Currently only around 2% of the UK's early childhood education workforce (ECE) are male - a figure that has remained stubbornly resistant to change for several decades.
Now researchers at Lancaster University's Educational Research Department are to investigate, both internationally and in the UK, how men are recruited, supported and retained in the ECE workforce, as teachers and carers for preschool children.
Funding of £286,000, has just been announced by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for the new project, due to get underway later this year, led by Dr Jo Warin working with Dr Jeremy Davies, of The Fatherhood Institute, together with a partner in Norway.
Evidence gained from the project will be used to produce a clear theoretical rationale and practical resources to enhance efforts to create more gender-diverse, gender-sensitive approaches.
This research is the first ever attempt in the UK to collate, collect and use research evidence in a systematic way, to support gender diversification of the ECE workforce.
The study is informed by the strong purpose of building a theoretical rationale for the inclusion of more male practitioners in early childhood education (ECE).
The team will work with colleagues in social work, psychology and others researching masculinities and health.
They plan to publish a series of journal articles for the international Gender and Education and Early Years Education research communities and undertake conference presentations.
Dr Warin said: "The project will produce the evidence to impact on the quality of preschool teaching, enhance young children's capacity to challenge gender stereotypes, create career opportunities for men and challenge a gender-segregated employment market."