An Intersectional Approach to Men's Career Trajectories in Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC): Comparisons of Australia, China, and Norway

Year: 2019

Author: Xu, Yuwei, Sullivan, Victoria, Ljunggren, Birgitte, Emilsen, Kari, Thorpe, Karen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper will address the research question of how men’s subjective constructions of career trajectories, in ECEC, are shaped by intersections of social factors in Australia, China, and Norway. As a traditionally female profession, the role of the early childhood teacher is consistently viewed by many societies as the aegis of women, making men’s choice to enter the profession a contested and trying ordeal (Sumsion, 2000; Sargent, 2004). Despite these pitfalls, men have found their way into the profession, and are arguably valued as contributing to enabling a gender-diverse environment for young children (Warin, 2017). Along with this trend of men entering the profession, there seems to be a parallel phenomenon of men exiting the workforce. Turnover in ECEC for both genders is widespread (Totenhagen et al., 2016), but there is no data available on differences between male and female ECEC workers in this regard. Furthermore, little is known about their decision to remain or leave the profession (Brody, 2017). This research aims to fill this gap, by looking systematically at male dropouts (who exit the profession), and comparing them with ‘persisters’ - those who choose to remain in the ECEC workforce.

Taking an interpretivist approach, we collected data on three men from each country: a ‘persister’ - a man who has chosen to remain in the profession for at least five years, and two dropouts - one from qualification studies and one from the workplace. A three-part data collection protocol including narrative interview, semi-structured interview, and a graphic storyline procedure is followed. The data produced is being analyzed using intersectional analysis (Christensen & Jensen, 2012), and emerging intersectional themes include gender, class, ethnicity, generation (age), religion, professionalism, and sexuality & bodies. The intersections are further complicated by the researchers’ and the participants’ subjective interpretations, as shaped by the various cultural discourses situated in the three countries. In a global discourse of men’s scarcity in ECEC, this paper suggests that men’s career trajectories are more complex than shaped by being a man; whilst other factors such as social class, generation, and culture play significant roles in shaping men’s career decisions. The paper, therefore, challenges the reproduction of gender binary in the research on men in ECEC. Further, the cross-cultural comparisons in this paper will inform potential approaches to a ‘globalized’ agenda in attracting and retaining more men into ECEC, thus promoting gender diversity internationally.