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.

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.

  • I think that teaching is a caring and nurturing career, hence more women are attracted to it.


  • My son’s highschool has a nice mix of bother male and female, and it was the same when I went there back in my day. The primary school here has zero male teachers.


  • Personally, I remember when I was in high school many years ago, and the hard time male teachers got from the girls. Especially if the teacher was young and good looking. I can imagined that gas only increased over the years. Possibly being accused of sex offended could also be putting men off teaching


  • All the men I know have never considered teaching as a career because of the assumption they’re secretly child molesters.


  • Not only is there better pay in other industries but there have been so many men who have come under scrutiny of false claims or accusations submitted by brats seeking attention. Yes I understand all claims should be investigsted and I is hard for a a child who has suffered a trauma or inappropriate action to seek help. But I’m talking about the ones who cry wolf and make it more difficult for all parties, because children need diversity.


  • Women tend to work more in industries that are nurturing. I think if you look at the distribution of teachers across the world, this is a similar pattern


  • I would have thought that women are naturally more nurturing then men, so being a teacher would appeal to them more. Having said that, there are definitely excellent male and female teachers and also deplorable male and female teachers. This was an interesting read


  • My husband has gone back to uni to become a teacher. Interesting that salary is the major discussion when teachers get such a lot of holidays. I think that has a major plus for the profession.


  • 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.


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


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


  • 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.


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


  • 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.


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


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