While lack of female participation in various social fields leads discussions relating to gender equality, men are left behind here just like in some vital professions.
The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has been long researching and working towards gender equality in fields of education, employment and entrepreneurship. Together with other international organisations, it has been able to put gender as an important agenda on the maps of G20 and G7 countries. Although OECD has advanced in setting targets to reduce gender gap in labour force participation by 25 pc by 2025, particularly for the G20 leaders, its findings stated that in the last five years, countries have made very little progress towards the goal.
In its recent report, The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle, OECD touches upon crucial yet less talked about subjects that need pondering in order to bridge the gender gap. It talks about women equality, but also of the under-representation of the male population in fields like health studies, teaching, and subjects such as paid parental leaves for fathers.
Where are the males?
During discussions of the gender equality in education, the focus is often given to female under-participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) professions. Rarely is lack of male population in fields of health and education, or dominance of females in the teaching profession talked about.
According to OECD’s report, “in 2015, 22 pc of girls but only 8 pc of boys are expected to work in the health sector in the future – a gender gap that has widened since 2006 in most OECD countries.”
These figures may come across as anticipated, what is alarming is their consequence.
The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle, argues that the perceived feminisation of the teaching profession may be a factor in teenage boys’ low motivation and lack of involvement in school. It also states that some female teachers may use methods to which the boys do not relate, encouraging behaviour that girls are socialised to perform, and sanctioning attitudes more commonly associated with boys.
A positive relationship between male teachers and senior school boys has also been observed, indicating a more positive learning environment.
Talking about health care, this under-representation is of concern as the sector is predicted to grow, in contrast to male-dominated fields such as manufacturing and construction, and the demand for workers might not be met if more participation of men is not achieved.
OECD PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) suggests that 15-year-old girls are two to three times more likely to pursue health-related studies than boys; and the gap has lately increased in Canada, the United Kingdom, Iceland, Norway and Denmark by least 10 percentage points. In Brazil, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovenia, the share is less than 10 pc, compared to 40 pc in Indonesia and Japan. An improved data with one in four health and welfare students being male has been shown for OECD nations, in the report.
Parental leaves for fathers
While long, paid leaves are granted to new mothers, it is rather unusual for fathers to go on a paternity leave on childbirth.
Some argue that extended periods of paid leaves have a social bearing, which amounts to roughly 0.3 pc or more of GDP in OECD countries, depending on the length of the leave period; but parental leaves do have their benefits.
Leave-taking has been seen beneficial for fathers, mothers and children. “Fathers who take leave are more likely to take an active role in childcare both early-on and after they return to work,” the report states.
“Men who take leave report greater satisfaction in parenting while those who are more involved with their children report greater life satisfaction and better psychological well-being,” the report adds.
Furthermore, despite an egalitarian attitude, mothers tend to do more unpaid work after childbirth, and a parental leave for fathers may balance it to some extent. Labour market outcomes may improve for women if fathers take the leaves, and this social normalisation may also help reduce gender discrimination in workplaces by working on the perception that health care leaves are mostly taken by women and the subsequent negative effects on their earnings and career advancements are a mere by-product.