The Same and Different – Gender Equity in Early Care and Education:

Part 4 in a series of essays:

Unfortunately, in the studies previously cited, while there is little evidence of a deleterious impact on children by male teachers, there is not a universal agreement that the presence of men provides measurable benefits to children. Recent research by Brandes, et al (2012), echoes such doubts, claiming that “with regard to the formal professional qualities of communication and activity… there are “no relevant gender effects” (Nelson, 2012).
While such recent studies may cast questions about improved outcomes for children from a gender-diverse teaching corps, an early study by Dawson (1971) found significant differences in outcomes for 4th grade fatherless boys based upon the gender of their teacher. In addition to academic performance the perception of disruptive behavior is reduced “by half” with a year with a male teacher (Dee, Thomas, 2006). Nelson observes that gender diversity supports curriculum diversity stating, “dependent on gender, different activities are carried out with the children, and different content areas served” (Nelson, 2012). Research by Owen, 2012, supports the suggestion that male teachers are up to the tasks of caregiving and engaging in quality relationships with young children – and that these male teachers may also provide a different approach to activities and a different emphasis in the implementation of curriculum while still meeting the curriculum goals for child development. This suggests that gender diversity of teaching staff carries little in the way of liability with regard to quality, while potentially providing a valuable diversity in the execution of curriculum.
Conversations of equity thrive in the presence of science and research. When MacNaughton et al (2010), included Susan Grieshaber’s article, Equity and Research Design, in their book, Doing Early Childhood Research, they invited reflection upon her statement, “Research is a cultural invention of the white Western male upper middle-class academic world…” Given that the American ECE profession is almost exclusively a design and product of the values and practices of professional white women – it is apparent that two, very powerful and inequitable biases are inextricably connected to our profession. Alan Guttman, drawing upon his golf analogy once again, explains it this way in an e-mailed message (March 25, 2013) to me: “Mind you that this ECE profession design and product is from “professional white women” living in, conforming to, reacting to, restricted by, funded or underpaid by, and dominated by, a world of Western White upper-middle class men – again my “golf analogy – in this case, white women, the break and grain of the green, are still subject to the larger influence of the world of white men, the overall tile/”bias” of the entire green. In a word: CONTEXT. Who knows – perhaps white men and women (and people – men and women – of color) would have created an entirely different ECE profession, had the world not been white male defined and dominated.”
When science and research do not address gender bias in ECE, and when the context of gender and privilege itself exists in a state of flux and stress – meaningful dialogue regarding equity, for practical and policy purposes, is unlikely.
Given this reality, it becomes essential that we, as a profession, not only reflect upon the consequences of such inequities but seek out the science and research that address the following questions:
• What does it mean to a boy go to institutions of learning for years without having a man as a teacher? I recently presented a workshop on the topic of diversity to a small group of family child care providers and preschool teachers. When I asked them to remember the grade of their first male teacher, it wasn’t until 5th grade that half the group was finally able to raise their hands. One family child care provider did not have a male teacher until 11th grade. Brandes, et al, 2012, found that while there were “no relevant gender effects… with regard to the formal professional qualities of communication and activity (between male and female teachers), indications can be found that, dependent on gender, different activities are carried out with the children, and different content areas served.” What might this mean to boys? To their interests? To the ways in which they engage with the learning environment?
• What does it mean for young children to go through their early years without a non-familial male role model? According to research, both boys and girls benefit from positive father figures. Educational attainment, behavior problems, and teen pregnancy rates have all been associated with the presence or absence of fathers (George, n.d.). Male role models may help mitigate the damage in the lives of children with absent fathers. According to Brett and Kate McKay, 2009, “mentors can expand one’s view of what it means to be a man.” Theodore Kokoros, 2012, says, “Men and women on average seem to interact with children differently, and children respond to them differently. This means men might be able to provide children with important experiences that they are currently missing out on.”
Furthermore, the presence of men appears to greatly impact girls, including their choices of activities, conversation habits with adults, and social relationships (Jensen, 1996).
• What is the true impact upon men who want to enter the early care and education profession to face so many obstacles? According to Theodore Kokoros, 2012, obstacles facing men include “societal stereotype(s) (and) low pay.” Other obstacles to men entering the field include a lack of male ECE instructors, mentors and, of course, classmates. When we focus our conversation to the challenge of recruiting men into ECE on the impact of low pay, we lose sight not only of the many obstacles facing men, but upon the meaning of these obstacles to men who might otherwise be interested in a career working with young children.
• What does it mean for the classroom learning environment, curriculum, daily schedule, behavior management strategies, and communication styles when they are designed without significant male input? While working at a Child Care Resource and Referral agency in Los Angeles County, I proposed the Male Involvement Rating Scale in order to stimulate conversation as to what a male-friendly learning environment might look like. Initially intended as a playful spin on traditional environmental rating scales, a number of advocates for men in early education expressed an interest in the tool. Their interest was often generated by experiences they had in which they felt disconnected or discriminated against in their ECE work environment. Learning environments that are sometimes referred to as boy-friendly learning benefit the development of boys and girls alike as well as the teachers that work with them.
More recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a webinar hosted by the Bright Horizons Men In Early Care and Education (MECE) Advisory Group. In a real time survey, there was a very large disconnect between the strongest parts of the learning environment and the parts of the learning environment that were the most engaging to boys.
• What are the ramifications for our expectations for children when they are left to work out their understanding of gender, sexual identity and role absent the guidance and input of professional, trained, skilled and nurturing male role models? In an article by Hannah and Jane Katch, 2010, young children are captured contemplating and negotiating gender role and sex identity. They engage in remarkably complex conversations including everything from clothing, hair, and choices of areas to play as indicators of gender, but ultimately determine that it is the declaration of adults that have the final absolute say. During this negotiation of identity, they propose dividing the classroom environment into gendered learning areas. This process of inquiry with the emphasis upon adult as the final judge of sexual identity only strengthens the argument for the regular presence of adult males in the early learning environment. Given the consequences of our society’s current challenges in providing young children with positive male role models, this observation that children turn to adults to guide them in the development of their gender roles needs to be a matter of greater attention in the early childhood education courses that we teach.
While pursuing my Masters, I was, on occasion, reminded to be more mindful of citing the required readings. And yet, imagine my chagrin at reading and viewing resource after resource that skirts this critical anti-bias issue. There are wonderful leaders that might have made for fabulous interviews, recommended articles, and required readings – Bryan Nelson, Moises Roman, Alan Guttman, Barry Busswitz, Bruce Cunningham, Bruce Sheppard, Paul Sargent, Pedro Noguero, Geoffrey Canada, Jonathan Mooney, Ronald Mah, and Jeff Duncan-Andrade to name just a few that have influenced or inspired me.
Certainly the gendered early care and education profession meets any reasonable benchmark for bias. Paul Sargent, in his 2001 book, Real Men or Real Teachers?, found
that only 3% of K-3 teachers out of his sample of 2,002 were men. And as recently as 2011-2012, male teachers in public schools represented approximately 24% of all teachers, and less than 18% in Virginia and Mississippi (National Education Association, 2013). Unfortunately, the percentage of male teachers cascades downward with grade level: 9-16% of elementary school teachers (Kent, 2007), (Cox, 2008) down to an abysmal 2.3% of preschool and kindergarten teachers (Nelson, n.d.). Often times, teacher salaries reflect a decline related to student age and grade level as well. While certainly intriguing, whether or not a causal relationship exists between teacher gender, grade level assignment and salary is beyond the scope and intent of this paper.

And so, it is with a hope that future students, enrolled in infant/toddler programs through doctoral programs, might benefit from opportunities that we now take the time to seriously contemplate the need for an affirmative action plan for male engagement and set forth upon the daunting quest for gender equity.
For those of you that might be interested in learning more, links to references have been supplied when possible.


Brandes, H.; Andrä, M.; Röseler, W.; & Schneider-Andrich, P. (2012). Does gender make a difference? First results from the German ‘tandem study’ on the pedagogical activity of female and male ECE workers. Retrieved January 26, 2013 from
Cox, L. (2008). The mistrusted male teacher. ABC News. Retrieved February 26, 2013 from
Dawson, P. (1971). Fatherless boys, teacher perceptions, and male teacher influence: a pilot study. Oregon State System of Higher Education, Monmouth; Office of Education, Washington, DC.
Dee, T. S. (2006). Teachers and the gender Gaps in Student Achievement. The Journal of Human Research
George, B. (n.d.). Fatherlessness in America. Mora, MN.
Katch, H. & Katch, J. (2010). When boys won’t be boys: discussing gender with young children. Harvard Educational Review. 80(3) 379-390, 436.
Kent, T. (2007). Male elementary teachers growing scarce despite concerns. Minnesota State University, Mankato. Retrieved February 26, 2013 from
Kokoros, T. (2012). In the land of women: being a man in early childhood education. Retrieved January 26, 2013 from
Mac Naughton, G., Rolfe, S. A. & Siraj-Blatchford, I. (2010). Doing early childhood research: International perspectives on theory and practice. New York, NY
McKay, B. & McKay, K. (2009). Every man needs a mentor. Retrieved January 26, 2013 from
Nelson, B. G. (n.d.). Data about men teachers. Retrieved February 26, 2013 from
Nelson, B. G. (2012). Does gender make a difference? First results from the German ‘tandem study’ of female and male ECE workers. Retrieved March 14, 2013 from
Owen, K. J. (2012). Assessing the impact: the value of men as caregivers in early care and education a thesis presented to the faculty of San Diego State University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Master of Science in child and family development. San Diego State University
Sargent, P. (2001). Real men or real teachers? Men’s Studies Press. Harriman, Tennessee.

On Billboards…

Okay… so here’s something I’ve been thinking about… Every day on my way to work, I pass a CalTrans billboard that says, “Be alert, my Dad’s at work”…
My initial reaction was, “Yeah! A poster on the importance of Dads!” My second reaction (surprisingly quickly) was, “Hey, Moms can be highway workers too!”
Which led me to applaud my anti-bias mentors for instilling such an awareness in me. However, have the anti-bias leaders instilled an equal awareness when it comes to the lack of representation of men in nurturing roles? Do our female colleagues, upon seeing an advertisement/posting depicting women in caring roles immediately think, “Hey, Men can be nurturers too!”?
Research suggests that even the textbooks used to teach ECE disproportionately depict women working with children in the photos. And when men ARE depicted, they are rarely depicted in situations where they initiate touch with a child.
In a comparison of Type of Touch between Teacher and Child by gender of adult as depicted in textbooks (TTC = Teacher Touches Child CTT = Child Touches Teacher MNT = Mutually Negotiated Contact) by Gilbert and Williams, 2008, photos which depicted men touching children were highly under-represented.
We must integrate the same level of awareness among all of ECE colleagues of the harmful gender biases that impact men as they have for the biases that harm women. Make this a part of the trainings that you give, the conversations that you have and the advocacy work that you do.

More about basketball…

As I increasingly advocate for affirmative action for men in ECE, I find myself a part of the “best teacher for the job” dilemma. The typical questions: “Would you hire the man teacher if a better woman teacher was applying?” “Isn’t it our job to hire the best teacher for the job… period?”
Within these questions are the notions that we can somehow quantify what makes someone the “best” candidate. I often refer back to papers by Marcy Whitebook that explore in depth the child care workforce. She reminds us that linguistic and cultural diversity are components of quality. In the context of the papers, diversity refers to the loss of racial, ethnic and linguistic diversity that accompanies demands for greater formal education requirements for teachers. Nevertheless, it might also serve as a reminder that gender diversity of teachers might also be considered a component of program quality.
Oh, yes, this is supposed to have something to do with basketball… For those of you that are fans of the sport, you understand that the 5 positions (point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, center) generally call for different physical attributes, skill sets, and to some degree dispositions.
Let’s look at an example. Many people would say that Carmelo Anthony is the best small forward (teacher) available testing the market (for the purposes of this essay, let’s say he’s looking for a new “school” to work at). Not every team (school) needs Carmelo. Maybe they already have a great player (teacher) at that particular position. Would that team want to hire Carmelo just because he was the best player (teacher) available? No. Every great team (school) benefits most by looking for the player (teacher) that best addresses their gaps/needs. Need more rebounding? Look for a center or power forward. Need better ball movement and distribution? Grab a point guard. Not enough perimeter offense? Look for a shooting guard or small forward/swing man or point guard that addresses that need.
In that same way, when we interview teachers, how well we address our gaps/needs may pave the way for more men in high quality programs. In other words – Is your school garden neglected? Look for a teacher that enjoys the outdoor natural learning environment. Are you hoping to implement more woodworking of mechanical experiences for the children? Hire someone with an enthusiasm and skill set in woodworking or a mechanical aptitude. Are your teachers ambivalent about outdoor physical activities? Science? Hopefully, you see my point.
We tend to hire teachers that conform to the existing program culture rather than looking for teachers that complement or expand or even perhaps challenge/stress the current program culture. And, when we, as administrators do that, we do a disservice to the team. We tend to hire teachers that please the other teachers or satisfy the expectations of parents or match our own (administrator) notions of what a quality teacher knows, looks and acts like. How often do we interview applicants from the point of view of gaps/needs? How often do we interview applicants from the point of view of the children/students/players?
As a man in ECE, I can’t claim to be the favorite teacher of all children and parents. That would be ridiculous. BUT, I am there for a certain group of children and parents that choose me to bond with. A diverse team is CRUCIAL for performance, for quality, for meeting the needs of the children and families. Make men a part of that team. Maybe he isn’t the best teacher testing the free-agency market. But he might be the missing piece that can take your program to the championship! He might be your Manu Ginobli or Boris Diaw. He might be the teacher whose actions don’t “fill up the stat sheet”, but whose unnoticed and undervalued actions make the difference for your team. There are great players and there are great teams. It’s time that ECE administrators look at their staff as a team of complementary parts. A team that can only benefit from the inclusion of men.

Orange balls and sweat

I enjoyed playing some basketball today… it, like motorcycle rides, generally clears my head…
My philosophy of life is, “Love and Chaos”… children and advocacy and the ECE profession provide me with those things… but it is my thick-headedness, my ego, my anti-establishmentarianism, my irascibility and iconoclast tendencies, combined with my parents expectation that my brothers and I perform a social good… it is that formula that fuels that relationship between ECE and Love and Chaos…
I enjoy writing and thinking and puzzling and problem-solving… I enjoy doing math calculations longhand on scraps of paper and I attach my mind to an idea like a Remora to a Shark…
Basketball – even at my relatively advanced age – is the best example I can think of to my relationship to ECE: I do the dirty work… the stuff that doesn’t show up on the stat sheets (the picks, box-outs, going after loose balls)… and I can become quite intense and infuriated at opposing players and team mates alike only to relax and hang out afterwards… and I believe that we, as ECE professionals need to learn to do that… we need to learn to be intense and infuriated. Certainly children are (or should be) more important that a game that consists of men in shorts chasing one ball around a big room trying to throw it into metal hoops hanging from a board…
Can’t we, like basketball players, yell at one another? push each other to give their best effort? enforce our will? demand “the ball” (DAP)? complain with gusto? Can’t we learn to be fierce during “game time” (advocacy time) and still be nurturing and respectful once the buzzer sounds?
Until then, I can only tell everyone that evidence seems to indicate that in gyms around the country on Sunday mornings, basketball players care more about their yellow ball than early educators care about children… when the ball is in play cell phones are unanswered, friendships are on hold, niceties are for later… only absolute effort is valued… even old men (like myself) playing with younger men do our best to be worthy competitors, worthy “opponents”…
At the end of the game, friendships are resumed… no hard feelings…
That’s why I do what I do… that’s why I can get angry at meetings, frustrated with “team mates” (colleagues), demand more from team mates than they might be comfortable giving in order to “win” (advocate) for children… It’s why I don’t even own a cell phone… There are T-shirts that read, “Basketball IS Life”… and for at least a few hours a week, basketball, to me, IS life.
Much of the rest of the time, ECE is life… It’s something to fight for, to set aside friendships for, to demonstrate that we are worthy competitors (advocates)…
Let each and every one of us demonstrate what it takes to be champions of ECE… even if it means being angry, outspoken, fierce, competitive, proud… even if it means going outside our comfort zone…
Wouldn’t it be a better world if a great teacher’s autographed apron went for sale on e-bay to an admiring fan?
Gregory Uba
Men In Child Care
Sac Valley AEYC, Redwood Empire AEYC, Beach Cities AEYC
my jersey number is 4… !!!!

Boys, Men and a Lack of Will

Part 3 in a series of essays.

This 12 year old boy really wanted to talk to a man… he was talking to Mr. Jones as if he was his father. – School Counselor, Sacramento, CA

Most men say they were never asked.
Marcello Bermeo, 2013

In the rather cryptic words of Marcello Bermeo above lies the answer to many questions. Why don’t more men get involved in the lives of young children? Why don’t more men consider a career in early care and education? Why don’t we see more men at professional development conferences? Why don’t more fathers join parent leadership groups? Why don’t more fathers participate in their child’s early school experiences?
The past 30 years have provided me with a wonderful array of opportunities to explore diversity as it relates directly to children and families. I have worked in suburban and inner city schools, with infants, toddlers, preschoolers and school-aged children. I have worked in private, school district, Head Start and State Preschool programs. And I have worked with children in restorative justice and residential settings. In most of these settings, there has been a singular, inescapable, yet rarely acknowledged bias. Whether by intent, accident, or disinterest – the bias against males is alarming.
This bias wields its influence upon a host of stakeholders – the children (boys), the parents (fathers) and the male teachers. It is evident in the number of boys suspended, expelled, identified for special needs… evident in the number of boys in placement in residential settings… evident in the absence of fathers in parent organizations… and perhaps most evident of all in the scarcity of men as early educators.
As one of these rare men in early care and education, I have frequently found myself in settings that were astonishingly gender-skewed. Whether in ECE courses, at ECE conferences, in preschool settings or at professional meetings, and even at community gatherings, the gender ratio in the room has regularly been spectacularly unbalanced.
As a teacher, when working directly with children, I have frequently observed this same gender bias at work influencing the curriculum, daily schedule, conflict resolution strategies, team strategies, communication styles and parent involvement priorities and strategies.
Robert Connell tells us that “gendered behavior is created and maintained through the interaction of the social division of labor…, the dispersion of power…, and the distribution of cathexis…, the access one has to ways of fulfilling one’s emotional needs…” (Sargent, 2001). One must therefore contemplate the self-perpetuating outcomes related to this absence of men as educators. This absence impacts the learning of gender behavior by both boys and girls. Men are cast as disinterested parties in the nurturance of young child well-being. Men become disempowered in matters related to the cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development of children. And finally, men lose access to important experiences as they relate to their own emotional well-being.
As I prepared to complete my coursework in an otherwise remarkable Master’s program emphasizing diversity, the curriculum stood disappointingly silent in addressing perhaps the single most glaring bias in ECE – gender equity as it relates to early educators and caregivers. One of the final assignments involved viewing and commenting upon a series of 16 interviews or vignettes related to anti-bias in early education. Not one of the 16 interviews or vignettes included a speaking part by a man. Even the textbooks have given short shrift to the issue. For almost two years, my classmates and I explored “fairness” without giving thought to equity as it relates to the gender of teachers and caregivers.
Given that the disciplines of Sociology and Education in general and Early Education in particular are progressive – the lack of recent research into this gender gap is actually quite surprising. While it can be generally agreed that there are perceived and/or real differences between men and women teachers and that these differences may influence outcomes for children there is little research that might confirm or deny such benefits. An abbreviated literature review identified recent studies of interest that may shed some light on the relationship between men as teachers and caregivers in early care and education programs and the immediate and long-term outcomes for children, although the majority of these studies focused on elementary school teachers and children.
Also during my explorations, it became clear to me that the very absence of men in ECE contributes to the research challenge. The studies that I found were regularly limited in scope by such considerations as:
• The scarcity of men available at ECE programs to study.
• The scarcity of programs at which there was sufficient gender balance among staff to make meaningful observations or conclusions as to the benefits of such gender balance.
• The lack of availability of a sample size of men large enough from which to adequately control for such important factors as experience, position/job title, and education.
• The lack of availability of a large enough male workforce from which parents, administrators and colleagues might draw meaningful conclusions from regular interaction.

Studies were regularly limited in study population size, were qualitative or narrative in nature, and were informed by social forces outside of the classroom. In other words, the very nature of the subject, the absence of men in ECE, makes a scientific, controlled, and responsibly generalizable study of this subject particularly challenging. Cameron, 2001, in a review of the literature, observed that the studies on men in ECE are “mostly small-scale studies” many of which consisted of interviews of a limited number of men. In the studies cited by Cameron, 2001, the number of men interviewed ranged from four to 12. While these studies may “identify recurring and divergent themes and issues, and seek possible explanations for these” the small sample sizes “raise questions of reliability and representativeness” (Cameron, 2001). Cameron goes on to observe two additional limitations of the research – the “token” nature of the men studied and “the varying cultural contexts in which these services are located” (Cameron, 2001).
Rolfe, 2005, identifies the following gaps in research on men in early education:
• The benefits of a mixed gender workforce
• The role of employers’ recruitment practices
• The experiences of men in working in childcare
• The effects of locality on men’s recruitment to childcare
• Turnover among male workers
• Detailed knowledge and attitudes of young people towards childcare employment
Examinations of the challenge of men in early care and education have tended to focus on primary grade teachers. Writings have explored a variety of issues from the impact of male role models… to the impact of male teachers on students… to teacher preparation… to gender representations of touch… to the very nature of maleness.

Do American ECE professionals have the will to create a more equitably-gendered world for young children? According to Peter Moss, the European Commission long ago recognized that “the gender-based division of family and employment responsibilities not only constrains women’s lives, but also deprives men of the emotional rewards resulting from the care and development of children” and “greater solidarity between men and women is needed if men are to take on greater responsibility for the caring role” (Jensen, 1996). It cannot be overstated how crucial the second part of that statement is for the successful integration of men into nurturing roles.


Cameron, C. 2001. Promise of problem? A review of the literature on men working in early childhood services. Gender, Work and Organization 8(4)
Jensen, J. J. (1996). Men as workers in childcare services. A discussion paper. European Commission Network on Childcare. London.
Rolfe, H. (2005). Men in childcare. Occupational segregation, Working Paper No. 35. Equal Opportunities Commission. Manchester.
Sargent, P. (2001). Real men or real teachers? Men’s Studies Press. Harriman, Tennessee.

A Bit of History of the Men in ECE Movement

Part 2 of a series:

Throughout the history of humankind, differentiated gender roles have been assigned to men and women by their particular cultures. In almost every case, the role of caregiving has been assigned to women. This was true in pre-Columbian America and continues to be true today. In an effort to gain a better understanding of the historical context of the Men in ECE movement, I conducted a search of the literature. In doing so, it became evident that the Western cultural assignment of the caregiving role to women was apparently sufficiently self-evident that there is little research on the subject of gender and caregiving until 1970. Most of this early conversation targeted the caregiving role of the father, and did address the matter of non-familial care of young children by men.
In the 1990s, a nascent movement on gender equity as it related to men in child care can be identified. Beginning in Europe with initiatives sponsored by members of the European Union, men in ECE found themselves beneficiaries of a larger examination of and commitment to gender equity. While rare American advocates such as Bryan Nelson and Bruce Sheppard were writing on the topic by the early 1990s, it wasn’t until years later that the challenge of men in ECE gained traction in the professional journals among a limited number of American ECE professionals. The roots of this American movement appear to be found with male members of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). However, it seems that real attention to the issue within the larger ECE community was not generated until the latter part of the 2000s. At about the same time as America, New Zealand began examining the issue in the professional journals.
The notion of using the internet as a way for men in ECE to stay in touch has its genesis in 1999, conceived as a listserv by participants at the national annual conference of NAEYC. Today, given the rare and far-flung nature of men in the ECE community, and the
growing use of social media by these men, the early recognition of the value of social media is significant.
Interest in the issue of men in the lives of young children in the United States focuses upon three distinguishable, but interconnected challenges.
• Father Involvement has become a focus of initiatives in Head Start as well as local community-based initiatives. These initiatives have included to varying degrees workshops for and by fathers and male role models, father and child activities, mentoring, and special events targeting father engagement.
• Men in early care and education has become a focus within the professional community. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the California Association for the Education of Young Children, and World Forum Foundation have all created forums for men to come together. Social networking opportunities have been established by NAEYC as well as a number of groups on Facebook.
• Outcomes for Children have received attention as well. Videos by PBS and Media Education Foundation, such as Tough Guise and Raising Cain examine the well-being of boys. A number of books for parents examine outcomes for children specific to gender. Nationally recognized speakers such as Pedro Noguera and Geoffrey Canada speak to the issue of gender and education.

The United States has been slow to both recognize and confront the challenge to increase the ranks of men among early care and education professionals, and the resulting disappointing plateau in the percentage of men in ECE reflects this. And while the European Union has identified the absence of men in ECE as part and parcel of a larger equity issue and has developed initiatives to address this challenge, the results have had limited success. Nevertheless, it is apparent that there has been greater progress toward a less gendered ECE workforce in the parts of the world that have established policies and/or initiatives to promote men entering into caregiving professions.
New Zealand is assigning resources to the challenge of male involvement in ECE. Most recently, New Zealand, through its national ECE network, Child Forum, has announced a program offering ten $4,500 scholarships for men entering its ECE teacher education program.
Germany has its 13 million euro “More Men in Early Childhood Education and Care” initiative – a collaborative effort between the Ministry of Family Affairs and the European Social Fund of which the “long-term aim (from men in early childhood education and care) is 20 percent” (ChildForum, 2012). The “Strong guys for strong kids” campaign in Stuttgart and “Variety, Man!” campaign in Hamburg are examples (ChildForum, 2012).
The evidence suggests that progress is possible, that it requires continued support through policy and initiatives, that it will be painfully slow, and that the United States is already late to the table. Innovative international initiatives, while ambitious, currently fall short of their targets, and it remains clear that the movement to promote men in the early care and education profession is still in its early stages.
As a point of information, my personal career in early care and education began in 1984. Over three decades, my work would take me from private preschool and infant/toddler care to school district preschool to child care resource and referral to Head Start to State Preschool. And during that same time, the number of men that I came in contact with remained consistently few. During those years, I came to realize that an alignment of a number of complex social factors must me addressed before even the most thoughtful initiatives can hope to succeed. These social factors include:
• A significant increase in our acceptance of men in caregiving roles,
• A commitment from the women in ECE to work collaboratively with men to address issues of gender-ism in ECE training, environments, assessments, best practices, recruitment, retention and development,
• A commitment from the larger ECE community to commit resources to the recruitment, retention and development of men in ECE,
• A commitment of resources from governmental, academic, local educational agencies, or community-development entities to support the recruitment, retention and development of men in ECE, and
• A greater participation from the men currently in ECE in roles and activities that will support, develop, promote, or mentor other men either struggling to remain in the field, entering the profession, or considering entering the profession.
Efforts and initiatives in isolation, that lack broader support from policymakers, or that impact only the more formal and institutional aspects of the challenge of men in ECE have not demonstrated success anywhere in the world. Our need to act in a coordinated manner is self evident – and is in part, the point of this series of essays.

ChildForum. 2012. Desperately seeking male childcare teachers in Germany. Retrieved from

Part 1 in a Series of Essays:

Men In Child Care

This is the first in a series of essays on the involvement of men in the lives of young children. The genesis of this series of essays comes from a paper that I wrote for a course towards my Master’s Degree. The paper was not well-received by the professor, but I was driven to continue putting my thoughts into writing. Perhaps it will find a more receptive audience here.

Before we begin, it is crucial to recognize that men are active participants in their absence from the lives of children. Whether due to expectations from society, from family, from peers, from their own parents; whether due to job responsibilities, realities of life; due to actions taken by their mentors, counselors, teachers and professors that steered them into more traditional career choices; or due to the absence of invitation to participate in their child’s life from co-parents, teachers, directors and principles…men have chosen to accept their absence from the lives of children.

Even among those of us that have braved the social stigma and embarked upon a career in Early Care and Education (ECE), there has been an involvement in our own marginalization. When we abide by policies that prevent us from touching children, comforting them, participating in important nurturing activities such as diapering – we “participate in the reproduction of the myth of stoic, distant men…in (our) own marginalization. While stoicism and inexpressiveness are considered to be generalized attributes of men, these are clearly deviant behaviors in the world of teaching young children” (Sargent, 2001).

A dear colleague of mine, Alan Guttman reminds us of this, saying: “…Affirmative Action “capital A, capital A” – was enacted to address the intentional, systemic, historical and institutionalized pattern of Discrimination “capital D” that exists in our society. While (this essay) may cite some of the subtle and not so subtle discriminatory ways that men in the ECE field are regarded – it is predominantly discrimination of the “small d” variety. While such “small d” discrimination is real and may deter men from entering the field of ECE – the main reason there are only 2%-5% men (of all races) in the profession…they CHOOSE not to enter the profession for the many reasons (this paper) will cite, including lack of respect, remuneration, etc. Essentially, we Men are discriminating and not going into the field.”

Yet there is something to be said of the lack of will expressed by the early care and education profession as a whole to address the absence of men in even the best of our ECE environments. Admittedly taken a bit out of context from the book, Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, by Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards (2010), the following observation more than applies to the gender gap in ECE:

“One major dynamic of advantage and disadvantage that especially affects early childhood practice is that of the “visibility” or “invisibility” of certain kinds of people and cultures in a program.” 
Teachers, assistants, office and nutrition staff, engineering and housekeeping staff, and parents areall among the classroom’s “people” and contributors to the classroom culture. What does an examination of your program’s resources say about the visibility of men as resources at your program? Does the obvious absence of men in early care and education programs not demand affirmative action (small “a”, small “a”) on our part?

In Western early education coursework, the value of diversity and family engagement is universally recognized, yet, as advocates, we clearly have room for improvement when it comes to the gendered profession in which we work. While the absence of men in early education is a global challenge, some countries have demonstrated the will to confront the issue with policy objectives. Norway, for example, “has set a target of 20% male workers in early childhood services” (Moss, 2000).

And there you have it. It is the hope of the collaborators in this series of essays that the following words may serve not simply as a statement of grievances, but as a call to action for men and those that advocate for them. It is our hope that in the following submissions, we will have not only provoked questions, but have provided the tools, strategies and resources that will support real progress in male engagement efforts in your family, in your program, and in your community.