It is evident that there is a major gender imbalance with Early Years Education, where femininity overpowers masculinity by a large proportion. This gender imbalance has a real impact on child development, intellectually, emotionally and socially. Recent studies show how two percent of the early year’s workforce is made up of males, showing the current imbalance and overpowering femininity within early education (Wright, 2016). Based around this statistic, there is ongoing research and concerns on the impact that the gender imbalance within education has on children’s development. Findings such as higher achievement for girls and underachievement for boys have been concluded from this ongoing research (Lahela, 2000). Throughout this essay, I will be exploring the difference between both femininity and masculinity within Early Years, and I will also zoom in on the impacts this has on child development. Theoretical perspectives such as feminism and the Structuralist theory will also be closely linked to create a conclusion as to how a teacher’s gender impacts children’s development, reflecting how sex roles are influential for children in the Early Years sector.
Within the current Early Year’s sector, it is known that females overpower males significantly. Data collected by The Department of Education and Skills (2016), states how on average there are 452,100 practitioners working within the early year’s sector. However, only two percent of these practitioners are males, estimating to 9042 males within the Early Years workforce. These powerful statistics show the overpowering femininity within the early years. Until the 1960’s when the second wave of feminism became apparent, inter-sectionalism and dimensions of identity were prominent, showing the gender inequality perspective of women being seen as inferior to men (Connell, 2005). Although the traditional view is of females being inferior to males, this role has become reversed throughout the early years’ sector, resulting in data explaining the difference in teaching participation numbers for males. This traditional but present perspective shows the ties linked with femininity in the classroom (Katz-Wise, Priess & Hyde, 2010).
The Structuralist theory is also closely linked to the gender imbalance seen within the proportion of males and females within early year’s education. The theory is based around society being gendered. It is believed that individual’s that belong to a society must comply by its categories and gender through socialization. This shows that because society believes that males should be masculine and have physical jobs, they are uninclined to go into a feminine career such as teaching. The Structuralist theory therefore links to the gender imbalance of early years teaching, showing how males may feel judged and paranoid in going into the teaching career due to the Structuralist view of a males being masculine and physical (McNamara, Geary & Jourdan, 2010).
I believe the topic based around both masculinity and femininity within early years’ education is very important. Firstly, having both male and female practitioners gives children the outlook on what they will experience during primary and secondary school, as well as being role models, reducing the stereotypes and stigma associated with early years’ teaching (Cushman, 2005). Secondly, both male and female teachers within the early years also promotes gender equality, diversity and respect amongst children about the differences and offers children ‘numerous different opinions about how they think and understand gender, identity and the choice to change their world view of gender inequality’ (Jacobson, 2010). Thirdly, another positive factor of having both male and female teachers within early years is the utilization of gender separation, allowing both males and females to feel relaxed, valued and welcomed within the education sector, promoting both masculinity and femininity within the early years (Simpson, 2004).
According to Besnard and Letarte (2017), teaching is viewed as the most gender divided occupation, creating the view of women being the main occupier of teaching, whilst men are within other ‘physical’ professions. As stated by Harris and Barnes (2009), female’s practitioners are more likely to be more talkative, self motivated, have skills to emphasize with others and have increasingly better verbal skills, lining to reading and writing, compared to males. There are three main explanations for the gender gap within early year’s education, one being the feminization of schooling, secondly, the essential differences between boys and girls and finally, the social construction of masculinity and femininity. These explanations attempt to explain the reasons behind this gender imbalance. Another factor not stated within the explanation above, is the impact different genders have on both boys and girls, showing another explanation as to why there is a present gender imbalance within early years. A female teacher within early years’ education has an impact on children’s development, consisting of social, emotional and intellectual. According to Mistry and Sood (2003), a women’s maternal instinct and motherly bond creates a sense of trust and respect for woman teachers within the Early years. A female practitioner within the Early Years can impact a child’s social development through factors such as creating strong and positive relationships, be an active role model to children and allowing children to feel confident and trustful to share any concerns they may have with their practitioner without fear. Societies view of females infer they withhold the traditional values of being a motherly individual with caring and maternal instincts, meaning a female teacher can have a positive impact on children’s social development. An important factor of young children’s social development is creating and encouraging friendships and relationships allowing both the practitioner and children to share concerns, worries, stories and achievements with the sense of security and feeling welcomed. Social development of friendships and relationships with other children and practitioners is very important and becomes more important to children as they get older. Children who learn to make positive friendships skills, benefits their mental health and wellbeing (Kids Matter, 2018).
Females working within the early years’ also impacts children’s emotional development, through have caring natures, having the ability to emphasise with children and having a motherly instinct to help guide and protect the children within their care. According to Elias, Weissberg and Zin (2004), females working in the early years’ have the ability to encourage children to try new things, give children opportunities to play with other children their age and encourages children to share their feelings, in order to promote social development within the early years’. As children grow and develop, they are exposed to different situations and their emotional lives become complex. From a society view of females, being empathetic and having maternal instincts to protect and guide children has a positive impact on children’s social development. By female teachers encouraging emotional development for children, experience of a wide range of emotions is present, allowing children to develop and understand these emotions (Kids Matter, 2018).
Another factor which is crucial for children’s development is intellectual development. According to Harris and Barnes (2009), females achieve increasingly more in subjects such as English with reading and writing than males. It is stated that the women’s movement and feminism play a big role in the success of girl’s intellectual development, due to the success they receive in moral, confidence and expectations of women. It is also known that females do well within education as a whole compared to males, resulting in intellectual differences between both males and females, carrying this over to their work (Parpart, Connelly & Barriteau, 2011). Another reason female’s have a major impact on children’s intellectual development is that English is a core subject within education and is vital for intellectual development. At a young age, children perceive information in a vivid manner, meaning children will receive more information and remember it at a fastest pace than older children. This shows the importance of femininity within early years’ education, with direct impact on children’s overall development.
As well as female practitioners playing a big role in impacting young children’s development within the early years, males who do have a career within the early years play a vital role in helping and encouraging children’s development. According to Mistry and Sood (2013), males are inclined not to go into the early year’s workforce due to gender stereotyping. This consists of the assumption amongst individuals that early years and childcare is a woman’s job. Another factor that could potentially stop males entering the early year’s workforce is the issue of safeguarding. Whilst many early years’ nurseries, schools and playgroups try and remove this vie, some individuals may potentially still feel this way.
As stated by Wale (2017), it is believed that both men and women have important roles to play within a child’s first years after birth. Both male and female practitioners within the workforce have passion, qualifications and capacity to learn, creating the early years’ workforce. Males working within the early years’ workforce impact children’s social, emotional and intellectual development in many ways. Having male practitioners working within the early years impacts children’s social development by creating friendships and bonds. Males within the early years are able to make positive bonds with the children around them in order to make them feel relaxed, welcomed and valued in the setting. Research has shown that males within the early years especially help young boys with forming and building positive relationships (Kadane, 2017). This can be seen as children may not experience both a mother and father figure at home. By having males within the early years this gives young boys the reassurance and someone to talk to about any problems that may be concerning them, showing a calm and judgment free zone for the child. Another factor male can encourage social development is through encouraging children to see the diverse world we live in and accept that the Structuralist view of males going out to work and females being with the children to be changed. Having male teachers within the early years increased children’s social development as it enhances the culture of learning when children see that more men teaching. If children can see that we live in a world of diversity and live it everyday, their social development is heighted and the school atmosphere and culture improves (Kadane, 2017).
Another way males impact children’s development is emotionally. It is known that around one in three children in the UK experience being raised within a single parent family or have separated parents (Howard, Martin, Berlin ; Brooks-Gunn, 2011). This means that children can potentially seek the support and guidance or a certain gender that they do not have as a role model at home. The way in which males can help with this within the early years is being the positive role model some children crave. According to Lahelma (2006), boys within the early years choose to form relationships with the males in the setting due to the role model characteristics. As the early years is made up of 98% females, it is easy for young children to become familiar and comfortable with only having female teachers and trusting them as they are continuously providing care and inspiring female role models (Wale, 2017). Although this to be true, many children come from a single mother house hold and attend early years’ settings and have a certain view of trusting females more than males. From a traditional view of women’s work being with the children and at home, children learn these norms from a young age and translate these to their safe and familiar education settings. As well as this, research suggests that males are not as emotionally connected as women (Mistry ; Sood, 2013). This is a reason for male practitioners to play an important role for providing children with a positive male figure and allowing children to understand the importance and understanding of what a male role model figure is all about (Wale, 2017).
Another way in which children benefit from masculinity within the early years is through intellectual development. It is known that males are higher achievers in core and crucial subjects such as Science and Mathematics than females. Throughout early years, children learn basic mathematics and understand sections of science such as seasons, animals and basic experiments. At a young age, children perceive information at a quicker pace compared to older children, resulting in them remembering it at a faster pace than older children. Males also contribute to the gender attainment gap within early years. It is also known that an educational setting that employs more males can increase the attainment of boys, helping to close the gender attainment gap between both boys and girls. This shows the importance of masculinity within early years, with direct and influential impact on children’s intellectual development (Parpart, Connelly & Barriteau, 2011).
Due to the societal view of today, early years is seen as a tradition career for women to go into, inferring women take the motherly role and bring up children throughout the crucial years of their life. The sex role theory shows how both males and females are labelled into a certain career due to the perspectives and views of society. This shows how society is categorizing gender and introducing gender discrimination within the early years. Another theory that changed the view of society is the Structuralist theory. This is seen as a main reason for males to stay away from the early years due to judgements and societies view that males should be out working physical jobs, where as women should be at home with the children. Due to personal experience of having both male and female teachers, I believe it is vital for children to experience different teaching styles, understanding different perspectives and be aware that the gender roles theory present within todays education does not mean young children of todays generation cannot go into the early year’s sector, but encouraging boys to have the drive and ambition to become an early year’s practitioner in later life. Although this gender gap within education is still present, more recommendations and solutions to try and encourage more males to enter the early year’s workforce are underway, attempting to change the attitudes of parents, care givers and society as a whole.