The first research findings on male ECEC workers from the Austrian impact study and the tandem study from Germany were presented in 2013. These new findings show that male ECEC workers act to ‘effectively diversify and enrich everyday relationships in ECEC centres’ (Aigner et al. 2013, p. 113).
www.ehs-dresden.de/fileadmin/forschung/download/tandem_presentation_2012.pdf | presentation in english
The tandem study, for instance, shows that male ECEC workers scarcely differ from their female colleagues from a professional standpoint. In the five dimensions of empathy, challenge, dialogical interaction, types of cooperation and contents of communication, male and female ECEC workers differ in only minor respects, and attachment theoretical assumptions from parenting studies (that women are more ‘empathetic and attachment-oriented’, while men are more ‘challenging and exploration-oriented’), for instance, proved incorrect in regard to professional ECEC workers or rather to the sample of male and female professional ECEC workers investigated in the tandem study.
At the same time, however, the tandem study shows that male and female ECEC workers tended to prefer different materials and often worked on different products with children. The study’s authors treat this as evidence that mixed-gender teams indeed bring greater diversity to everyday life in ECEC.
Furthermore, the tandem study stresses that one can observe ‘authentic situations and key scenes’ in the interactions between male ECEC workers and boys or female ECEC workers and girls in which the category of ‘gender’ is activated and gender identity/ies is/are co-constructed. The authors of the study demonstrate how these key scenes are produced, for instance during the making of a paper tube cannon or a string of beads, thereby creating ‘male or female communities’. The study has shown that the children’s gender has a greater influence on these educational activities than that of the adult staff.
It will be an important task for the future to supplement the existing insights and information on the topic of ‘men in ECEC’. New scholarly insights can be incorporated into the further development of practical projects and materials to increase the proportion of men in the profession.
From our perspective there are additional arguments for raising the proportion of male professionals in ECEC:
- Gender parity in all areas of society is desirable in order to achieve gender equality. Just as there is a political discussion about women in leadership positions, Germany is witnessing a relatively new political and societal discourse on men in the caring professions. In our work we are dedicated to expanding occupational perspectives for men and women, regardless of gender. To promote a social division of labour that is equitable for both men and women, we also aspire to broaden traditional notions of gender.
- ECEC centres are gaining increasing significance as educational institutions. At the same time, since 2013 children under the age of three have had a right to a place in a ECEC centre. The expansion of ECEC centres places has also led to a diversification of the target groups of ECEC and their life-worlds, which the personnel should also reflect if we are to offer the best early childhood education. Male ECEC workers are a building block for greater heterogeneity among the pedagogical personnel (although gender is just one among many aspects).
- Through the expansion of ECEC centres places, a shortage of 20,000 trained workers was already predicted in 2013. Opening up to new target groups, including male ECEC workers, was intended to close this gap at least partially. In view of the small proportion of male ECEC workers in Germany overall, the staff shortage cannot be solved by recruiting male workers alone.
- Increasing the proportion of men in the field of ECEC contributes to the expansion of career choices and of men’s scope of action.
- Male colleagues can have a positive influence on the team culture of ECEC centres. A 2007 study by the London Business School found that teams composed of equal numbers of men and women work more innovatively. A study published in 2010 by Accenture (Source: Bundesinitiative Gleichstellung) reaches similar conclusions. Well-considered assistance in integrating male ECEC workers into the team is decisive for the development of personnel and organizational policies dedicated to gender justice.
- Male ECEC workers als can help to compensate for a lack of male caregivers in the family. We believe it is desirable for girls and boys alike to see men working in caring, social professions and thus experience a gender-neutral division of labour.
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