Posted by: lianafavale | February 6, 2020

Teaching as a Female Dominated Profession

As an aspiring elementary school teacher I was especially interested in the previous blog posts about education. One thing that was mentioned, and is a relatively well known fact, is that classroom teachers are predominately women. According to data from an article in The Atlantic, during the 2015-2016 school year, 76% of teachers were women. Something that I am particularly interested in is why teaching continues to be so dominated by women and the implications this may have on the field itself.

Teaching originated as a career for men, but as public education became more popular, women were looked upon to take on the role of teaching. Because women are seen as being more nurturing and caring in their approach to working with others, teaching was traditionally seen as one of the few acceptable roles for women in the workforce. Today, it is more common for women to pursue careers in more “masculine” fields like STEM or business. However, teaching is still seen as a female profession because of the traditional warm demeanor that is expected of teachers and is associated with women. While teaching in itself is largely associated with women and more feminine features, the higher up leadership roles within the education system are still seen as more masculine fitting roles.

There are several contributing factors as to why men are less likely to even consider teaching, specifically at the elementary level. The reason that I find the most fascinating is because teaching is very belittled in the U.S. While teachers are valued as important in many other countries such as China and Malaysia, teaching in the U.S is often regarded as glorified babysitting, or an exceptionally easy career path. In my personal experience, when I mention wanting to teach kindergarten or first grade, many of my friends(mostly males) have made remarks like, “you’re way too smart for that” or “teaching is beneath you”. People tend to focus on the care-taking aspect of teaching and forget about the many other aspects and challenges that come with the job. Because of the traditional care-taking perspective of teaching, men think of it being beneath their capabilities. The other common reason for men to not consider teaching is the low pay. There have been some suggestions that all teachers should be paid more in order to attract more male teachers, but why not just raise the salary because teachers deserve it?

The distinction between the amount of female versus male teachers is not something I paid a lot of attention to as a student, but it has been suggested that having more male teachers would also be beneficial to male students. I think a large part of why I decided I wanted to teach at a young age is because that is where most of my female role models came from and I was able to see myself in them. For boys to have male teachers in schools to look up to as men who are in a nurturing and compassionate role, it could encourage male students to be more compassionate and warm themselves. Additionally, seeing more male teachers could encourage more men to aspire to be teachers in the future.

What are your thoughts? Are there certain gender roles or expectations that you have noticed being perpetuated through teachers? Do you think it is important for students to have exposure to more male teachers?

https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/02/the-explosion-of-women-teachers/582622/


Responses

  1. I find it outrageous that there was possible talk of raising the salaries of teachers to attract men, as if the women in those roles were undeserving of the same pay as men. I also want to go into the education field. The biggest reason that I want to go into education is the same as you, I had incredible female teachers when I was growing up, and I saw them as my role models. I looked up to them, and learned better from them. It was not until middle school that I had a male teacher, but I benefitted from him in a different way. I had a teacher who was a little bit tougher on me in science (which I was not very good at, at the time). He also had a different way of thinking than many of my female teachers, so if I did not understand something the first time, I understood it the second or third time he explained it. Just like with leadership, men and women bring different qualities and expertise to the table. Mixing both female and male teachers makes learning a more enriching experience for children.

    I found this article: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/07/sunday-review/why-dont-more-men-go-into-teaching.html
    which explains in more detail why exactly men don’t go into teaching. One of the points that it made stated that, “jobs dominated by women pay less on average than those with higher proportions of men, and studies have shown that these careers tend to enjoy less prestige as well.” This is disheartening, because this system of unequal pay devalues women. It then goes on to belittle the jobs more commonly filled by women, to the point where men find it below them to take on those jobs.

    I will say, that I do agree with this article when it explained how many women are drawn to this profession because it seamlessly coincides with the schedule of their children. One reason that I am so excited to become a teacher, is because I know that I will be home before or at the same time that my kids get home, and I will be home with them during the summers. I won’t lie-those factors do appeal to me, and I can see where they would appeal to other women as well.

  2. In elementary school all of my teachers were females. Obviously as a little child I never thought much about it. It wasn’t until middle school where I had a male teacher. To top it off, he taught physical education. I think that having more male teachers in elementary and middle school would be very beneficial. Like you mentioned, young boys having male teachers in schools could positively impact the way they view men and women. Making youth education a more equally represented field I think is important. It may be hard to encourage more males to seek jobs in education for various reasons. You mentioned low pay as being a reason men don’t seek teaching jobs. I think determining the other reasons is also important because there may be more underlying causes other than pay. I also agree that teachers in general are undervalued and deserve to be paid more. I do not think raising salaries to recruit men is not a good idea. Increasing pay to recruit men will only further gender discrimination in my opinion because it showcases gender biases.

    Women face the double bind of needing to be the caretaker but also assertive to progress in their jobs. The role of the teacher though focuses more on the nurturing aspect so men may be deterred from this field because men are “supposed” to be masculine and dominating. I think it is also interesting to note that the nation’s teaching force is still mostly female and also mostly Caucasian. While making the teaching force more equally represented more males is needed, but also more diversity in race and ethnicity is important as well.

  3. This post made me think of the reading we had assigned for tomorrow’s class – The Great Women Theory of Leadership? by Pittinsky, Bacon, and Welle. Your post made me think of it because of how you discussed the way teaching is female-dominated field and this can be attributed to females being seen as more nurturing, etc. and the article went into detail about how harmful this type of stereotyping can be, even when it is done to lift up women leadership.
    What’s interesting to me is that usually we discuss how male-dominated fields are limiting females because men are seen as a natural fit for that career or field and how that is harmful to women who are just as capable. Here it is the reverse – a female dominated field may ostracize men because women seem more fit stereotypically. Boys don’t grow up with a lot of representation of male teachers to see themselves in. They aren’t assumed to be caring/nurturing but I think that is a harmful sentiment to hold. I have had male teachers who are far more understanding and relational than some female teachers I have had. Just as having a female presence/perspective in current male-dominated fields is important, I think it is also beneficial to have male presence/perspective represented in the female-dominated field of teaching. Of course I am referring to actual classroom teaching, not administration where there is strong male presence. I think it could be extremely beneficial for little boys to see male teachers who can be just as caring and nurturing as the female teachers and to normalize the fluidity of these various “masculine” and “feminine” traits.

  4. I think it is sad that women are often belittled for teaching when almost every single individual in the United States can thank a teacher for where they are today. I think the problem goes back to the stereotypes of the attitudes of men and women as leaders and in the workforce. Men must appear tough, aggressive, and almost lack emotion while women are nurturing and caring. In my town, male teachers are frowned upon by society especially in elementary school as it is thought they would not work well with the kids. Further, all of my male teachers were almost always coaches and or PE teachers on top of teaching a male dominated subject such as math or science. Male teachers that taught more feminine stereotyped subjects such as English or theatre were seen as girly and not tough. On the flip side, the few female teachers that taught PE or other physical classes were seen as masculine. These teachers were normally seen as unemotional and extremely tough on students. If male and female teachers were not put into the traditional boxes, the community was uncomfortable. This is an issue in modern day society and a change is certainly long overdue in our systems. Equal pay is a definite start, but not for the reason to hire more male teachers. Instead, it should be solely to honor teachers for their hard and successful work with students. Pay should equal to that of other professional careers I believe. There is a documentary I watched in a sociology class that pointed out the high pay discrepancies for teachers. According to the film, most teachers had to get second jobs to afford to provide for their families on top of their long hours at school. This a large issue that needs to stop. Babysitters are paid more than teachers in some areas, therefore if they are “glorified babysitters”, at least pay them babysitter wage times the amount of children in the class. I can almost guarantee that is much more than they are currently getting.

  5. As someone who is going into secondary education this is an interesting topic to me. I will be teaching middle/high schoolers math, which is obviously a male dominated field, in an atmosphere that is dominated by female teachers. Since math is a STEM field their are more male math teachers, and with the addition of it being secondary education the likelyhood of having a male teacher for a math class is generally higher, however the teaching is still a widely female profession. I really resonated with the point about having male teachers be positive role models for young men. My brother was never a particularly well behaved boy, but he always seemed to “click” with his male teachers. No matter how much we may deny it we as people tend to feel more attached to people who have similar attributes to us, this is why representation in the media matters. My brother felt the need for male role models even if he didn’t quite know it. The representation of having a man lead in the classroom setting was one that he needed so that he might be able to feel more included. If half of the students are male but less than a quarter of the teachers are as well there is bound to be a disparity of positive role models. The way to bring more men into the profession of teaching is to continue having conversations about “gendered professions”, and stereotypes. We must continue to disprove common assumptions if we want to move forward. Yes, teaching should be more widely respected, and teachers should. Be paid better wages. However those actions should not be taken as a recruitment process for men, as it would devalue the women already teaching.

  6. The gender dynamics in the classroom have certainly become a hot topic. I intend to teach middle or high school Spanish, and even though that is generally a female-dominated subject (with some exceptions), male teachers tend to be more common in secondary or higher education fields. Of the 23% of male teachers in the workforce, 36% works in secondary education (2015-2016 https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_clr.asp). Perhaps this is due to the more nurturing and care-giving nature of the profession; as with nursing, men are generally seen as lacking the skills or ability to perform well in these female dominated fields. Aside from the wage gaps and possible workforce stereotyping, the presence of both male and female teachers can be very beneficial. You made a good point that having male teachers can be beneficial for students. In particular, research I’ve done in the past shows that having more black male educators in particular can really help increase graduation rates and student motivation — it comes back to seeing that you can be more than what you think you are. Part of effective leadership is serving as a role model for those below us to look up to. If we all enter fields that we’re passionate about, whether that be education, STEM, nursing, etc., we will continue to pave the way for those communities that we represent in particular, whatever those may look like. When we step outside the bounds of what society determines should be our roles and experiences, we allow for a greater generation of leaders to come forth. Representation matters, and I hope that the dynamics and stereotypes of teachers will change. Teachers are capable of being the best leaders in my opinion, as they shape the minds of the leaders to come.

  7. I wonder if another reason many men do not teach lower level schooling (like pre-school and elementary school) is because society often thinks bad things when men are alone around children. If a man is in the park by himself sitting on a bench and doesn’t have a child with him he is often labeled creepy and a potential pedophile. I know this is kind of an extreme jump, but I know of many different childcare policies that prohibit men being around children. I agree with things previously said about having male teachers be great role models for male students and I do think representation is an important part of self growth and realizing the ability you have to be whatever you want to be. However, I do see society playing a huge barrier in having men be teachers for young children just because of the few and far between examples of males doing inappropriate things with children. I wish there was a way to overcome this barrier.

  8. The “warm demeanor” that is described in the blog post that is attributed to female teachers seems to be similar to the idea of Great Women Theory described in this week’s reading, The Great Women Theory of Leadership by Pittinsky, Bacon, and Welle. The stereotypical traits described in the Great Women Theory are traits such as women being kind and compassionate. These traits are good for teachers but should not be solely attributed to one gender over the other. I went to high school in a very interesting environment, the biggest military base in America. All my male teachers were retired military members so the stereotypes and traits they portrayed tended to be very heavily masculine. The concept of boys not having male role models to look up to is particularly interesting and eye opening in relation to where I went to high school. The boys I went to high school either had female role models or very masculine men as role models but what if they did not see themselves in either of these types of role models that the school system produced?

  9. I find your point about having more male teachers to impact upon young boys to be very important. In my elementary school, there was a fifth grade teacher who was one of the kindest and most important teachers at our school. He impacted almost every student, whether it be in the classroom or during recess, where he would actively play with kids, teach them lessons about nature, and show them camping tips like how to make our own lean-tos. I would argue that he had a more “warm demeanor” than some of my female teachers. My brother had him as a teacher when he was in fifth grade and this teacher impacted his life more than any of the other teachers he had throughout elementary school. My brother bonded with this teacher in an unimaginable way. The summer after my brother graduated elementary school, this teacher died of a heart attack. Our whole community grieved his loss immensely, but my brother cried for days. This teacher had impacted his life so much, and I think a big factor was the fact that he was a nurturing male figure that my brother and many others could rely on. I would argue that a lot of the reason that men don’t pursue elementary teaching is because of the stigma that it is an easy field and also the fact that it is mostly female dominated. Men do not feel the need to pursue education for the reason that the common thought surrounding education is that it is easy to do but also that it requires feminine characteristics of nurturing and “warm demeanor”. I would argue that it is very possible for men to pursue this field, however they believe that they must push themselves to do more difficult career paths, like STEM. I believe that if we could remove the stigma that education is easy and only for women, and highlight the challenges that are in education, more men would be drawn to the field because they would see the value that teaching has and the difference that can be made upon the youth, especially young boys, when they have compassionate male figures to look up to in the classroom.

  10. I wonder how much of the unbalance of male and female teachers may be accredited to the origins of certain gender roles. In colonial America, and largely until after the industrial revolution and market economy radicalized the home and family life, motherhood was very closely tied to the responsibility of educating their children. The role of a woman, particularly upon the introduction of “republican motherhood” in post civil war America, was to educate their children through schooling and the imposition of knowledge of gender expectations, even if the latter was less explicit. This post made me curious how much of that became ingrained in our idea of education and how things might be different if this moral and virtuous responsibility was granted to fathers instead, and even why this was initially the case.
    The role of educating the future of America was never dismissed, as mothers were given the important task of creating strong male leaders in their children, though for some reason we as a society collectively undermine this


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