ChildLinks Issue 1: Men in Early Childhood Care and Education

Barnardos. (2012). ChildLinks Issue 1: Men in Early Childhood Care and Education.
Welcome to the autumn edition of ChildLinks which explores the theme of men in early childhood care and education. ‘What men?’, you may ask. Our experience of finding men who worked in early childhood care and education (ECCE) who might contribute an article for this ChildLinks proved very challenging. And that is supported by the research in Ireland and internationally. Men are an absent minority in ECCE in Ireland, estimated to be less than 1% of the workforce. One of the recurring arguments in support of more men in childcare is the ‘men as role models’ argument, that men provide role models for children, especially boys. However, as Aoife O’Gorman outlines in her article, this is a contested area. One view is that the presence of male early years workers acts in some way to compensate for what is lacking at home, especially where the father is absent. But what is lacking at home and how does compensation occur? O’Gorman suggests that a more constructive approach might be to focus less on the role model perspective and more on providing all children with opportunities to relate to a diverse range of adults and children. Many of the barriers to male participation in the ECCE workforce are also discussed in this issue, including perceptions by service providers, perceptions by men and perceptions by parents. The issue of parents’ concern regarding intimate care and the fear of child sexual abuse cannot be ignored. The perception that women are more suited to caring for young children than men is undoubtedly linked to the complex nature of gender in caring roles and to societal perceptions and norms. Does it matter that the ECCE workforce in Ireland is almost totally female? The EU seems to think so. EU policy is 20% in 2020, i.e. a 20% male workforce by 2020. The Men in Childcare Network is to be congratulated for their work in researching, providing support and advocating for greater participation in the ECCE workforce. Undoubtedly the thorny issue of poor remuneration will have to be addressed if Ireland is to move towards the 20% target. And remuneration is important to attract and retain both men and women to careers in early childhood care and education.