n an ideal world, early childhood education advocates wouldn’t need strategies for building respect for the profession. We wouldn’t need to develop arguments for why pre-K educators deserve better pay and working conditions — the country would just accept this as fact and make it happen.

Yet, the reality is we must redouble our efforts to convince the country to create better working conditions for those who serve in early education roles.

The pandemic made the situation more acute: The U.S. has roughly 80,000 fewer child care workers since the pandemic started, a loss of 7.5 percent, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

We believe that part of the solution to the workforce dilemma is higher pay. One way to foster higher pay is by recruiting more men to the field.

Nationwide, only 1.2 percent of early childhood and kindergarten teachers are men, according to MenTeach. We see this phenomenon in our efforts to promote the Child Development Associate credential, which is now widely recognized in early childhood education and is based on a core set of competency standards. Such standards guide early childhood professionals toward becoming qualified educators of young children.

Wages tend to increase after men enter jobs dominated by women.

The BLS says that industry and occupational segregation — through which women are overrepresented in certain jobs and industries and underrepresented in others — leads to lower pay for women and contributes to the overall gender wage gap. Its data also shows that “jobs such as child care workers, domestic workers and home health aides are mostly held by women, and all of these roles pay below average wages.” Women-dominated jobs like these (“pink collar jobs”) are less likely to include benefits than jobs predominately held by men.

Academic research has also found “substantial evidence” that the proportion of females in an occupation affects pay because we as a society don’t value work done by women. Fast Company stated that while “female-dominated jobs merit better wages regardless of men’s entrance, men’s participation in these jobs may enhance the job’s status and economic value.”

Indeed, research has shown that wages tend to increase after men enter jobs dominated by women, potentially because employers may more highly value the work that men do or more readily accept men’s negotiations for higher wages.

Read the full article about early child care workers by Calvin Moore Jr. at The Hechinger Report.