The first stage of our project was a 2-day knowledge exchange event at Queen Maud University College, Trondheim, Norway’s lead institution in preparing teachers for Early Childhood Education.
Here, three members of the UK research team (Drs Jo Warin and Joann Wilkinson from Lancaster University, and Dr Jeremy Davies from the Fatherhood Institute), along with the leaders of our four English research hubs, met with Norwegian academics and practitioners with experience of improving the gender diversity of the early childhood education workforce.
Early findings based on the event – which included a visit to a ‘forest kindergarten’ on the outskirts of Trondheim – suggested that a concerted effort at local and regional levels supported by government funding, and target setting, as illustrated in Norway, may help bring about a slow but steady change in the direction of an improved gender-sensitivity amongst the EYE workforce. Context is key, however.
Key take-home messages identified by participants included:
1. Norway has a wide-ranging gender equality plan covering everything from parental leave and free childcare, to actions to reduce the gender pay gap and a target of 20% male participation in the early childhood education workforce.
2. Earmarked government funding has been provided to support male recruitment at regional and local level.
3. Strong leadership and belief in the benefits of a mixed-gender workforce are important.
4. Support and networking opportunities for male practitioners can improve retention.
The next stage of our research involves the research team and four hub leaders cascading our learning to EYE colleagues, and engaging eight different settings (pre-schools and primary school Reception classes – two from each of four hub areas), who will then form a sample of case studies. We will also administer a survey to the wider sector, seeking data on male recruitment and retention, and information.
Below are some photos from the event (all copyright GenderEYE):
Dr Joann Wilkinson introduced our project at this event in City Hall, London, which aimed to tackle the question: “What does gender equality mean in childhood?”
Research shows the importance of play in shaping children’s aspirations. The event explored the evidence and showed how adults across all sectors can be champions in challenging gender bias in children’s toys, books and activities.
Present at the event were members of the advertising, manufacturing, publishing and retail industries as well as representatives from parent groups, education, early years providers, government and children’s charities.
The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has claimed that he wants to tackle gender stereotyping early so every child can reach their full potential. This event was part of his flagship #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign.