by Ron Blatz, Executive Director - Manitoba, Canada

Since returning from the World Forum on Early Care and Education in Malaysia, I have been busy trying to get some relevant statistics regarding men in ECE here in Manitoba. Thanks to Kathy Reid, the Director of the Manitoba Child Care Program, here are the latest known figures as of June 2007.

  • 172 (untrained) Child Care Assistants
  • 45 (trained) Early Childhood Educators
  • That equals 217 men in our province.
  • We have a workforce that in round figures is about 5000 strong in the ECE field in Manitoba.
  • That has us at about 4.3% male staff.

I was thinking that it would be nice to take an annual snapshot of the workforce each June to see if our efforts and commitments to the work of increasing the male involvement are really making a difference. I believe they can, and that we will see this number rise as we change our “expectations” and really set our sights on working to correct the serious problem of the under-representation of men in the ECE workforce.

I would like to share some personal experiences with you that may assist you in your recruiting efforts.

Tip # 1 – Target Men in your advertising!

To successfully, and consistently recruit male staff you must understand that in general it takes a much more targeted approach than we are used to using. Figuratively speaking, if I row my ECE boat out into the workforce lake, many female fish (at least of the untrained variety) will literally jump into the boat. Others simply need to be informed (an advertisement in the newspaper) where the boat is and they too will jump in.

To get male employees takes a much different approach. The hook and bate used to attract females rarely works for males. We understand and accept this premise in fishing, but I don’t believe we have yet realized that the same concept relates to our recruitment of staff while working towards a gender balanced workforce in our programs.

For 27 years I took a generic gender neutral approach which never produced a gender balanced workforce. In May of this year, armed with a growing understand of this concept (thanks to Kenny Spence of Scotland) I penned a new advertisement to run in the Winnipeg Free Press newspaper. Not only did I use a new advertisement (or hook if you like) I also put it in a new location (remember not all fish are caught on the surface).

The following ad was placed in the “General” category of the paper and not in the Early Childhood section as was my previous practise. To my astonishment we had 30 men inquire about the job. I was stunned beyond belief but more importantly I was overwhelming pleased to know that in Winnipeg there were more men than I could have imagined who were interested in this line of work.

Here is the ad:

Looking for a few good men with the courage to work in Child Care. Discovery Centre believes gender balance is good for young children. Interested? Call Donna or Ron at …..”

When I share this exciting story with my colleagues their first question usually is…”Is that not discrimination and against human rights standards?” I’m no expert on that, but think it highly unlikely that anyone could in good conscience accuse us in ECE of being discriminatory towards women in our hiring.

Interestingly enough, in Scotland it is the law that all employers must ensure that they have a gender balanced workforce in their establishments. I wonder if that exists in Canada? Nonetheless, if you still feel uncomfortable with this type of an advertisement why not just add one more line to it that states “Females welcome to apply.”

So to all the 21 centres that have joined “Club 2-10” and have committed themselves to having a minimum of 2 male staff and working towards 10% by 2010, please consider using my number one tip when next faced with the recruiting challenge.

Here’s wishing you all the best from the heart of North America (Winnipeg is the City nearest the centre of the continent) as you carry on in the work of ECE.

And two more things I would like to mention, there are upcoming events I would like to encourage you to consider. October 17th here in Winnipeg we are holding our next MECE Support Group and are inviting all male and female ECE type people to attend. Contact me for more details.

As we share our experiences and stories we will find that recruiting and retaining a gender balanced workforce will become easier.

Also, please plan forward to May of 2008 in Hawaii for the Working Forum on Men in Early Childhood and Education. This may turn out to be the worlds largest gathering of it’s kind and is sure to inspire all as we work towards reshaping the face of ECE.

Ron Blatz, Executive Director
Discovery Children’s Centre Inc.
367 Hampton Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3J 1P7
Ph (204) 889-2689