After noticing an intriguing LinkedIn post recently, we were delighted to catch up with June O'Sullivan (CEO of London Early Years Foundation) about their exciting new initiative to increase the number of men in their workforce.
Nationally just 3% of the early years workforce are men, a level which has remained largely unchanged for the last twenty years. This astonishing lack of gender diversity in the sector has significant consequences for the children we care for, and for the teams in which we work. So with such a clear problem to overcome, what can be done about it?
June and the LEYF team have been passionate advocates for increasing men in the early years workforce for over a decade, and their hard work has had an impact - 8.2% of the foundation's 1,000 or so current staff are men. We asked June what her male team members said were the reasons they had chosen to join the sector, and to work for her organisation...
"One of the biggest things which I as CEO can do is to make sure all our team, but especially the men, know that I have their back. Men are disproportionately affected by malicious allegations of impropriety, and too often LADOs and other officials can be very predjudice in their response. My male colleagues know that LEYF does not tollerate malicious allegations, and that we will back them to the hilt if they are falsly acused"
Speaking more widely about what attracts men to work in early years, June highlighted that the motivating interests can be very different between men and women. From her time speaking to men in the sector, she hears a lot about the scientific and analytical aspects of the work. The process by which children learn, the steady assimilation of knowledge and skills and then the use of those gains to progress further can be engaging to male staff members more than to women. LEYF has a particular appeal to male staff in this respect because of their wide ranging engagement in academic research to help inform the wider sector.
As well as a passion for bringing more men into the sector, June is also a big supporter of apprenticeships. Many of LEYF's longest serving and most senior staff first joined the organisation as an apprentice. June recently set her team the challenge of combining these two areas of interest in the form of the first ever all-male early years apprentice cohort, which will run alongside their existing mixed group cohort.
June explains that the idea of this initiative is not to exclude other applicants who are still able to access their existing apprenticeship programme, but to take the opportunity to really focus on engaging men who might otherwise not have considered a career in early years. By establishing a specific cohort just for men, LEYF is able to promote the opportunity in very different places like boxing clubs and pool halls to try and grab the interest of talented men everywhere. June also hopes that being part of a cohort all working through their apprenticeship together at the same time will help to reduce the wariness some men might feel about joining such a female-dominated sector.
More information about the opportunity to join the amazing London Early Years Foundation as part of the first every all male apprenticeship cohort can be found here: https://www.leyf.org.uk/the-leyf-male-only-apprentice-group/