The UK early years education workforce lacks gender diversity; at only 3% male, the UK is below the European average and has barely improved over the last 20 years, despite efforts from within the sector.

The lack of diversity in early years education is not unique to the sector; there are other workforces characterised by gender imbalance. But it is extreme, and of particular concern given the importance of this workforce for ‘modelling’ gender diversity to future generations. Other traditionally female-dominated professions are significantly more gender-balanced, for example primary school teaching (15% male) and nursing (11%).

The UK Government’s plans to provide 30 hours of free early years education for all 3 – 4 year-olds require an increase in the total workforce; ensuring good quality provision necessitates recruitment from the full talent pool, both male and female. Evidence suggests almost half of private and voluntary sector providers have vacancies.

Countries that exceed the European average for men in the early years education workforce have grasped the importance of this issue for the advancement of gender equality, and have achieved improvements through concerted national campaigns.