Nursery Managers and Headteachers are constantly hearing about how the childcare and education sector struggles to attract male teachers and early years practitioners. Something has come across our stream that has to be an influential factor: the sexist stereotyping of job titles.
The definition of Nursery Nurse: Differences between traditional and modern society
A nursery worker who cares for children during their early years of age is typically defined as Nursery Nurse. The modern definition of Nursery Nurse refers to someone who, regardless of their gender, assists in many aspects of children’s daily lives, through social, emotional, educational and practical interaction, nurturing and guidance. This is done from a variety of settings, but mostly in nurseries and pre-schools.
However, the modern denotation of Nursery Nurse very much differs from its origins. The word nurse has its origins in the Latin word nutricia, meaning a person who suckles or nourishes. For many years in English and Old French, words for nurse have been referring to what we nowadays refer to as wetnurse: a woman who breastfeeds another woman’s child. The same Latin word nutricia derives from the word nutrix, which means wetnurse. Society has begun to typically use the word nurse to refer to somebody who helps other people in a more general sense since the 16th century only. It is no wonder then that we are finding it so hard to accept the idea of a male nurse, or even nursery nurse.
How society perceives gendered job titles
Even though the word for a male nursery nurse is still just nursery nurse, parents, staff and other members of the public usually specify that somebody is a male nursery nurse, as well as male teacher, early years practitioner, and so on. This is not surprising at all, considering how deep our interconnection between nursery nursing and femininity goes. Part of us wants to be forgiving and consider this as an aftereffect from more archaic times, where there is no conscious sexism going on. After all, people have always been reluctant to accept change in language.
However, we need to make a crucial observation when it comes to job titles: society has begun to recognise the importance of dropping gendered job titles. One way to tackle any potential discrimination is through HR professionals to accurately review job titles to ensure they are not unfairly biased towards one gender. Thankfully, hundreds of businesses and organisations have changed their perceptions of men and women occupying what were traditionally seen as male and female jobs. For instance, traditional gendered job titles like fireman and salesman have been replaced by more gender-inclusive options, such as firefighter and salesperson.
Based on the welfare requirements set by the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework, nursery nurses help to oversee, maintain and organise a clean, tidy, child-friendly environment. They supervise activities, such as messy play, arts and crafts, cooking, reading and outdoor/physical development. Nursery nurses also plan, observe and assess children, keeping records that inform parents and carers about their children’s learning journey. These are obviously tasks that can be performed by practitioners of any gender. However, feeding meals, changing nappies and generally nurturing children sadly still feels very much like a female job in modern society, as it is still a role mostly performed by women. It’s evidence of the persistence of gender stereotypes like the idea that women are more natural caregivers.
Are you a Nursery Murse, Male Nursery Nurse or simply Nursery Nurse?
Employers and recruiters working in the childcare and education industry have to be careful not to perpetuate gender stereotypes along the job titles they advertise. In the wider context, language certainly plays a crucial role in attracting male teachers and early years practitioners to job vacancies.
We have interviewed over 50 childcare and education recruiters, some of which have first-hand experience in the education industry and have directly worked in nurseries and schools.
More than 80% of our participants in the survey perceive the Nursery Nurse job title as non-discriminatory. They strongly believe that a nursery or school cannot be accused to gender-discriminate candidates by advertising their job titles as Nursery Nurse. They also think that male teachers and early years practitioners already working within the education industry do not find the job title unfair or prejudicial. However, they do regard as true the fact that such job title might put new men off the childcare industry, preventing new male figures to join the teaching workforce, especially if they have never worked in education before and are considering a career change.
The feminisation of the nursery nurse role is the number one factor that refrains new men from joining the education industry. Therefore, moulding any job title to a more gender-inclusive alternative can significantly help nurseries and schools attract more male candidates to their setting.
Below are some examples of gender-neutral job titles that nurseries and schools can use to advertise their vacancies:
- Nursery Practitioner
- Early Years Practitioner
- Early Years Educator
- Nursery Worker
- Early Years Worker
- Day-care Practitioner
- Childcare Practitioner
- Childcare Educator
It is common knowledge in the UK that hiring more male teachers and early years practitioners in nurseries and schools brings several benefits to the overall quality of teaching. You can read our article on attracting male teachers and early years practitioners to learn top tips to diversify the gender of your teaching staff.