Inviting Women into "The Men’s Room”
by Jerry Speraw, Men in Child Care Committee Chair
In support of women writers, Virginia Woolf suggested in her 1929 book that, like men, in order to write fiction one of the essentials that a woman needs is “A Room of One’s Own.” With sincere respect, but also with a bit of playfulness, some men in child care have suggested that one of the essentials that a man needs in the child care field is a metaphorical “Men’s Room” (my thanks to Greg Uba for the inspiring thought, and we’ll save the discussion of an actual men’s room for another time).
This column and its title, an admittedly provocative attention-getting device (insert smiling emoticon here), are an effort toward realizing that idea.
Please note that this proposes neither the creation of an exclusively male discussion room nor a locker room mentality, the latter of which has decidedly unpleasant connotations. Instead, the idea promotes the creation of a welcoming place for all CAEYC members in which to introduce and discuss topics that deserve/require attention relating to men in the child care field, so that those who enter, through reading this, may contribute to and benefit from an open exchange of information and perspectives.
That being said, it has been my responsibility for the past year, as Chair of the CAEYC Men in Child Care (MiCC) Committee, to organize members and develop a program to examine and address issues and concerns affecting men in early childhood education.
My initial objectives have been the following:
1. To identify, contact, and recruit CAEYC members who are, have been, or might be interested in MiCC topics, issues, and committee work;
2. To create and provide an authoritative voice to CAEYC members interested in the promotion and dissemination of MiCC information;
3. To promote and foster thoughtful discussion of issues and concerns involving, affecting, and confronting men in early childhood education;
4. To increase and improve the visibility and recognition of men and the important role that they play in the development of healthy children and the support structure of families;
5. To actively respond to opportunities in support of MiCC interests and objectives;
6. To develop, establish, and maintain a strong presence in formulating and supporting CAEYC policies, programs, and activities which both reflect and affect MiCC interests; and,
7. To encourage individual CAEYC member reflection on both institutional and personal bias, prejudice, and discrimination in regard to male involvement in all levels of early childhood education.
In support of the first three of these objectives, I have constructed the website at CAEYC Men, designed to be a virtual meeting place for the convenient exchange of information and ideas by CAEYC members who have allied themselves with MiCC interests.
While men have initially been recruited as more likely to participate and have interest in the committee’s work and in setting its agenda, women have also provided significant support and participation, reflecting thoughtfulness about the presence and influence of men in the lives of children in our collective care. This was publicly evidenced in the committee’s meeting at the CAEYC conference last April, and has continued in responsiveness to website email queries.
While the current committee membership of 39 includes 5 women (12%), our email subscriber list of 24 includes an additional 9 women, demonstrating an involvement or interest by women amounting to 22% of the 63 CAEYC participating members. Considering the limited outreach efforts that have been completed so far, this is both significant and encouraging, and serves to demonstrate the appeal of this topic to CAEYC members.
Consequently, I am hoping that this column will encourage you to visit the Men in Child Care website listed above and consider becoming part of this expanding and dynamic group of people interested in progressive action in support of men in our field and the talents, skills, nurturing, and dedication that they bring in their work on behalf of children.
Lastly, I want to thank Eve-Marie Arce for her confidence in offering me the opportunity last year to chair the Men in Child Care Committee. Her recognition and support of the need to address issues in this area is encouraging for all in the field who have an interest in developing a more representative gender workforce and the talents, perspectives, and influences that already enriches the lives of many children, parents, and early childhood education professionals.