Text: Monika Pedersen
When thinking back over the years spent in education, there is no denying that many fond memories of my former teachers tend to be female. This isn't because I didn't connect with my male teachers, but there were fewer of them, and, if any, in my primary education. As an educator now, there is still a notable lack of males in the primary sector, but it has improved a little in the secondary sector. Ironically, it is in the managerial domain where most male educators can be found. Nevertheless, women remain the profession's champions, which should be celebrated while working to support the profession's gender inequality, and expansion needs to continue.
Recent statistics in Denmark support this, with females accounting for 68% of teachers in primary schools, while 53% of male teachers can be found in secondary education. These figures are not far removed from European statistics, which show that in 2019, 73 % of the teaching workforce was female. And a survey by Zippia in the US shared that 74% of teachers are women. Interestingly, Denmark has the highest percentage of males in the teaching profession, with a percentage of 38%, as opposed to Latvia, where the percentage of males is only 13%.
Why do women populate the teaching force?
The usual reason for the large number of women in the teaching profession is that females are more nurturing. This is because they are usually mothers and have the much-needed maternal and intuitive instincts towards children. This is a fair argument, but some males have a natural talent for relating to children.
In addition, wages in the education sector have traditionally been low and have not attracted primary wage earners. Sadly, it has often been considered a secondary job, which could be worked around household tasks and childcare, thus a more appropriate form of employment for the female workforce.
Furthermore, many men do not see teaching as a 'masculine job' and seek other alternatives. So much so that many teaching colleges are trying to level up gender inequality with initiatives such as offering financial study incentives and rebranding the image of a teacher. The deconstruction of the image that a teacher is an older, kind, grandmother-type person into a dynamic, energetic person with a modern perspective of young people and the issues they may struggle to overcome is needed.
By reworking the identity of an educator and promoting a concept that a male teacher is more like a sports coach, who is seen as an inspirational, strong, and influential male, there is a chance it may go some way to increasing the number of men wanting to study and be an educator. However, many more initiatives need to be put forward to bring a surge of males into the teaching profession.
"The usual reason for the large number of women in the teaching profession is that females are more nurturing."
A growing need for teachers
The need to attract more teachers, irrespective of gender, is a topic of hot debate. Denmark and other countries face personnel shortages, with 45% of lower secondary teachers being 50 or older. Therefore, an influx of new teachers is needed. Unfortunately, the situation is not good, with 44% of teachers leaving the profession in the first five years. To add to this crisis, only 0.4 million, 7%, of the workforce are younger teachers under 30 years old in the three education levels.
With the persistent lack of resources, increased challenges in supporting young people, unsustainable government rulings in some countries, low wages and varying levels of job satisfaction, there is so little to draw the much-needed young population into the profession. Therefore, an urgent re-think is required.
While working on ways to entice young professionals, it is equally important to retain the current workforce, whose average age is 44. They hold the much-needed experience to maintain good standards. More incentives such as better working conditions, reduced work hours, higher wages, sustained professional development, and greater flexibility over the curriculum taught within the national guidelines are essential and will go some way to improve the status quo.
The teaching profession is not always given the status it deserves; without it, there would be no new generation of educated young people. Therefore, it is high time the profession and those in it, especially the female contingent, receive the accolades they deserve!