Early childhood education and care (ECEC): Gender changes in a public service rendered almost exclusively by women

ECEC is a public service employing almost exclusively women. Over the last few years Germany has taken a number of measures in order to open up this field and recruit more men into ECEC, including action aimed at opening up (male) gender roles.

But first of all, why do we need more men in ECEC at all? There are a number of good reasons for raising the number of male ECEC-workers:

  • Gender parity in all areas of society is desirable in order to achieve gender equality. Just as there is a political discussion about women in leadership positions, Germany is witnessing a relatively new political and societal discourse on men in the caring professions. Since an effective gender equality policy has to take into account all genders, expanding occupational perspectives for women and men has to be part of it. In order to promote an equitable distribution of labour for both men and women, it is necessary to broaden traditional notions of gender, both on the labour market and elsewhere.
  • Increasing the proportion of men in ECEC contributes to the widening of career choices for boys and men.
  • ECEC centres are gaining increasing significance as educational institutions, and since 2013 children under the age of three have had a  right to a place in an ECEC centre. The expansion of ECEC facilities has also led to a diversification of the target groups of ECEC and their respective environments, which staff need to reflect if the best early childhood education is to be on offer. Male ECEC workers are a building block for greater heterogeneity among the pedagogical staff (although gender is just one among many aspects).
  • Already in 2013, the expansion of ECEC has led to a predicted shortage of 20,000 trained workers. Opening up new target groups, including men, can help close this gap at least partially.
  • Male colleagues can have a positive influence on ECEC teams. A 2007 study by the London Business School found that teams composed of equal numbers of men and women work more innovatively. Well-considered assistance in integrating male ECEC workers into the team is decisive for staff development and organisational policies dedicated to gender equality.
  • Male ECEC workers can help to compensate for a lack of male caregivers in the family. It is necessary for boys and girls alike to see men working in caring professions and thus experience a gender-neutral division of labour.