[EDEQUITY] "Gatekeepers" for Nontraditional fields

From: Craig Flood (CFlood@aol.com)
Date: Wed Jun 12 2002 - 14:44:40 EDT

Meg Anderson responding to a Title IX/Nontraditional question posted on
June 7th, 2002:
"Okay, I've got to respond to this one. My son has wanted to work in
early childhood ed for years and has been told point blank that he is
unemployable because of generalized suspicion of any man who would
want to do the work. He has wondered if it doesn't reflect a poor
self image on the part of the women involved since there seems to be
an attitude that the only reason a man would want to do the work was
if he was a pedophile!?


While I don't agree with the conjecture about poor self-image, I do believe

that the kind of "advice" your son has been given is a very clear example
the types of sweeping generalizations and destructive stereotypes that have

proven to be barriers for women. Most specifically, this is a reflection
the way in which homophobia, in its most pervasive and insidious form,
creates a persistent and sometimes insurmountable barrier for many boys and

men in multiple areas of their lives. Sadly, this "caution" about hiring
men, borne out of the behavior of an incredibly small number of men, gives
"reason" to discouraging the significant resource and role that men can
in early childhood education...pre-K through all of elementary school. And

though these stereotypes may not be as embedded in the institutional
practices that still create barriers for girls and women, they are no less
powerful in their message and ultimate impact on the men being discouraged,

as well as our society at large.

To me, this is a critical issue for gender equity advocacy. Just as we
tried to root out and neutralize messages that discourage girls and women,
is imperative that we employ the same vigilance with respect to these
damaging stereotypes about boys and men.

My work in promoting nontraditional careers for females often involved
focusing on the "gatekeepers" in nontraditional training programs, those
instructors and counselors that can have such a dramatic impact on feeling
encouraged or discouraged in that course of study. The disparaging advice
your son describes seems parallel to the messages we have worked so hard to

erase from our daughters lives. They are messages that serve to deny
Who are the "gatekeepers" here and how might we work proactively to address

the "prejudice" you have identified here. This is clearly not an isolated
example; I hear about it frequently.

It could be argued that the early childhood concerns don't carry the same
weight because nontraditional careers for women are, in large part, about
providing economic self-sufficiency. It is, of course, a hollow argument
we truly believe that our goals extend beyond simply access to economic
self-sufficiency. I have always coupled that with the equally important
of "well-being" that serve to ground individuals' informed decisions about
career and life.

Unfortunately, early childhood education and men don't mix on more than
the level of concerns expressed to your son. The fact that it is seen as
"women's work" and, therefore devalued only compounds the issue of access
self-selection for males. There is so much to be gained by openly
an increase of men in early childhood and elementary education. It is
implicitly part of the conceptual whole of gender equity efforts. In
recognizing it as such, the results of these efforts can only serve to
promote learning environments free of the bias that limits access to
self-sufficiency for women and men alike.

Craig Flood

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