Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Gender, the Labour Market, the Workplace and Policy in Children's Services: Parent, Staff and Student Attitudes (1)

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Early Childhood

Gender, the Labour Market, the Workplace and Policy in Children's Services: Parent, Staff and Student Attitudes (1)

Article excerpt

Recently, considerable public attention has been devoted to the topic of the gender composition of the teacher education workforce in Australia. This attention is focused on the reasons for, and consequences of, the relatively few males in the teacher workforce. Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS, 2002) data shows that males account for only about one-third of the education 'industry' workforce. However, the proportion of male teachers varies considerably within each 'sector' of the industry: about 45 per cent in secondary education and about 21 per cent in primary education (House of Representatives, 2002). (2) Reasons put forward for the seeming reluctance of males to become teachers include 'the status of teachers in the community, salary, career opportunities and child protection issues' (House of Representatives, 2002, p. 155). In announcing proposed changes to the federal Sex Discrimination Act 1984 to permit biased schemes to attract males into the education profession, the federal minister for education and the attorney-general noted that the lack of male teachers 'is even more pronounced in early childhood education' (Nelson & Ruddock, 2004).

In the two sectors of the children's services 'industry' catering for under-school-aged children--preschool education and childcare services--the relatively few males in the workforce is stark. Of the approximately 14,000 preschool education teachers in Australia, males account for only two per cent of the workforce, and of the approximately 68,000 'child care workers' in Australia, males account for only four per cent of the workforce (ABS, 2002). Despite their 'minority status' in the respective workforces, males constitute a much higher proportion of managerial positions relative to their overall share of teaching and children's services staff. Males account for about 56 per cent of school principals and eight per cent of childcare coordinators (ABS, 2002),

This paper discusses the results from a study examining the gender imbalance of the children's services workforce in New South Wales (NSW). The paper focuses on the findings of three surveys conducted for the study and how they advance our understanding of the factors behind the gender makeup of the education and children's services professions. Surveys were conducted of university students, staff employed in preschool services and long day care centres, and of parents whose children attend children's services. The purposes of the surveys were to identify attitudinal opposition to the employment of males in the children's services 'industry' overall, and attitudinal differences among the three survey sample populations. It was anticipated that, because of the diversity of demographic and motivational influences shaping the respondents' attitudes, differences would be found. However, this was not the case. Surprisingly, all three groups of respondents reported almost identical attitudes.

Males and children's services

Interviews with staff employed in long day care centres, conducted by Lyons (1998), revealed four issues as potential barriers to the employment of males in children's services: anti-male attitudes, the assumption that a male would be homosexual (and that this is somehow undesirable), child protection considerations, and the relatively low pay. According to British research, the small proportion of male workers may be because of the relatively low pay and status, and the connotations of the work with 'mothering' (Carrington, 2002). Another British study (Penn & McQuail, 1997) found two main reasons for the industry's workforce gender composition: the perception that the work is 'natural' for females and the 'perversity' of males who desire to perform these 'unnatural' duties.

One notable feature of formal child care is the relative low pay available to both male and female practitioners. It is therefore no coincidence that the 'childcare industry' has been subjected to pay equity inquiries in both NSW and Queensland (CREW, 2000). …

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