Blog – Men in the Early Years Network Conference, Bristol
How to attract more men to work in the early years and how to break down gender stereotyping was the main focus of the Men in the Early Years conference in Bristol recently.
So, what are the barriers and what effect does this deficit have?
It’s a complex issue, with traditions, attitudes and social pressure all contributing to and combining with biological and psychological influences. There is no quick answer nor an overnight solution. It’s a process of changing attitudes, breaking down stereotyping – and providing equal opportunities.
Experiences, information, research and expertise were shared by scholars, teachers, consultants and practitioners during the day through presentations and workshops - with everyone there clearly working towards the same goal – increasing the number of men working in the early years.
The main guest speaker at the conference was Professor Robert Winston, and he noted during his presentation that the lack of male role models in the early years is damaging to boys.
Under the guidance of Dr Ben Hind, Senior Lecturer and co-founder of Men and Boys Coalition, his workshop touched on the psychological and biological elements which influences career choices, and the social pressures of boys to be ‘boys’.
It’s true to say that our children are growing up in a world that sets norms, and presents restrictive stereotypes on young boys – girls are encouraged to do ‘boy’ things – which is to be welcomed obviously (and there is a long way to go in equality in this sense also) but the opposite is not always true. This stereotyping pushes men away from careers which have traditionally been considered ‘feminine’ – such as careers in the early years care.
So, what is the way forward, and how can we in Mudiad Meithrin continue to develop and influence this particular area of work?
We will explore the possibilities of further research to the barriers that exist, and to identify the advantages and importance of men in the early years so that we can obtain evidence and recommendations to develop.
Through all our training programmes along with our other development and learning opportunities, we will discuss openly and fully with our members the challenges and opportunities available to break down assumptions about opportunities for children due to gender. We will also discuss with the Welsh Government, innovative ways that highlight a thriving career path in the early years, and we will lobby through the relevant sources. We will identify positive role models to share with prospective men who are considering a career in the early years, and we will offer courses that will encourage continuity in the discussion and the work.
“Gender Neutral Teaching is not about making boys and girls the same. It is about giving boys and girls the same opportunities. It is also about not having preconceived expectations of children because of their gender” – Graham Andre