Teaching Stereotypes – Is teaching still seen as a female job? Recent statistics released by the Department of Education showed that the number of male teachers working in Britain has fallen for the fifth consecutive year. In fact, men now make up just 20% of the population’s teachers, down from 25% in 2010.
The question of why men are so reluctant to enter into the industry opens up a proverbial can of worms around the topic of gender stereotypes. The traditional roles of men and women in the workplace have been widely discussed over the last century, yet progress on the topic, if teaching statistics are anything to go by, appear to be slow in the United Kingdom.
That could be for a number of reasons, but one popular theory is that the small number of male teachers in the industry relates to the bigger issue of how much society influences a child’s upbringing. While kids obviously go to school to be educated, a by-product of that is the development of their social skills. School is where they begin to form opinions and beliefs, and seeing that the majority of teachers are female, continues the cycle of gender roles.
These gender stereotypes are so engraved into society that newborn babies are subjected to being separated at birth by the colours pink and blue. The idea that all women are kind and caring, or that men are strong and brave, is reiterated by what youngsters consume on their television or at the cinema.
A recent film by the educational charity Inspire the Future highlighted that fact by asking children aged between five and seven to draw a firefighter, a surgeon and a fighter pilot. Out of the 61 drawings, only five were female characters.
In Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Sweden, teachers have been working hard to build a culture of gender equality by challenging gender stereotypes from a young age. During breaks in primary schools, building blocks and cars are mixed in with dolls and dress-up costumes. The idea is that by interacting together from a young age and leaving children free to choose what they want to play with, it will help to create a greater sense of unity between the two genders.
The results have certainly been encouraging – over 40% of teachers in Sweden are now male. How much of that is a result of these actions is hard to judge, but the fact that all of the Nordic countries are now ranked in the top 25 in the opportunity pillar of the Global Gender Gap Index certainly suggests that it is having a positive impact.
When this is combined with a multitude of other gender-levelling factors, it is not hard to see why the region continues to see a truly diverse workforce. The salary gap between men and women in Scandinavian countries is lower than anywhere else on the planet. Women are actively encouraged to apply for leadership positions and men are forced to take paid paternity leave.
Those statistics from the Word Economic Forum suggest that the question of whether teaching is still seen as a woman’s job is a redundant one. The answer is, of course, yes, and the only way to overcome such an issue is by continuing to challenge society’s deeply engraved social attitudes when it comes to gender.