Is teaching still seen as women’s work?

Education Week had a fascinating story about the lack of men entering teaching, even at a time when the field should be more attractive because of its relative stability in an economic downturn.

But, according to Ed Week, this downturn “seems to have worsened an already-vast gap between the numbers of men and women teachers, particularly in the early grades.”

My four children have had very few male teachers, although my two seventh graders have two this year.  Interestingly, that situation reverses in college where my two older children report having many more male professors and instructors.

Here is an excerpt of the article:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2011 Current Population Survey, men make up only 18.3 percent of elementary and middle school teachers and 2.3 percent of preschool and kindergarten instructors — a dip from the 2007 prerecession proportions of 19.1 percent in grades 1 to 8 and 2.7 percent in preschool and kindergarten. The numbers of men and women on high school teaching staffs are more evenly divided but still off parity; 42 percent of high school teachers in 2011 were men, down from 43.1 percent in 2007.

A panel of researchers and former elementary teachers at the American Educational Research Association’s annual meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia last month argued that the diminishing status of teachers generally, coupled with continuing sexism against men working with children, is helping tamp down the number of men willing to enter the field.

In previous economic declines, such as from 1939 to 1942, more men entered K-12 teaching, according to Bryan G. Nelson, head of MenTeach, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit that works to help men become educators. “Don’t get me wrong: If we started paying elementary teachers $150,000 a year, we’d see a massive influx of male teachers,” Mr. Nelson told Education Week in a separate interview, “but if it were just money, the proportion [of male teachers] would be the same in secondary and elementary schools, and that’s not the case.”

In spite of calls by President Barack Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan for more men—particularly black men—to become teachers, researchers said federal and state accountability measures have effectively lowered the prestige of teaching.

“The discussion around male teachers has gone pretty quiet recently; a lot of our discussion around diversity has taken a back seat to these other things, like the common core, state tests, high stakes, and all this stuff,” said Shaun P. Johnson, an assistant professor of elementary education at Towson University in Towson, Md., and a former District of Columbia teacher. He said: “The status of the teaching profession, I believe, weighs very heavily right now on men’s decision to go into teaching. Teacher bashing is a new national pastime … and [one] which you could argue is highly gendered. Its status as a profession isn’t going to improve in this climate; it’s only going to get worse.”

Researchers argued that though girls are increasingly encouraged throughout school to enter male-dominated fields such as engineering and mathematics, boys are given less incentive or opportunity to explore working with young children. For example, Robert M. Capuozzo, an assistant professor of early-childhood education at the University of Alaska-Anchorage, said many of the young men he teaches have never even held an infant, while the female preservice teachers have been baby-sitting and tutoring children for years.

“We don’t give boys the same opportunities that we give girls,” Mr. Capuozzo said. “It’s really important for the 6th graders to occasionally go down to read to the kindergartners or, if you are in an early-childhood setting, that the preschoolers get to go down and play with the infants, because it’s not an expectation that boys get to hold little babies.”

Male primary and preschool teachers are often accused of being gay, pedophiles, or simply “not masculine” for wanting to work with young children, according to Jeffrey M. Daitsman, a preschool teacher and early-education researcher at the Center for Practitioner Research at National-Louis University in Chicago.

Mr. Johnson and Mr. Capuozzo agreed, noting that male teachers are often seen primarily as disciplinarians and given students with more challenging behavior, even when a more experienced female teacher might be a better choice.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

88 comments Add your comment

Ron F.

May 14th, 2012
12:06 pm

“The status of the teaching profession, I believe, weighs very heavily right now on men’s decision to go into teaching. Teacher bashing is a new national pastime”

That about sums it up, I think. Men don’t generally go into professions dominated by negative views of their service, and I think the less maternal nature of men makes it easier for them to let go and walk away. I suspect the number of men will dip a little more before and keep on until we quit bashing teachers so bad.

I’ve also noticed that traditionally, men went into high school or college to teach. Women genearlly populated the elementary schools until well into the 1970’s.

Let's face it

May 14th, 2012
12:09 pm

I would guess the men in K-12 teaching are the main bread winners. We may see the number of men teaching drop in the next several years as salaries continue to decrease.

Beverly Fraud

May 14th, 2012
12:14 pm

I’m more surprised that the American Psychiatric Association hasn’t classified all college of education students as having Shared Psychotic Disorder under official DSM-IV guidelines.

What other PLAUSIBLE explanation would one have for going into teaching these days?


May 14th, 2012
12:16 pm

It’s hard to answer this question without referencing old stereotypes. Further in this article, it also mentions how men may not be seen as ‘nurturing’ as women are, especially in elementary school. As I think back to the teachers my children had in school, most were women. They did have more male teachers as they entered middle and high schools. Many of the males were in STEM areas and obviously coaches. I also recall the few men they had during elementary school looked at as also being the disciplinarians (though there were a few tough women teachers in that area also).

I believe if each of us thinks back to teachers we had during K-12, most will say most of the teachers were female.

Howard Finkelstein

May 14th, 2012
12:18 pm

WELL, if Team Obama/Duncan calls for addl male teachers then where are all the sheep jumping head over heels into teaching…Hmmm.


May 14th, 2012
12:20 pm

The teaching profession has been a pink-collar ghetto for quite a while. The lack of faith in the competence of teachers in the areas of subject area content, decision-making, and others mirrors the world’s general lack of faith in women’s abilities. Any time that one staffs a profession with women and funds this profession through tax dollars, there are going to problems of perception. I would like to see a comparison of the numbers of men who teach high school core subjects today, compared with those of the past few decades. I am wondering if we have experienced a decline in the number of men who qualify and then commit to teaching as a profession in English, Social Studies, Math, and Science, without spending the majority of their days in the P.E. departments, ISS, administrative duties, or coaching assignments. In short, I wonder if the number of men in high school positions is declining. I may be wrong, but I don’t think we’ve ever had very many men in the elementary and middle school levels. There are no coaching supplements available, fewer administrative posts to which to aspire, and less ’status’ in the eyes of some outside of the profession (though I’ve never understood that last one.)

Tad Jackson

May 14th, 2012
12:27 pm

At certain schools and with certain kids, a male teacher just works best.


May 14th, 2012
12:32 pm



May 14th, 2012
12:48 pm

Short answer – teaching is not an attractive career to most at this time.

Examples from this blog include:

- Many non teachers bash teachers here quite regularly.

- Getting into teaching via alternate means gets bashed by the profession. Unless the male chose a teaching career in college, it’s a trickier route to get into the profession.

- People with career ambitions usually move into the maligned management roles–prinicpals, central office roles, etc. There is probably a higher percentage of men that move in that direction instead of staying in classrooms.

-Earlier today: blog topic about students’ limited responsibility in helping themselves. It saddens me that more kids don’t get this basic idea–the more I learn, the better I get. If I lead an interested student to water, he drinks. If I lead an uninterested student to water & push his head into it, I get arrested, sued, fired, etc.

I like teachers, but I don’t know that I could put up with the things that they do. It’s easier to help from the outside.

mountain man

May 14th, 2012
12:49 pm

Why would a MAN (or anyone for that matter) want to degrade themselves, be put in an impossible position by asked to do the impossible, be paid a pittance, then have it reduced by furlough days and no raises, be given the responsibility of disciplining and teaching kids with no authority to do anything. Why would a person want to do that? Women can have all the teaching positions. Better yet, NO ONE should go into teaching. See how they can fill their ranks then. Maybe they would let the administrators do the teaching.


May 14th, 2012
1:10 pm

Believe me, this is not the situation in higher education, except in certain fields such as Education and Nursing. In college/University teaching, the male professor is the norm and female professors face systemic sexism in both direct and indirect ways.

HS Public Teacher

May 14th, 2012
1:20 pm

Men or women – it doesn’t matter. Until the general public view in Georgia changes there will not be any “gender” wanting to teach!


May 14th, 2012
1:23 pm

This is a no-duh finding. Most folks are not willing to go backwards in salary and benefits, and add additional responsibilities and constant negative press.


May 14th, 2012
1:27 pm

So even affirmative action can’t trump being “dissed” in the classroom. Yeah the whole prestige thing seems to be lost by most.


May 14th, 2012
1:40 pm

It took my daughter about 6 weeks to discover that teaching in the public school system was not the career path for her so she quit teaching and never went back.She just said it was a degrading experience and never spoke of it again.She went on to work in the DA’s office for a satisfying career.

Strangely enough her husband now teaches in a vocational school and loves it.I also taught at the vocational level and enjoyed it.


May 14th, 2012
1:42 pm

The real question is: Why does education do such a poor job at recruiting men? What is about the institutions thy make men not want to work there? There must be more outreach and recruitment focus to lame men more interested and to create a balanced, diverse, level playing field.


May 14th, 2012
1:47 pm

most teachers don’t get bashed. typically the bashing is aimed at “bad” teachers…..of which sadly there are way too many, and not nearly enough being removed each semester. If you personally feel under attack, it might be worth it to see reflect on whether, on the inside, you know you are one of these teachers….the good ones that I know never feel attacked. They see the good they are doing, and have parents and others around them regularly thanking them for the job they are doing.

Male Teacher

May 14th, 2012
1:58 pm

Thank you for a great read. I love education,but the teacher bashing is getting under my skin.

Political Mongrel

May 14th, 2012
2:10 pm

Frankly, I think more men are comfortable working with older students. I’ve knows some brilliant male elementary teachers, but the percentage of the total number of elementary teachers is low. There are more in middle grades. The high school I retired from was 50/50 male/female.

Personally, I didn’t like working with elementary students, and most male teachers I know felt much the same.


May 14th, 2012
2:13 pm

I think that the male population is low in teaching simply because we are not the nuturer by nature and the fact that our statue is more intimidating whichh would be cause for more problems at school.
The majority of male teachers are not going to take any crap from students male and female.. and just that fact makes it harder for a male teahcer to discipline a female student.

The other issue would be geared toward the female student to male teacher relationship, it is more likely that a female student and a male teacher would be suspect of fratinization than male student to female teacher..
Male teachers would require a female “para-pro” in the room at all times in order to handle the femal population of students.

Me personally, i wanted to be a teacher but seeeing the poor quality of parent involvement, lack of backing from the school system and poor pay, is what deterred me fro furthering my pursuit. Besides i did not want to go to jail for going up side one of the male students heads for the crap they want to pull….just sayin.

Jaye Fields

May 14th, 2012
2:27 pm

Male or female, dedicated teachers need to be supported and honored. Simply dealing with the youth of today is a challenge. Getting them to learn is a monumental task. I salute each teacher who can enjoy the art to teaching on any level in the classrooms of today..


May 14th, 2012
2:35 pm

Sorry, auto correct bit me.


May 14th, 2012
2:37 pm

We need more make teachers so the boys have more role models and adults they can connect and associate with. Especially since male role models in the home are decreasing so much.


May 14th, 2012
3:00 pm

It is okay. In a lot of states, education, teachers and those conected to education are not of any concern. So it does not make a difference what the teacher’s gender is.


May 14th, 2012
3:04 pm

I have a degree in history. I was told at my college that the state wanted it education students to get their degree’s in the content they wanted to teach.. They could then use the Georgia Tapp program to get a job and work on their Maters in teaching. So I went that route. It was my last semester when the systems started asking me why I did that. I have passed the GACE in middle school and high school history and I still am not able to find a job. It seems the only people they hire for those jobs are coaches.

Forced to be Anon >:(

May 14th, 2012
3:09 pm

“most teachers don’t get bashed. typically the bashing is aimed at “bad” teachers…” I disagree. Most bashing is generic and ALL teachers feel the sting as a profession. Hence the saying: “Those that can–do and those that can’t–teach. Why would anyone male or female go/stay in a profession that devalues it so completely?

In the past, men have felt they had other choices so they sought other jobs. It is difficult to change a societal norm. It’s happening, just very slowly.


May 14th, 2012
3:35 pm

Johnny: Learn to coach something, or start as an assistant.

Just A Teacher

May 14th, 2012
3:38 pm

Yes, it is. Historically, teaching has been viewed as a profession for old maids or women looking to supplement their husband’s income. This was the logic that kept the pay scale so low.

As a man who raised 3 children while working as a teacher, I can assure you that the pay scale remains ridiculously low when compared with other professions requiring a college education. It is nearly impossible for anyone who is the primary bread winner in a family to make enough money to pay back student loans and provide for his or her family.

Don’t get me wrong; I love teaching. The fact remains, however, that I have bills to pay. If I had known the reality of trying to survive on a teacher’s pay, I would have never entered the profession. My wife (who worked lots of overtime while I got 2 degrees) and my children deserve better.

If you want responsible family men in the classroom, you should pay them enough to support their families.

Tonya C.

May 14th, 2012
3:39 pm

The pay isn’t great and the respect isn’t really there. My husband is a teacher, and to be honest if he had majored in it when we met in college it would have been a no-go. For all the education that is required (he has a master’s) the pay isn’t that great. The beaurecracy and red tape drive many to the edge.

Our pre-teen son expressed an interest in following in his father’s footsteps and we told him not to consider it. I would like him to be the breadwinner and provider for his household and live comfortably, something that teaching may not afford him.

Learn History or Be History

May 14th, 2012
3:43 pm

Entered the profession under the cloud of “A Nation at Risk” and have never felt I have the done the job society has expected us to do–instead I have tried to focus on imparting the subject matter well and hopeful influencing students to be productive citizens. Retiring next week under the cloud of “Race to the Top”–but the top seems to be a chimera of a ever shifting set of expectations. Tired of being the whipping dog of most everybody. Not sure I would do this again…


May 14th, 2012
3:46 pm

reasons why men dont teach:

1). youre bound to get accused of touching kids if you give them hugs.
2). if youre not touching kids then youre a flirt if you talk to more than one woman in your building.
3). if youre not touching kids or flirting with chicks, then your gay because you arent touching kids or flirting with women
4). no matter the situation, youre always expected to handle discipline problems
5). you will always be used for manual labor.

Once Again

May 14th, 2012
4:08 pm

When a child can accuse an adult of sexual misconduct because she doesn’t like her grades and everyone from the principle to the DA to the media believe the child without question, why would any man want to put himself in that position?

Yes, the same rarely also happens to women teachers and frankly that is just a appalling.

Today’s mindless culture in government schools of zero tollerace = zero intelligence has laid a foundation for failure and created an environment in which nobody including the children are safe from the stupidity of the nanny/police state.

Stop treating boys and men an inherent criminals and maybe we will see excellence and more male teachers again in the future.


May 14th, 2012
4:09 pm

Who wouldn’t want to sit around a teacher’s lounge and hang with the intellectual elite? Talk about a meeting of the minds!


May 14th, 2012
4:09 pm

Why would they? The GOP continues to decimate salaries and benefits for teachers. Teachers are asked to do more, work off the clock for planning and grading, get paid less, take furlough days, and are bad-mouthed to no end. The question should be: “Why do women continue to go into the field?”


May 14th, 2012
4:14 pm

My husband is a middle grade 8th grade math teacher. He is wonderful at what he does and I think its great for the students to have a strong male role model in a field were mostly women work. I do have to work too, we can’t survive on just a teachers income, but I think that is the reality for most families these days.

Once Again

May 14th, 2012
4:18 pm

The absolute best teachers I ever had were men. There seem to be plenty of them in private schools. One I had drove 75 miles each way to work and I am sure for lower pay than the LA Unified School District paid at the time. He absolutely loved teaching and I cannot think of any student who didn’t love him as a teacher. On days when I was off from college I even came back to my high school just to sit in the back of his class and listen to him teach.

Can’t speak for all private schools, but maybe the problem is with the government system (as always).

A Conservative Voice

May 14th, 2012
4:22 pm

Folks, you heard it here…….”Online Public Schools will become the norm in probably ten years”, unless the discipline problem is solved before then.


May 14th, 2012
4:24 pm

Once Again

May 14th, 2012
4:08 pm

When a child can accuse an adult of sexual misconduct because she doesn’t like her grades and everyone from the principle to the DA to the media believe the child without question, why would any man want to put himself in that position?

Very well said! I have a friend who’s a principal and he says that there is not an abundance of male teachers, because they are accused of inappropriate behavior too often. He says when ever a child is sent to his office he will pull another staff member or two in on the conference just for back up.


May 14th, 2012
4:25 pm

I think teacher bashing is a big reason, who wants to deal with parents and kids who have zero respect for anything or anyone? The only time you can get in contact with some parents is when their child has a discipline issue and they come to defend his/her actions. “You are picking on my kid”, they don’t want to hear he is the one misbehaving and I have to keep my attention on him, its always the teacher’s fault.

And the pressure from these standardized test, a teacher is expected to teach a kid who has no intention and no interest in learning so he can pass the CRCT. Meanwhile he Christmas trees the answer sheet, because its not “cool” to be smart and care about your grades. Well that little gem of a child and his test taking can get a teacher fired, who wants to deal with that?


May 14th, 2012
4:28 pm

Among the reasons already expressed above. Men have a very low tolerance for PC BS and hand-holding and tend to want to solve problems directly instead of through comittees of endless jabber while the problem lays there unattended. Onerus CYA paperwork to protect yourself from parents who either care little (neglect) or care too much (little Jimmy can do no wrong…or even though I am not a doctor in your area of expertise I still know better, etc.) instead of being able to *gasp* actually be able to walk in and teach the subject expected is a HUGE deterent. I watched the local broadcast about the state of education in GA this last weekend and became a Ron Clark fan and a charter school fan. Cut the BS, cut the excuses, cut the red tape, expect more from parents and students and don’t settle for less. While you’re at it cut the strings that Federal money attach to the education process = huge CYA paperwork that doesn’t actually help teach little Johnny math one red cent better.

Mr Ed

May 14th, 2012
4:32 pm

Why ? Vindicitve kids that know all they have to do is accuse a male teachers of any type of sex based allegation and their career and lives are ruined, even when they find out (and the vast majority are) that it wasnt true.


May 14th, 2012
4:33 pm

*onerous…sue me I’m on an Iphone lol

Tonya C.

May 14th, 2012
4:39 pm

Once Again and WAR summed it up pretty much.

My husband is great at what he does, but NONE of my children (male & female) will be encouraged to follow in his footsteps.

Jeff H.

May 14th, 2012
4:42 pm

Got a [great] male teacher right here searching for a job. What’s the problem, a lack of male teachers or a lack of jobs for male teachers?

Rik Roberts

May 14th, 2012
4:51 pm

Of course it’s women’s work. Only working 52% of the year they have plenty of time to do their household chores, raise the kids and take care of their husband’s needs.


May 14th, 2012
4:56 pm

@ Tonya C,

“and to be honest if he had majored in it when we met in college it would have been a no-go.”

Are you THAT horrible and shallow of a person, or did you mean to word that differently?

Once Again

May 14th, 2012
4:57 pm

Somewhere we swung from the side of never believing the child to never believing the adult and taking the child’s side almost to a violent fault. When an adult tells you something about your child that you do not find pleasant, how about considering how much better off your child will be if that behavior/action/attitude changes, rather than how someone mentioning it reflects poorly on you??

I frankly can’t understand why anyone would want to get into a job that would put them against the kind of useless/worthless parents that we seem to be producing today. When I was a kid my parents took to heart what my teachers had to say about me as well as other adults. I got repremanded for those things they agreed with and counseled on those that they did not so I learned how to tread lightly around those problematic aduts in the future.

Instead of correcting the root cause of this male teacher problem, I imagine we will be seeing a “jobs” incentive program that will bring in all the wrong types of male teachers and successfully piss off the existing ones and the female teachers. That’s the government solution.


May 14th, 2012
5:03 pm

RE: A Conservative Voice and those Online Publc Schools.

From your lips to God’s ears. I would consider teaching then.

Tom(Independent-Viet Vet-USAF)

May 14th, 2012
5:05 pm

My son is a HS teacher(has been teaching for 6 yrs) who is required to coach at least 1 and is sometimes asked to coach 2 sports in HS. If he declines, he will lose his job to other males who will. Coaching stipends are very low and not worth the extra time it takes him away from his wife and young son. But he does it to keep his job, not fair in my mind that the HS can put on their teachers! I can only guess that his playing college sports is the reason for this?


May 14th, 2012
5:07 pm

I know several teachers, only two of them men. Personally, I think it’s great that they want to do that thankless job. I considered getting into the profession at one time because I was having a tough time economically and knew that it would be steady work with benefits etc… But the way kids and parents are today, I decided against it. There is too much drama and red tape that goes into teaching. I rated written assessment test for sixth graders for the state one summer and the results were depressing. One third of the children had excellent verbal skills with proper grammar and spelling along with the ability to express their point. The next third were children who obviously spoke another language other than English at home. These children were trying to get their point across and you could tell that they were quite intelligent but did not have the necessary language skills. The third group was just plain ignorant or dumb. These students had no interest in learning and really did not even try to complete the assignment. I am talking first grade writing level. I believe that the teachers had two options, teach the smart children, with a willingness to learn and ignore the rest. Or ignore the smart children, who are doing fine on their own and the attempt to teach the dumb ones. I guess the immigrant kids get left out. When there are five different languages among the students, how can anyone address that problem? In my opinion, you have one group of parents doing their job, the rest are not. School has more or less become a babysitting service. Parental apathy is a real problem, we are raising a bunch of sissified, self centered, entitled, lazy jerks.