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Gender balance in ECEC: why is there so little progress?

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Social attitudes about male participation in the upbringing of children have changed considerably over the past few decades. Men are now seen as important for children’s development and learning. Research from many countries worldwide shows that in early childhood care and education (ECEC), male workers are welcomed by female colleagues and parents. In the last two decades there have been initiatives for more men in ECEC in several European countries. Nevertheless the proportion of male workers ECEC remains low worldwide. This article questions the persisting gender imbalance in ECEC and analyzes ambivalences regarding more men in the field. Based on recent gender theory, efforts and limits of strategies for more male students and workers in ECEC in Belgium, Norway and Germany are discussed. It is concluded that deeply held gendered attitudes and practices in the field of care and educational work with young children have to be put into question. More space in ECEC for embodied subjectivities is needed to overcome essentialist conceptions of differences between body and mind, women and men.
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European Early Childhood Education
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Gender balance in ECEC: why is there
so little progress?
J. Peetersa, T. Rohrmannb & K. Emilsenc
a Innovations in the early Years, Department of Social Work and
Social Pedagogy, The Ghent University, Ghent, Belgium
b Education and Nursing, University of Applied Sciences for Social
Work, Dresden, Germany
c Department for Social Science, Queen Maud University College
of Early Childhood Education (QMUC), Trondheim, Norway
Published online: 15 Jun 2015.
To cite this article: J. Peeters, T. Rohrmann & K. Emilsen (2015): Gender balance in ECEC:
why is there so little progress?, European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, DOI:
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Downloaded by [Jan Peeters] at 00:35 16 June 2015
Gender balance in ECEC: why is there so little progress?
J. Peeters
*, T. Rohrmann
and K. Emilsen
Innovations in the early Years, Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy, The Ghent
University, Ghent, Belgium;
Education and Nursing, University of Applied Sciences for
Social Work, Dresden, Germany;
Department for Social Science, Queen Maud University
College of Early Childhood Education (QMUC), Trondheim, Norway
Social attitudes about male participation in the upbringing of children have changed
considerably over the past few decades. Men are now seen as important for
childrens development and learning. Research from many countries worldwide
shows that in early childhood care and education (ECEC), male workers are
welcomed by female colleagues and parents. In the last two decades there have
been initiatives for more men in ECEC in several European countries.
Nevertheless the proportion of male workers ECEC remains low worldwide.
This article questions the persisting gender imbalance in ECEC and analyzes
ambivalences regarding more men in the field. Based on recent gender theory,
efforts and limits of strategies for more male students and workers in ECEC in
Belgium, Norway and Germany are discussed. It is concluded that deeply held
gendered attitudes and practices in the field of care and educational work with
young children have to be put into question. More space in ECEC for embodied
subjectivities is needed to overcome essentialist conceptions of differences
between body and mind, women and men.
Keywords: gender; gender balance; men in ECEC; corporeality; diversity
Social attitudes towards male participation in the upbringing of children have changed
in the past decades. The importance of fathers for the development of young children is
widely accepted (Lamb 1975,2004; Le Camus 2000). At the same time, ECEC remains
a female dominated field of work. The proportion of male workers remains low in most
European countries. Only in Norway, Denmark and recently Turkey, more than 5% of
the early years work force is male; in most countries, it is between 1% and 3% or even
below (Oberhuemer, Schreyer, and Neuman 2010; OECD 2014).
The care and education of young children has always been considered womens
work(Cameron 2001; Cameron, Moss, and Owen 1999). But, over the past decade
calls for more men in education have increased the context of the so-called boys
crisis. Although empirical evidence of any relationship between teacher gender and
educational outcomes of boys is sparse (Carrington, Tymms, and Merrell 2005), this
call for male teachers is often extended to early childhood education (e.g. Hurrelmann
and Schultz 2012). Furthermore, a better gender balance in early childhood education
© 2015 EECERA
*Corresponding author. Email:
European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 2015
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and care (ECEC) is seen as a means for gender equality in society in general (Farquhar
2008; Icken 2012; Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research 2008)
In the last two decades, there have been initiatives to attract more male ECEC
workers in several European countries. Norway and Germany have invested in exten-
sive projects and programs to increase the number of male students and workers in
ECEC. Despite these efforts, the proportion of male ECEC workers remains low com-
pared to the goal of 20% that was put forward by the European Commission Network
on Childcare nearly 20 years ago (European Network 1996).
Figure 1 presents timelines of the proportion of male ECEC workers from four
countries discussed in this article. As definitions of ECECand ECEC worker
differ substantially between and even within countries, these tables do not aim to
compare proportions of male workers between countries.
Instead, they show similar
developments over time: a more or less slight increase of male participation in ECEC.
This increase is even higher if absolute numbers are taken into account. In
Germany, in 2014 there were more than 25,000 male workers in Kitas, around
three times as many as in 1998 (Statistisches Bundesamt 2014, own calculations). In
Norway, the number of male pedagogical workers tripled as well from 2210 in year
2000 to 6716 in 2013 (Statistisk sentralbyrå 2014, own calculations). In Flanders,
the number of men employed in childcare rose from 193 in 2002 to 875 in 2010
(Peeters 2003) In Turkey the increase was even more impressive: from 694 male
Early childhood teachers in 2003/2004 to 3.387 in 2013/2014. But because of the
general growth of the ECEC sector in many countries, even an impressive increase
Figure 1. Timelines of proportions of male workers in selected European countries. Flanders:
men employed in childcare sector (0 to 3 and out-of-school care) (Peeters 2003,2013).
Germany: Workers in Kitas(ECEC centers) incl. leaders and (few) administration, and also
after-school care (Statistisches Bundesamt 2014, own calculations). Norway: Leaders, pedago-
gical leaders and assistants in kindergartens (Statistisk sentralbyrå 2014, own calculations).
Turkey: Early childhood teachers (National Education Statistics 2014, 14, cf Sak, Sak, and
Yerlikaya 2015, in this issue). Note: Kitas (Kindertageseinrichtungen) in Germany provide
mostly early childhood education and care, sometimes combined with after-school care.
2J. Peeters et al.
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in the numbers of male workers did not lead to a substantial increase of the proportion
of male workers in the field.
As surveys in several countries have shown, men are welcomed by parents, female
colleagues, and ECEC providers (Aigner and Rohrmann 2012; Cremers, Krabel, and
Calmbach 2010; Daycare Trust 2003; Emilsen 2012; Lysklett and Emilsen 2007;
Peeters 2003). Measures promoting mens participation in ECEC are widely appreci-
ated also in the media.
Despite the still low proportions of male workers, this openness can be interpreted
as a cultural shift toward gender equality in the field of care and education in general.
On the other hand, there is still a general distrust’–skepticism and negative assump-
tions against men working with young children. The fear of pedophilia has hampered
the aim of developing a diverse, gender-balanced work force (Farquhar et al. 2006;
Peeters 2013; Petersen 2014). In this introductory article we will analyze different
and often ambivalent views regarding more men in the ECEC field. By building on
recent gender theory we try to find new perspectives on how to change the gender
balance in ECEC.
Measures and projects for more men in ECEC huge aims and poor results?
In some countries, long-term projects have been set up to increase the participation of
men in ECEC settings. The authors of this study have been engaged in some of these
projects in Norway, Belgium and Germany, and support the aim of increasing the pro-
portion of male workers towards a more gender-balanced ECEC work force. At the
same time, since the effects of these campaigns and actions have been somewhat dis-
appointing, they critically reflect on these strategies and the assumptions they are based
upon, and argue for more innovative views.
Norway: long-term measures for more men in ECEC
Compared to other countries, Norway has succeeded in recruiting more men to ECEC
centers. In a 20-year period, there has been a significant increase in the amount of male
ECEC workers (Baagøe Nielsen 2010; Emilsen 2012). Several actions were undertaken
to increase the number of men in ECEC centers. Funds for recruitment purposes were
assigned. Since 2001, four Governmental Action Plans for Gender Equality included
measures for recruitment of men. These action plans had binding obligations and
actions. Networks for Men in Kindergartens (MIB) were established in a number of
municipalities and regions. These networks have first and foremost been meeting
places for men working in ECEC centers in order to retain men in the field. Moreover,
it is expected that they play an active part in recruitment actions, as male ECEC workers
are seen as best promoters for more men.
The discourse in Norway about the importance of more men in ECEC can be put in
three categories of argument: (1) There is a consensus about the importance of men
taking part in young childrens lives; (2) The goal of gender equality is enshrined in
Norwegian laws, regulations and curricula. In this context, ECEC is seen as an impor-
tant contributor to the goal of an egalitarian society; and (3) In order to give young chil-
dren a stimulating and pedagogical environment it is important to provide gender
balance in ECEC. Young children should experience diversity, both in play and learn-
ing. Gender differences in interactions with children can provide a rewarding diversity
among the staff.
European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 3
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In spite of these positive attitudes and measures towards male participation in
ECEC, the proportion of trained male professionals is still below 10%. In many
regions, male ECEC workers are still a small minority. Moreover, there is no significant
research that explains why Norway has succeeded to employ more men, or why male
workers are relevant in care for the youngest children (Emilsen 2012; Kunnskapsdepar-
tementet 2010; Opheim et al. 2014).
Flemish community of Belgium: gender and professionalism
In 2001 within the Flemish Community of Belgium a proposal for a project, Men in
Childcare,was accepted by to the European Social Fund with broad partner
support, including the Flemish governmental organizations for employment and child-
care and various childcare organizations. In the framework of this project a media cam-
paign was launched to motivate more men to take a job in the childcare sector. As a part
of the project research was set up to get more information about the number of men
working in Flemish childcare, and the profile of men working in childcare and students
in initial childcare training. An analysis of interviews gave insights into the profile of
male childcare workers and students (Vandenbroeck and Peeters 2008).
Further studies within this Gender and Professionalismresearch exposed gender
bias within the Childcaretraining curriculum and pointed out the role careers
advice centers played in relation to the maintenance of gender segregation in childcare
work (Peeters 2012). The Flemish employment office also systematically keeps track of
the data that maps the number of men who train for professions in working with young
children. The Flemish employment office followed up the recommendations of the
Gender and Professionalism in ECECresearch and directed men who were previously
active in child and youth work but who were dissatisfied with their current jobs (career
changers) to the opportunities offered by adult education training courses for working
with young children.
The studies that were supported by a media campaign, and moreover, were
managed by a broad group of stakeholders, have had a clear impact on the sector.
The noticeable increase of the number and also the proportion of men employed in
the sector (see Figure 1) is a success even if it is a far cry from what the European Com-
mission Network on Childcare had hoped for in 1996. The results of Flanders can be
attributed to the large amount of support that was created by the project Men in Child-
care.By involving important governmental organizations for childcare and vocational
guidance in the project, minor sustainable changes could be implemented.
Germany: a huge campaign for more men
In Germany, interest in the issue has been increasing since 2005, when first regional
measures for more men in social work and education were implemented, and some
regional studies were published. From 2008 on, the Federal Ministry of Family
Affairs initiated and funded several projects. Starting with a nationwide research
(Cremers, Krabel, and Calmbach 2012), a national coordination office was installed
in 2010. One year later the model program MORE men in Kitaswas initiated,
financed with 13.5 million by the European Social Fund (Icken 2012; Rohrmann
2014a). In this program, 16 regional model projects developed various methods and
projects, including vocational orientation in schools, practical projects in ECEC set-
tings, in-house training
and conferences on gender sensitive education, working
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groups for male workers (Emilsen and Rohrmann 2013), PR campaigns and inter-
national conferences. The national projects included several publications, covering a
wide range of issues (Cremers et al. 2012) as well as materials for practical measures
and initiatives in all related fields (Koordinationsstelle Maenner in Kitas2013/2014).
The results of all these projects were quite positive compared to related fields. While
the proportion of male workers in primary schools and in social work is decreasing
(Rose and May 2014; Rohrmann 2012a), in the growing field of ECEC the trend
towards more male workers continued with nearly 5% men in 2014 (see Figure 1).
This development is especially apparent in initial training in vocational schools,
where the proportion of male students is now around 20% (Koordinationsstelle
Maenner in Kitas2014).
There has been an increase in male workers mostly in urban regions with already
high proportion of men in ECEC. But, in many other regions of Germany men are
still rare in ECEC centers. Moreover, few ongoing measures were established by pro-
viders after the funded project ended in 2013. All in all, in Germany the proportion of
male workers still remains far from the goal of 20%.
Turkey: no measures, huge results?
The discussed developments in the three countries can be compared to a country in
which there has been nearly no public debate on gender balance: Turkey. As Sak
(2015) reports in this issue, the number of male workers has increased substantially
over the last decade without any governmental actions. This can be interpreted in
the context of a developing country, where the growth of the ECEC sector is part of
a process of fast modernization. It is relevant that preschool teachers are academically
trained, are well paid and have good career options. Nevertheless, international com-
parison has made clear that good wages are not the only or even main reason for
low male participation in ECEC, as the proportion of men in ECEC is low also in
countries like France and Belgium where preschool teachers are paid well (Peeters
It could be concluded that neither governmental action nor better wages alone will
succeed in a substantial rise in male participation in ECEC. Although the programs in
Norway, Belgium, and Germany have shown many positive results, they often only
seem to scratch the surface of deeply held gendered beliefs and practices. ECEC and
childcare in particular remains as one of the most gender segregated occupational
fields. To understand this, it is necessary to open up new approaches or ways of
looking at gender issues in ECEC.
New perspectives from recent gender theories
The history of childcare
The historical development of ECEC, at least in the Western hemisphere, is connected
to the traditional gender order and the position of women in society (Hard and Jónsdót-
tir 2013; Van Laere, Peeters, and Vandenbroeck 2012; Van Laere et al., 2014). ECEC
builds on two traditions: care and education. A conceptual and practical division
between care and education was and is still common in many European countries
(Kaga, Bennett, and Moss 2010). Carers were traditionally recruited from women of
the lower classes and their profession was based on and legitimated by stereotypical
European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 5
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constructions of the ideal mother (Van Laere et al. 2014). Simultaneously, kindergar-
tens for older children were developed to offer pre-primary educational activities and
cared for childrens moral well-being and preparation for primary school (Oberhuemer
et al. 2010). The education of young children was seen as an acceptable form of female
employment because it gave women the opportunity to have a social life and a job
outside the home, while still conforming to the traditional conception that women natu-
rally take care of children (Forrester 2005). The psychological theories of attachment
after World War II reinforced the good motheras the ideal childcare worker
(Burman 1994; Canella 1997). Professionalism in childcare was modeled after the sym-
bolic personification of a loving mother(Peeters 2008).
In the 1970s the second-wave feminist movement argued for more engagement of
fathers in the upbringing of young children and thus opened the way for more male par-
ticipation in care and education. But at the same time, feminist women were in search of
common characteristics and political aims for all women, for common projects that
unified women as a group. This led to essentialist views on what women and what
males are, and some feminists claimed that caring work was essentially feminine (Nod-
dings 1984). This reinforced the old idea that women are naturallybetter equipped for
caring for young children (Peeters et al. 2014). Moreover, childcare centers were impor-
tant for the feminist movement in relation to their labor market claims (De Smet et al.
1978;Farquharetal.2006). Childcare was not only important because it gave women
the possibility to work outside the home, but it also represented an important labor
market in itself, formed and developed by women.
The gender regimeof ECEC
The described development of care and education for the youngest as a feminine field
resulted in a persisting gender regimeof ECEC institutions which tends to keep men
out. With the term gender regimeConnell describes specific configurations of prac-
tice: gendered arrangements of work, social and emotional relations within institutions
(Connell 2009, 72). Masculinity is as is feminity –‘institutionalized in this structure,
as well as being an aspect of individual character and personality(Connell 2000, 29).
This means that the issue of men in ECEC is not only a matter of gender of individuals,
but a matter of gendered structures in institutions.
The gender regime of ECEC centers can be characterized by a dominance of
women, rather flat hierarchies, a strong need for harmony, and ambivalent attitudes
towards male colleagues. The dominance of women characterizes the whole field of
ECEC, including leadership. As Fuchs-Rechlin states for Germany: Although the pro-
portion of men in leading positions is above average, they are exceptional also in this
field of work(Fuchs-Rechlin 2012,6, translation T.R.). This is as well true for higher
qualified positions in the field, e.g. consultants (Fuchs and Schilling 2006). Although
administrative structures in ECEC show many differences worldwide, in many
countries teams are often characterized by a tendency to minimalize the differences
in qualification levels between the staff, and the role of leading positions is de-empha-
sized. Research on leadership in ECEC shows that the importance of management in
ECEC often is denied because female workers associate leadership with maledomi-
nance and control (Hard and Jonsdottir 2013).
In summary, ECEC centers can be characterized as a female field, not only regard-
ing the gendered socialization of female workers, but also apparent in team culture,
interior design, materials, educational activities, and reactions of workers on the
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behavior of girls and boys (Friis 2006; Vandenbroeck and Peeters 2008). Rohrmann
and Thoma (1998) aptly called kindergartens womens gardens. Wohlgemuth
speaks of an Air of Careas a set of signals including behaviors, speech and communi-
cation patterns, practical guidelines, and interior designs of care institutions. These are
not per se female, but characterized by womens sheer dominance in numbers in
ECEC professions(Wohlgemuth in this issue; see also Wohlgemuth 2012, 391).
Within the gender system of kindergartens men appear to be differentand
strange. This perceived othernessis connected to idealization of men as well as to
resistance against their participation in the lives of young children (Murray 1997;
Rohrmann 2014b). This can be understood in the context of traditional gender hierar-
chy and polar conceptions of male and female gender characters. At a first glance, the
othernessof men is seen as an enrichment and supplement to the basic work of
women in ECEC contexts. As malequalities are deemed socially more valuable
than femalequalities, this can lead to idealization of male workers even when they
lack experience and training. At the same time it raises suspicions when a man
lowershimself to work with young children. As it doesnt seem feasible for men to
be interested for this kind of work, other motives are presumed last not least a ped-
ophile/pedosexual interest. As Petersen (2014) puts it: men are divided into the good,
the bad and the ugly. While some aspects of this ambiguity can be understood as a
result of traditional gender hierarchies, it is also relevant to reflect upon recent
changes in the social function of ECEC, as a background of gendered notions of
From care to education? Academization and gender
In recent decades, ECEC policies have substantially shifted from a context of care to
education. Under the influence of neuroscience (Shonkoff and Phillips 2000) and econ-
omic science (Barnett and Masse 2007; Heckman 2006) the early years are now con-
sidered as the best preparation for academic achievements in later years as well as
for a thriving labor market. In this perspective education can be connected with
more masculineconceptualizations of education and teacher professionalism (Dilla-
bough 1999; Forrester 2005). Some scholars argue that this development may lead to
a schoolification of the early years, whereas less attention is given to the caring and
the emotional nurturing dimension of ECEC (Dahlberg and Moss 2005; Van Laere
et al. 2014).
For Van Laere et al. (2014) it is striking that these results of the academization
process match what scholars consider as important steps to attract more in men in
ECEC: the renewed higher social esteem has led in many countries to higher qualifica-
tions as well as better salaries. One could argue that the new, more masculinenotions
of education and teacher professionalism could be seen as an opportunity to challenge a
mother-likeconceptualization of education and care, and thus make the field more
attractive to men.
Remarkably, this hypothesis seems to be incorrect for the time being. ECEC
remains an almost entirely female workforce(Van Laere et al. 2014, 6). A higher
degree of professionalism and better salaries do not automatically lead to an increase
of the number of men working in ECEC, as Cameron (2006) and Peeters (2007) con-
cluded before. Research on gender and academization in Germany has shown that the
proportion of male students in newly introduced university bachelor courses is not
higher than in traditional vocational schools for ECEC workers (Keil, Pasternack,
European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 7
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and Thielemann 2013; Rohrmann 2012b). Rohrmann (2012b) argues that an academic
degree in ECEC can be seen as a possibility for good educated young women to link
intellectual achievement with a traditional conception of naturalfemininity.
Van Laere et al. (2014) also note that despite the introduction of a more rational,
masculine understanding of education in the context of schoolificationof the early
years, caring jobs did not disappear in ECEC. The Core research project in 15 EU
member states (Van Laere et al. 2012) has demonstrated how in ECEC centers
caring activities are executed by low-qualified auxiliary staff, whereas teachers are in
charge of the educative activities. The results indicate that in many countries there is
a divide between highly qualified and better paid women, who are responsible for
the mind, and lower-qualified women with a more invisible position, who are respon-
sible for the body(Van Laere, Peeters, and Vandenbroeck 2012).
Body, mind and corporeality
By further analyzing this mind-body dualism Van Laere et al. (2014) aim to discover a
more in-depth understanding why the ECEC culture remains female. In third-wave
feminism, definitions of care are placed within broader social and political concerns
rather than within an essentialist, individual-gendered psychology (Cockburn 2010).
From a third-wave feminist perspective an ethics and politics of care implies an embo-
died ethics (Shildrick 1997), that is breaking down the modernist myth of the rational
(or becoming-rational) subject. Recent approaches challenge the Cartesian concept of a
dualism of mind and body, as the mind is always embodiedor based in corporal
relations; the body is always social, and in-process rather than natural (Braidotti
2006). Van Laere et al. (2014) point out that the division in ECEC between body
and mindand the subsequent denial of the body creates a technical, distant pro-
fessional. But it is impossible to work with young children without a commitment
that could be described as passionate(Moyles 2001, 81). This leads us to rethink
the concepts of care/body and education/mind in ECEC services, which is materialized
in staff profiles and practices (Van Laere et al. 2012), and enables us to draw on a diver-
sity of embodied experiences of both men and women in the ECEC workforce.
The concept of corporeality can create new perspectives as a pedagogical concept
and an interpretation of professionalism. The Danish concept of kropslighed, for
example, refers to how one senses the body, and includes a strong element of experi-
encing the world through your body in ECEC practices (Jensen 2011). This is very
evident in the field of physical activity play. Especially rough and tumble play as an
often neglected aspect of play(Pellegrini and Smith 1998) is not only fun for those
who engage in it, but also important for the development of motor skills as well as
for social competences (Hauser 2013; Storli 2012). This form of play is not only
much more prevalent among boys (Hauser 2013; Reed 2005; Storli and Moser
2014), but also a common activity between children and men fathers as well as
male ECEC workers (Aigner and Rohrmann, 2012, 272275). Physical activity play
is perceived as an alternative for the more femininekind of physical contacts that
are less accepted when done by men, like caressing or embracing.
Corporeality is also strongly linked to activities during outdoor play. In Norway, the
strong focus on bodily experiences in nature and outdoor play is one of the crucial
factors to explain why the proportion of male workers is higher than anywhere else
in Europe. According not only to men, but also to women working in outdoor kinder-
gartens, the opportunity to stay outdoors gives them more freedom to work with
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children in their own ways, freeing themselves from traditional femininenotions of
caring in a mothers home (Emilsen and Koch 2010). The described gender differences
are connected to a more relaxed attitude of many men towards risk-taking behavior,
apparent both in physical activity play and outdoor activities (Sandseter 2014). Never-
theless it has to be emphasized that although there is strong evidence for links between
outdoor play, physical activities and gender, we are not arguing for highlighting
natural, essentialist distinctions between men and women. Instead, the perspective
of embodied experience shows that the dichotomy between masculinemind and fem-
ininebody does not exist in reality.
Conclusion: towards a new understanding of gender, care and education
Measures for more men in ECEC have brought some good results. In this context, pro-
grams and publications on more menshow a lot of similarities across countries and
make clear that it is important to address the issue from a variety of perspectives.
Gender-sensitive vocational orientation and career advice can open up the field of
care and education for boys and young men (Cremers et al. 2012). Campaigns can
play an important role for bringing more men to ECEC, if a wide range of institutions
and organizations is included and actively involved during longer periods of time
(Peeters 2012). Networks and support groups for male workers can be relevant to
retain men in the field (Emilsen and Rohrmann 2013). Governmental support, both
financially and legally, is substantial, as the examples of Norway and Germany show.
Although such measures are important, they are not sufficient for a substantial
change of the gender imbalance in ECEC. From recent gender theory we learn that
in order to make working in ECEC attractive for both men and women, we need to
change the gender regimeof services for young children: we have to question gen-
dered (female) arrangements of work, social and emotional relations within insti-
tutions (team culture), premises, materials and educational activities, and last but not
least gendered reactions of workers on the behavior of girls and boys. Changes are
also essential in vocational training, including screening of didactical materials for
gender-neutrality in order to avoid gender biasas much as possible (Vandenbroeck
and Peeters 2008). It becomes clear how important it is to create a male-friendly
culture in training institutions and workplaces. The presence of male colleagues and
active involvement of fathers in childcare settings are essential conditions for creating
a gender-sensitive construction of professionalism. The considerations on the current
process of professionalization in ECEC have made clear that academization alone
will neither attract more men, nor lead to a gender-neutral profession. Instead of
trying to neutralizegender in ECEC training and practice, it is necessary to
develop a gender-conscious understanding of professionalism that goes beyond tra-
ditional gendered notions. To achieve this, new perspectives on the concept of care
are needed.
Such a shift toward new interpretations of ECEC can draw on experiences in the
Nordic countries, where the culture in ECEC contains much space for embodied sub-
jectivities, avoiding essentialist differences between men and women and between
body and mind. This corporealityapproach opens up new perspectives in ECEC prac-
tices by experiencing the world through the bodyand makes work in ECEC more
attractive for men and women. ECEC has to evolve towards recognizing the centrality
of body work and emotions in ECEC systems. This will lead to new understandings of
the body, of emotions and mind, and create opportunities for both staff and children to
European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 9
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transform and reconfigure diverse aspects of their embodied subjectivities. It can be
concluded that we need sophisticated strategies not only for more men, but for a trans-
formation process that puts into question established gender-regimes in ECEC centers
as well as deep-held beliefs about men and women in society. In this sense, gender
balance in early childhood can open up perspectives for gender dialogues and a
shared responsibility for the future of our societies.
1. Different definitions result in remarkable different data. In Germany, the proportion of qua-
lified workers in centers for 0- to 6-year-old children is around one percent lower than the
data presented in the table, as the proportion of men is above average among interns, and
also in after school care. In Norway, for many years governmental statistics highlighted
the overall number of male employees in kindergartens, although many of them were
helperswithout any pedagogical tasks. When it was decided to focus on pedagogical
workers, it came out that the proportion of males was about 2% lower (see Rohrmann
and Brody, this issue).
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... In Germany, funding, regional projects and gender awareness initiatives have seen results that have been regional and urban in concentration. Turkey has seen increased numbers without any such interventions and possibly attributable to a modernising country, rapidly expanding ECEC sector that has professional status with qualification requirement and associated remuneration (Peeters et al., 2015). Peeters et al. draw on Connell's (2000) gender regime where gender is recognised as being 'institutionalized in the structure, as well as being an aspect of the individual character and personality' (2015, p. 6) and so the environment and behaviours are influenced by this and the feminised expectations of care positioning men as other which has contradictory expectations or complementarity and object of suspicion. ...
... There is a need to be careful in promotions that we don't descend into stereotypes (Rohrmann, 2020). Peeters et al. (2015) call for a 'gender-sensitive construction of professionalism' and 'new perspectives in the concept of care' (2015, p.9). and Rohrmann (2016; 2020) recommends reflection in teams on gender issues. ...
... These were seen as significant barriers to ECEC as a career option for both boys and girls but in particular boys who consider salary early on in their career research according to T1. Lack of exposure to ECEC was also seen as a barrier to men's participation. Emilsen, 2015). However, they often experience and practice stereotypical and role-modelling expectations (Brownhill, 2014;Warin et al, 2020) and can be the object of scrutiny and suspicion (Besnard & Diren, 2010;Cameron, 1999;Cushman, 2005;Peeters, Rohrmann and Emilsen, 2015;Woltrung, 2012). ...
Men comprise approximately 1.8% of the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) workforce in Ireland, despite national and international recommendations to increase this number. This thesis examines the career trajectories of men in the ECEC workforce in Ireland. Underpinned by Connell’s theories of gender as structural, an embedded mixed-methods design was employed using semi-structured interviews with men and women in the ECEC workforce, a focus group with post-primary school careers guidance teachers and a survey of parents accessing ECEC provision. The factors that influence men’s entry to the ECEC workforce and experiences which shape their trajectories are explored. Key findings suggest an interaction of micro, meso and macro factors influence men’s entry into and trajectories in the ECEC workforce. Societal expectations of men and men’s roles, family and friend influences and their own aspirations form a complex set of influences. A lack of visibility of men in caring roles, awareness of caring professions as options in adolescence, and lack of careers guidance in post-primary school are evident. The impact of the onset of the economic recession in 2007-2008 which had a significant impact on male dominated industry is influential for the men in this study. The expectations of men and their experiences within ECEC are often contradictory, and influence their vertical and horizontal trajectories. Key events can have a significant impact on their sense of belonging and satisfaction. This thesis makes recommendations in relation to increasing visibility of ECEC as a career in post-primary education, policies to support increased entry, career pathways and professionalisation in which men and women can see a viable career in ECEC.
... The main finding of the present paper is that these workers are not accurately described as gender essentialists and that the work-task participation differences between male and female workers are small or nonexistent. This contradicts the findings of previous studies that have investigated attitudes and work-task division among childcare workers and the common belief that childcare work is innately gendered (Kasin and Slåtten 2011;Peeters, Rohrmann, and Emilsen, 2015;Van Laere et al. 2014). In light of these findings, we argue that, while gender-segregated labor markets may be interlinked with gender structures in modern societies, individually held gender-essential beliefs do not appear to be the determining factor for the female majority of workers in the daycare sector in Norway. 1 ...
... Women choose feminine-typed work because this line of work is thought to be suited to women's essential nature and enables women to feel that they can express their femininity through work (Charles and Bradley 2009;Charles and Grusky 2004). Essentialist conceptions of gender are seen as key explanations for the gender imbalance in childcare work (Peeters, Rohrmann, and Emilsen, 2015). Qualitative studies using methods such as in-depth interviews or case studies provide important insights into the gendered understandings, evaluations, and work practices of childcare workers. ...
Full-text available
We examine the influence of gender essentialism, a key explanation of gender segregation in the labor market, by zooming in on childcare work, which remains a female-dominated occupation. Building on the assumption that gender essentialism is expressed through people’s perceptions of what jobs and tasks are suitable for men and women, we ask the following question: are childcare workers gender essentialists? We answer this question by investigating the attitudes and work-task participation of 2,549 Norwegian childcare workers. The results show that the workers did not display gender-essentialist attitudes. Male and female workers reported significantly different levels of participation in some work tasks, but the main conclusion is that gender is not an organizing principle of work-task participation. These results contradict findings from previous studies and contribute to ongoing debates about the causes of segregation because attitudes and behaviors are often evoked as explanations for the status quo.
... A gender sensitive professionalization of ECEC work would help recruit and retain men (Cameron 2006;Peeters 2013). Gender sensitivity, in non-binary ways, can challenge traditional understandings toward gender diversification and thereby affect men's career choices (Peeters, Rohrmann, and Emilsen 2015;Wilkinson and Warin 2021). Van Laere et al. (2014) and Warin (2017) suggest a stronger attention to gendered norms of the body and bodily experiences of professional work, to better understand the gender composition and the 'genderedness' of the ECEC profession. ...
... Rohrmann (2020) argues that the issue of the skewed gender balance in ECEC must be related to larger, societally gendered patterns. Some (Van Laere et al. 2014;Peeters, Rohrmann, and Emilsen 2015;Warin 2017) call for a professionalism that includes perspectives of the body. Wilkinson and Warin (2021) suggest perspectives going beyond the gender binary. ...
Full-text available
The workforce in early childhood education and care (ECEC) is highly gender-segregated with a majority of women. Gender-sensitive professionalization is regarded a way to recruit more men, but there is a call for more empirical research into perspectives that combines bodily aspects of gender, professionalization and men`s career choices. Applying the notion of embodied intersectionality, this article analyses narrative data from Nordic men with varying experience with formal ECEC education and work. It explores how embodied and intersectional experiences of ECEC work and professionalism emerge in the narratives and how embodied and intersectional experiences link to the men’s choices of entering, staying, or leaving ECEC. Such experiences appear in the narratives related to entry to and exit from formal ECEC education to parental cooperation and to professional play practices. The findings are discussed in relation to the professionalization of ECEC, professional exclusionary and inclusionary mechanisms and debates about ECEC professionalization.
... This study aimed to analyse whether the assumptions of Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1977Kanter ( , 1993 regarding professional contexts characterised by a marked numerical disproportion between members of each sex, in this case in the exercise of early childhood education, are corroborated. In this profession, men are, practically everywhere in the world, a numerical minority and the exercise of early childhood education is socially associated with and dominated by women (e.g., Alves, 2012;Cortez, 2015;Lam, 2014;OECD, 2014;Peeters et al., 2015;Santos & Amâncio, 2018;Sullivan et al., 2020), we thus sought to observe whether male early childhood educators experience the three negative consequences associated with the tokens: high visibility, polarisation and assimilation (Kanter, 1977(Kanter, , 1993. Cumulatively, we furthermore identified and characterised the strategies that male early childhood educators, as potential tokens, adopt to manage their inclusion in this professional context. ...
... The importance and benefits of involving professionals in education contexts (Connell & Pearce, 2015), particularly in early childhood education (Peeters et al., 2015;Roberts-Holmes & Brownhill, 2012), are recognised within the scope of changing the socialisation of new generations in gender-equitable settings. However, and based on the contributions of this study, we consider that, in addition to the desirable increase of the presence of men in the profession, the need to reflect on the ways in which they are understood and integrated should also be considered and thereby enable them to act in line with the desired social change and not be forced to reproduce the dominant social norms. ...
Full-text available
Resumo Este estudo analisou as dinâmicas de gênero no contexto da educação de infância, em Portugal. Procurámos observar se os homens educadores de infância vivenciam as consequências negativas associadas aos tokens e a possível emergência de fenômenos relacionados com a construção social da masculinidade. A análise temática dos conteúdos de 14 entrevistas individuais semiestruturadas com educadores/as de infância originou seis temas e evidenciou a especificidade da inserção profissional dos homens. As vivências e as estratégias descritas pelos entrevistados e percecionadas pelas entrevistadas evidenciam os efeitos da construção social da masculinidade e confirmam parte dos efeitos do seu estatuto de tokens, ainda que de modo distinto ao revelado pelos estudos centrados nas mulheres nessa situação.
... This study aimed to analyse whether the assumptions of Rosabeth Moss Kanter (1977Kanter ( , 1993 regarding professional contexts characterised by a marked numerical disproportion between members of each sex, in this case in the exercise of early childhood education, are corroborated. In this profession, men are, practically everywhere in the world, a numerical minority and the exercise of early childhood education is socially associated with and dominated by women (e.g., Alves, 2012;Cortez, 2015;Lam, 2014;OECD, 2014;Peeters et al., 2015;Santos & Amâncio, 2018;Sullivan et al., 2020), we thus sought to observe whether male early childhood educators experience the three negative consequences associated with the tokens: high visibility, polarisation and assimilation (Kanter, 1977(Kanter, , 1993. Cumulatively, we furthermore identified and characterised the strategies that male early childhood educators, as potential tokens, adopt to manage their inclusion in this professional context. ...
... The importance and benefits of involving professionals in education contexts (Connell & Pearce, 2015), particularly in early childhood education (Peeters et al., 2015;Roberts-Holmes & Brownhill, 2012), are recognised within the scope of changing the socialisation of new generations in gender-equitable settings. However, and based on the contributions of this study, we consider that, in addition to the desirable increase of the presence of men in the profession, the need to reflect on the ways in which they are understood and integrated should also be considered and thereby enable them to act in line with the desired social change and not be forced to reproduce the dominant social norms. ...
Full-text available
This study analysed the gender dynamics prevailing in the context of early childhood education in Portugal. We sought to observe whether early childhood educators experience the negative consequences associated with tokens and the possible emergence of phenomena related to the social construction of masculinity. The thematic analysis of the contents of 14 semi-structured individual interviews with early childhood educators originated six themes and highlighted the specificity of the professional insertion of men. The experiences and strategies described by the male interviewees and perceived by the female interviewees highlight the effects of the social construction of masculinity and confirm part of the effects of their status as tokens, although differently to the ways revealed by studies focused on women in this situation.
... While some professions are evolving to assume more gender-balanced positioning (Anliak & Beyazkurk, 2008;Heath et al., 2021), the early education and care sector continues to be predominately comprised of women (Peeters et al., 2015;Reich-Shapiro et al., 2020). Former research has sought to unmask institutional and societal barriers faced by female ECECs, typically in linkage to working in a profession that is care-rooted (Halfon & Langford, 2015;Moss, 2006). ...
Full-text available
Across the globe the prevalence of men who work in the early education and care field is scant. This phenomenon is evidenced in the Canadian childcare milieu where male early childhood professionals constitute a modest fraction of the sector. At the nucleus of this are gender-situated scrutinization, role model binaries, and adverse occupational outcomes. Subsequently a Qualitative Intrinsic Case Study, rooted in a Social Constructivist Philosophical Paradigm, was applied to secure the voices of men who work in Ontario, Canada. Novel to findings of this study are the heterogenous reactions of family and friends, male role model disharmony, strategies adopted by participants to self-protect and avoid speculation, forgotten child voices, and nuances affiliated with working in a care profession. Participants of this study urge other male early years professionals and communities to intentionally probe this domain of study, with the aim to bolster male participation in the sector.
... Fenomena rendahnya kehadiran guru laki-laki di lingkup PAUD terjadi hampir diseluruh negara di dunia dengan persentase 1% sampai 3% (Brody 2014). Norwegia, Denmark dan Turki merupakan negara dengan presentasi yang cukup unggul dibandingkan negara lain, yaitu 5% dari populasi guru PAUD yang ada (Peeters et al. 2015). Fenomena ini juga terjadi di Indonesia dengan data 1.479 orang guru laki-laki di sekolah negeri dan 11.891 di sekolah swasta dengan total jumlah 13.370. ...
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Rendahnya kehadiran guru laki-laki di ranah pendidikan anak usia dini menjadi permasalahan penting bagi perkembangan anak usia dini terkhusus dalam hal perkembangan gender. Penelitian ini bertujuan untuk mengetahui faktor yang mempengaruhi minat laki-laki memilih profesi guru PAUD. Populasi dalam penelitian ini adalah guru PAUD laki-laki di Indonesia, sedangkan sampel penelitian adalah sampel tersedia sebanyak lima orang guru PAUD laki-laki dengan status di satuan PAUD dan lama mengajar yang berbeda. Penelitian menggunakan pendekatan kualitatif dengan teknik wawancara untuk memperoleh informasi mengenai faktor minat laki-laki memilih profesi guru PAUD. Data yang terkumpul selanjutnya dianalisis dengan metode coding melalui tahapan open coding, axial coding dan selective coding. Hasil penelitian menunjukan bahwa minat laki-laki memilih profesi guru PAUD dapat dilihat melalui tiga sudut pandang. Penelitian ini memberikan informasi kebaharuan prihal pentingnya kehadiran guru laki-laki bagi anak usia dini ditengah rendahnya kehadiran guru PAUD laki-laki di Indonesia, dengan diketahuinya faktor minat guru laki-laki memilih profesi guru PAUD akan mampu memberikan stimulus dan bahan pengambilan kebijakan bagi pemangku kebijakan untuk meningkatkan kehadiran guru PAUD laki-laki.
... In order to alter the gendered profile of ECEC, research increasingly recognises the need to adopt gender-sensitive strategies when calling for a greater representation of men in the workforce (Peeters, Rohrmann, and Emilsen 2015;Cruickshank 2019). Despite this recognition, a gendered regime continues to prevail in ECEC within which men are 'supported' or 'condemned'. ...
Globally, the underrepresentation of men in the Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) workforce is ongoing and has been largely attributed to the construction of ECEC as 'women's work'. Men's involvement in ECEC can help to deconstruct the feminisation of work and the gender binaries through which occupations are structured. Further to this, there is a need to dismantle reinforced gendered ideologies that work towards interrogating rather than supporting the presence of men in ECEC. This paper draws on selected findings from an international research project investigating men's involvement in ECEC. It uncovers how a group of men navigate themselves within a highly gendered ECEC terrain from which they sometimes 'dropout'. Providing nuanced understandings of how men negotiate their positions in ECEC can inform intervention strategies to increase and support men's participation in ECEC in more progressive and gender-sensitive ways.
... First, gender now occupies a key position in trade and migration because of the development of new intricacies in gender relation. Second, empirical data on new trends in gender relation is such that most constituted authorities feel that gender balance in every sector of the society is the best for its socio-economic development (ECOWAS, 2020;Peeters, et al, 2015). ...
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The study is an analysis of border management in relation to the gender structure of cross-border trade in sub-Saharan Africa. It is partly a response to recent policy briefs of the United Nations on gender issues under COVID-19. The study adopted a historical approach and combined data from personal fieldwork with those from both published and unpublished works. It posits that there still exists gross gender imbalance in the region’s cross-border trade and that the agencies in charge of border control can do more to minimise the imbalance. One of its key findings is that policies protecting small-scale cross-border commerce constitute one means of increasing the participation of women and therefore reducing gender imbalance in the system. Among its recommendations is the adoption of relevant initiatives of regional organisations and international agencies that have given gender issues in cross-border trade a priority and embarked on relevant fieldwork on the way forward.
... Active learning (small group work and discussions, for example), were valued by interviewees and initially, perhaps naturally, focused on self as a tool for professional intervention. Calls for trainee teachers, for example, to engage in activities that screen for gender bias (Peeters et al. 2015) leave pedagogic spaces to be filled by the student rather than them becoming engaged in thinking beyond their immediate concrete settings. However, working on social difference starts with work on self and on students' own experiences and positionings. ...
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This article draws on data from a small qualitative study of men on care-based degree pathways in one university in England. There is little research that specifically considers the experiences of working-class men on these courses. The article explores aspects of men’s experiences and responses to so-called ‘active learning’. It considers knowledge in care-pathway pedagogy and how students on these programmes are enabled to draw on both disciplinary and practice-knowledge. The article argues that active learning must go beyond a dominant preoccupation with self-development to initiate students into disciplinary knowledge appropriately recontextualised for their practice careers. Classed and gendered classrooms are an example of where this might occur. Implications for access and participation and for teaching and learning on care pathways are identified.
Early Years practitioners frequently use words like 'passionate' to describe themselves and their attitudes to working and playing with young children. But how is this emotive and emotional word to be interpreted by others? Given any evidence of real political influence or strength, this mainly female workforce cannot perhaps be said to be sufficiently passionate or forceful in justifying and promoting their beliefs and ideologies. Herein lies one of many paradoxes in early childhood: it seems impossible to work effectively with very young children without the deep and sound commitment signified by the use of words like 'passionate'. Yet this very symbolisation gives a particular emotional slant to the work of early childhood practitioners which can work for or against them in their everyday roles and practices, bringing into question what constitutes professionalism and what being a 'teacher' means in such diversified contexts. This paper will show that working in partnership with researchers, different groups of early years practitioners have shown themselves able to engage in high level, critical (and passionate!) reflection on their own practices, to link associated theory and to challenge political prescription.
The early childhood services of Reggio Emilia in Northern Italy has gained worldwide interest and admiration. Drawing on the 'Reggio approach', and others, this book explores the ethical and political dimensions of early childhood services and argues the importance of these dimensions at a time when they are often reduced to technical and managerial projects, without informed consideration for what is best for the child. Extending and developing the ideas raised in Beyond Quality in Early Childhood Care and Education the successful team of authors make a wide range of complex material accessible to readers who may have little knowledge of the various important and relevant areas within philosophy, ethics, or politics, covering subjects such as: post-structural thinkers and their perspectives the history and practice of early childhood work in Reggio Emilia globalization, technological change, poverty, and environmental degradation ethical and political perspectives relevant to early childhood services from Foucault and Deleuze, to Beck, Bauman and Rose. This book presents essential ideas, theories and debates to an international audience. Those who would find this particularly useful are practitioners, trainers, students, researchers, policymakers and anyone with an interest in early childhood education.