed. We hear a lot from politicians about getting women into managerial positions and working at board level but not much in the other way: IE getting men into childcare, nursing and teaching. I hope it worked out well, your daughter having a male key worker.

  2. I think men working within childcare is so important, as mentioned in the post above and working within childcare, this is sadly a rarity, more men need to get involved!

  3. I agree wholeheartedly with this article. There are also other benefits of men working in childcare, from a feminist perspective, which are often overlooked in the work to attract women into male dominated professions too. I am working to ensure that this topic is as high on the public policy agenda in equalities work as women in STEM. It’s not an easy challenge but hopefully the tide is beginning to turn.

    1. I certainly hope the tide is beginning to turn. There would indeed be massive benefits to having more men in childcare for both men and women. This is a point that has to be made!

  4. I found this post interesting so decided to google ‘male childcare workers’ to learn some more. when I typed ‘male childcare’ into google, the search options that appeared included ‘male childcare worker charged’ and ‘male childcare worker arrested’. This just shows that a lot of work is needed in this area to make childcare a profession that men feel comfortable entering.

    1. Yup, I’m afraid your Google search doesn’t surprise me. It just shows what low opinion society has of male childcare workers. perceptions have to be changed.

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