January 21, 2019

Why are teachers mostly female? Because men get better pay in other professions

File 20190118 100273 1et8dqy.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

Men and women face different trade-offs when choosing careers.
www.shutterstock.com

Massimiliano Tani, UNSW

Women are considerably over-represented in the teaching profession. Recent data show, among recent Australian university graduates, 97% of pre-primary teachers, 85% of primary teachers and 68% of secondary teachers are female. Similarly, large proportions of women in teaching are also observed across the OECD.



The share of male teachers in Australia has been declining since 1977. What can explain this notable and persistent gender imbalance? Generally, it’s attributed to gender differences in occupational preferences and social roles.




Read more:
Male teachers are an endangered species in Australia: new research


But our research suggests economic forces may be a key contributing factor. Understanding and addressing the reasons for the gender imbalance in teaching is important. It represents a distortion in this particular labour market. It could also send and perpetuate unhelpful signals about the career aspirations of men and women, to the detriment of both.

“It’s the labour market, silly!”

In a recent paper, we considered whether women (and men) choose to become teachers in line with or in spite of economic incentives. In the context of Australia, research shows the quality of people who choose to go into teaching responds to the relative wage distribution in the labour market. In other words, a higher wage attracts better quality teachers.

Our analysis investigated whether the gender composition in teaching reflects the relative wage distributions for women and men. In particular, we compared the salaries of women choosing to become teachers to that of women choosing other professions. We also carried out a similar analysis for men.



This approach helps explain the observed gender distribution. For men, the opportunity cost of becoming a teacher relative to choosing another profession is high. Men give up a higher potential salary by choosing teaching over a non-teaching career.

For women, the opposite occurs. Average salaries are lower in non-teaching occupations, so the choice to become a teacher comes at a substantially lower opportunity cost. It can even be a more profitable career choice than others because for women with a Bachelor of Arts (BA), teaching is one of the best paying jobs.




Read more:
We need to support more men to become primary teachers


This suggests wage structures in the labour market underpin occupational choices. Men and women face different trade-offs and opportunity costs when choosing careers. This may contribute to the observed concentration of women – or feminisation — in certain occupations.

Clearly, the concentration of women in teaching is problematic from a gender equality perspective. Parents, students and schools value the exposure to a diverse workforce that is more representative of society.

What can be done to attract more men to teaching?

A seemingly obvious solution is to increase teachers’ salaries across the board. But this may, in fact, raise the concentration of women in teaching even more. Higher salaries would further increase the returns in teaching relative to other professions for women.



Raising salaries for all teachers wouldn’t necessarily encourage more men to go into teaching.
from www.shutterstock.com

But it would have a small or negligible impact on the returns for men. Men would continue to be attracted to the higher salaries in professions other than teaching.

Efforts to raise the share of male teachers are likely to have limited success until the underlying structural economic incentives are addressed. That is, the higher wages in non-teaching jobs, which tend to pull men away from teaching.




Read more:
Primary schools are losing more and more male teachers, so how can we retain them?


Discussions around the gender composition of different occupations, particularly teaching, tend to focus on factors such as gender predisposition, social influences and job attributes, such as greater flexibility and work-life balance. These factors may play an important role to varying degrees, but reviewing and reforming the monetary incentives which influence gender segregation in occupations is a good starting point.

Additional ways we could address this are by: The Conversation

  • providing additional scholarships for men in teaching
  • ensuring teaching career plans fulfil the ambitions and expectations of both male and female teachers
  • improving the image of teaching as an essential job to enhance a society.

Massimiliano Tani, Professor of Finance and Economics, UNSW

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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  • I laugh when people say teachers should be paid more. Usually the same people who complain about paying school fees or when the government reduce funding to anything. I don’t care if my children have a male or female teacher, I just want them to have a teacher who actually knows what they are doing.

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  • I think there are a lot of factors at play, not just pay issues.

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  • There is still a long way to go with pay equality!!!! A job is a job regardless of gender!!!!

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  • I think teaching is a great career choice if you want a family. Great parental leave, holidays etc. Given that mothers still seem to have the main parenting role, I think it makes sense.

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  • It’s a hard job to deal with behaviour challenges. My hat goes off to those that teach our children.

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  • The fact is men get more money in other professions, of course, when I was growing up tradies drove old bombs and now they drive new 4×4’s, so they must be making more money. Maybe also men are scared off in case they are accused of sexual misconduct or something else. After all it is probably acceptable for a female teacher to hug a kid if they wanted a hug but not for a male. But yes they are underpaid for the time they put in and especially kindergarten teachers, but so are nurses and ambulance drivers.

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  • Think indeed it has all to do with career choices, salary and personal type.

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  • We encourage boys into trades if we encouraged them into teaching they may be more likely to consider this choice unfortunately it’s difficult without role models to follow.

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  • There are many problems with males entering the teaching profession. My oldest son is a trainee teacher and says that he is the only male in his classes at uni. He has been warned to expect some problems in that some parents prefer female teachers in primary school for teaching young children.

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  • Pay would be part of the reason. Working with energetic kids all day would be another!

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  • I don’t think you can attribute it to just one factor.

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  • I agree that teachers should have an increase in their salary. And hopefully, by making it more attractive, more males would choose that career.


    • There are many careers where the pay should be in line with the level of responsibility and workload.

    Reply

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