From education to employment

Breaking Bias in the Workplace: Men in Social Care

Paul Wakeling, Executive Director of Curriculum and Quality at The Skills Network

There are 1.67m jobs estimated in adult social care across the UK, with their vital work supporting thousands of those in need throughout the country.

Now, a new report by Skills For Care is highlighting the growing number of social care workers experiencing “burn-out” following the pandemic, with a killer cocktail of compulsory vaccinations (subsequently scrapped), doubling rates of sickness absence due to Covid related illness, and a sudden drop in supply of international workers following tightened immigration rules creating a “rapidly deteriorating situation”, according to the ADASS. (Association of Director of Adult Social Services).

With vacancies in this sector rising to 9.1% in October 2021, up from 6.2% in March, ADASS president Stephen Chandler is calling for government acknowledgement and emergency funding to tackle the mounting “unmet need” in this critical sector of work.

What does the Social Care sector look like?

The Adult Social Care sector employs an estimated 1.54m people, fulfilling 1.67m vital job roles throughout the country. Despite this, there is a shortage of workers and a significant gap in the demographic of employees.

In a recent report by The Skills for Care, the employee gender gap in the Social Care sector showed 82% of this workforce identify as female. This trend was seen throughout all job roles surveyed including:

  • Senior Management
  • Registered Manager
  • Social worker
  • Occupational therapist
  • Registered nurse
  • Senior care worker
  • Care worker
  • Support outreach
  • Personal assistant

Back in 2019, an article in The Guardian titled “Jobs for the Boys” highlighted the need to attract more men to this sector, providing beneficial opportunities to close growing staff shortages while also fulfilling the demand of offering an alternative for those being cared for, to have the choice of being looked after by a man.

The issue of traditional perceptions of “gendered careers” can be felt throughout the job market, with unconscious bias affecting career progression and workplace recruitment for many. Jobs like Mechanics, Carpenters and Electricians continue to present as a significantly “male” career path, with 99.19%, 99.01% and 98.27% respectively falling into this demographic. While roles such as Nursery Nurses and Assistants remaining a sector with a 97.77% female workforce.

As we enter an age of more acceptance and fluidity in gender norms, it would be expected to see a shift in such workplace beliefs. But despite continued advancements in equal opportunities throughout society, research by Anchor Hanover published in 2019 revealed that 85% of men say that they simply would not choose a career in care, with 35% of those surveyed believing the Social Care sector is a “women’s sector”.

What causes bias in the workplace?

The effects of bias are felt throughout the workplace, with a recent article published by FE News written by colleague Sian Wilson, Executive Director of Commercial at The Skills Network shedding light on bias against Women in the EdTech industry.

While gender bias often stems from stereotypes, unconscious bias poses a great risk to both the employee and employer. Unconscious bias are often so engrained that behaviors are acted on without conscious thought. The effects of this are seen in these “gendered” job roles, and it’s critical that educators and employers work to break such bias to create a more varied, adaptable and inclusive workforce.

How can education help?

Education is a key element to resolving bias and subsequent staff shortages throughout the job market, allowing individuals to recognise the unconscious bias they may hold in their individual lives.

Offering training provisions made accessible to all people regardless of background, lifestyle and preferences, and expanding content and materials to encourage inclusion in learning opportunities creates more equality in educational settings.

When moving into workplace settings, a focus on the skills knowledge and behaviors of the worker is key, ensuring continued awareness of the reality of unconscious bias. Once the employer creates more inclusive recruitment opportunities, those individuals from underrepresented groups are able to feel empowered to enter more varied sectors of work.

The Social Care sector is an area that continues to struggle with unequal employee demographics throughout, with evidence of gender bias alongside low-paid roles providing fewer incentives for  those looking to enter the sector.

Breaking unconscious gender bias through better educational resources and equal employment opportunities could pose a possible solution to inviting more men to enter the sector. Similarly, incentives such as the 12 month Health and Care visa scheme is now giving international employees the opportunity to work and live in the UK, another step to establishing a more varied workforce to this sector.

By Paul Wakeling, Executive Director of Curriculum and Quality at The Skills Network

Find out more about inclusive Health and Social Care training opportunities from The Skills Network here:

Find out more about the International Health and Social Care Visa Scheme from The Skills Network here:

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