Why is teaching becoming more feminized?
There is no question that teaching is becoming a more feminized profession.1 In fact, women now make up the majority of the teaching workforce in the United States. So why is this happening? There are many reasons for this trend. One that is often cited is the changing family dynamics and increasing educational opportunities for women2, but teaching has become a safe and welcoming space for many women. This further perpetuates this image of teaching being “woman’s work”.
Changing family dynamics
One of the most important factors in the feminization of teaching is changing family dynamics. In previous generations, it was much more common for women to stay at home and raise children while their husbands worked. However, today, more and more women are entering the workforce.
This doesn’t just mean that more women are out looking for jobs and teaching is an ideal profession. The more important outcome is that this means that there are simply fewer women available to stay at home and care for children. As a result, more and more families are turning to female teachers to care for their children during the day.
Increased educational opportunities for women
In addition to changing family dynamics, another important factor in the feminization of teaching is increasing educational opportunities for women. In the past, women were often discouraged from pursuing careers in education. However, today, there are more opportunities than ever before for women to enter the teaching profession.
This is due in part to the fact that there are now more colleges and universities that offer programs specifically for female teachers. Many universities are also offering courses part-time or online so that women can study around other responsibilities. This doesn’t only benefit many women, but also people with different cultural expectations which in the past prevented them from being able to access tertiary education at all.
Increasing number of women in leadership
Teaching has always been a female-dominated profession. In addition, many of the changes that have taken place in education over the past few decades can be attributed to the increasing number of women in leadership positions.
As more women enter the field of education, it is likely that feminization will continue. However, this does not mean that teaching is becoming less effective. In fact, research has shown that feminine traits, such as empathy and collaboration, can be beneficial in the classroom.
Is this a bad thing?
These are just some of the reasons why teaching is becoming a more feminized profession. It is also becoming more of a self-perpetuating cycle – more women enter teaching as it is easier to become qualified and the work is regarded as nurturing and suited for women, which leads to a stronger perception of teaching being a female profession.
Boys need strong male role models
Being in such a feminized profession also has a significant impact on male teachers.3 This is both in regard to their opportunities for employment, as well as the expectations of the profession that are placed on them and the role that they are expected to fulfil. We need male teachers, as all of our students deserve to have role models that they can look up to.
Some people believe that the feminization of teaching has led to a decline in standards, with boys in particular suffering as a result. They argue that boys need male role models in the classroom and that the traditional teaching style favors girls’ strengths in literacy and verbal skills. There have been studies that support this theory; that girls do tend to score higher for achievement as well as a connectedness to school, but also school anxiety.4 While it is good for boys to interact with and learn from women, it is important that their unique needs are understood and addressed.
It is easier to entrench a gender pay gap
In the USA, teachers are paid 21.4% less than other professionals with comparable qualifications. While male and female teachers are rarely paid at different rates, teaching is a notoriously underpaid profession. It is difficult to see an underpaid profession that is predominantly female and not think that gender has played a part.
It is also interesting to note that in many places around the world, High School teachers typically have a higher pay. While this is not always explicit (it has more to do with the amount of training, etc.), more male teachers are in High Schools compared to Primary.
It places increasing demands on teachers.
Teachers are increasingly seen as a mother figures, and that classroom management is becoming more focused on emotional support than on academics. It is increasingly common for teachers to be expected to do the work of counsellors, social workers, and even parents for their students which is not their role or what they are trained to do. Not only does expecting teachers to fulfil a role that they are not qualified for put our students at risk, but it also leads to emotional burn out when teachers put excessive pressure on themselves to do the best for their students.
Do you feel like this is a problem?
Do you have any thoughts or experiences to share about why teaching is becoming a more feminized profession? Do you think that it’s positive for the profession or something that needs to be addressed? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below!
1Brennan, M. (2009). Steering teachers: Working to control the feminized profession of education. Journal of Sociology, 45(4), 339-359. Chicago
2Galman, S. (2012). Wise and foolish virgins: White women at work in the feminized world of primary school teaching. Lexington
3Bongco, R. T., & Ancho, I. V. (2020). HisStory in the feminized teaching profession in the Philippines. Journal of Contemporary Eastern Asia, 19(2), 197-215. Chicago
4Freudenthaler, H. H., Spinath, B., & Neubauer, A. C. (2008). Predicting school achievement in boys and girls. European journal of personality, 22(3), 231-245. Chicago Books.