Men and boys are being actively excluded from careers in the UK childcare sector and this discrimination against men is contributing to the “gender pay gap”, according to a leading fatherhood charity.
In a briefing paper to the Government, the Fatherhood Institute argues that “women in the UK are still substantially disadvantaged in relation to men” and that “occupational segregation” is a “substantial driver” of the gender inequalities that women experience.
With the childcare sector still overwhelmingly staffed by women, the pro-feminist, fatherhood think tank argues that professionals providing careers advice should be required to “examine their own prejudices……and promote the interests of boys and men in pursuing childcare and caring work” in order to improve “gender balance” in the sector.
Jobs for the girls
According to the Fatherhood Institute, childcare is still largely seen as a “job for the girls” and this causes women to “internalise the notion that caring is something women ‘do better’ or, even, that such caring comes ‘more naturally’ to women”.
“When professional childcare is defined as ‘women’s work’, women’s identities as carers-for-children are reinforced in the private sphere, both boys and girls see caring as a role for women,” says the charity’s briefing paper.
“All this has direct impact on women’s earnings and on national productivity, as the majority of mothers pursue the ‘mummy track’ of relatively low-paid part-time work. This, above all, drives the gender pay gap.”
Men are scared of what people think
An estimated 98% of childcare workers in the UK are women and recent research by the London Early Years Foundation revealed that 50% of male childcare workers are worried about what others might think of them. They fear facing peer pressure; negativity from parents about issues like nappy changing and the risk of false allegations of child abuse, says the charity.
On the upside, 98% of female nursery workers want male colleagues and 77% of the public are in favour of men becoming early years workers. Research also suggests that a significant minority of 14-15 year old boys are open to childcare work with one in four saying a career in caring “sounds interesting” and one in eight saying they are interested in working with children.
The government must take action
According to the Fatherhood Institute, the Government needs to take a strategic approach to increasing the number and proportion of men and boys who undertake care work. The actions it recommends include recognising that boys and men are actively and passively discouraged from pursuing careers in childcare; making a positive case for how young children benefit from more men looking after them professionally and campaigning to support both men and boys and women and girls to work in non-traditional sectors.
The charity proposes an “Inspiring Men” campaign to introduce male volunteers into schools to talk about being an involved father; working in non-traditional job roles and balancing work with childcare and caring.
The benefit to women, says the institute, is that getting more men into childcare will help address other areas of gender inequality which it says include: “women’s over-representation in low and unpaid work in both public and the private spheres; inequalities in remuneration for equal work or work of equal value; the gender pay gap more widely; and under-representation of women in senior management, local government, national government and on Boards.”
—Photo credit: Flickr/John Benson