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Germany

First-ever Boys' Day aims to break barriers in 'girly' jobs

Girls' Day is a regular fixture in many German firms, with female students learning first-hand about male-dominated professions. This year sees the first-ever day aimed at encouraging boys to consider their options.

A young man helps a boy onto some climbing equipment

Child care is not traditionaly seen as 'men's work'

Girls' Day is already a well-established phenomenon in Germany. Since 2001, girls have had the opportunity to visit firms and gain first-hand experience of jobs that have always been very much the domain of men.

At a time when there is a lack of skilled workers in Germany, girls are becoming increasingly sought after as employees in technical and scientific roles.

This year, though, Boys' Day - aimed at attracting young males into the types of jobs where their gender is underrepresented - will be celebrated at the same time.

Christopher Senkowski is one of relatively few young men who have opted to work in child care.

Boys visiting a hospital

Most boys will explore roles in the caring professions

"I have done some practical training in a kindergarten, and I found that working with young children was quite good fun," said Christopher.

The 22-year-old vocational school student is in the second year of his training, gaining practical experience at an after-school service in Bonn.

He has already amassed experience in a number of kindergartens, where he was usually the only man. In his vocational school, all of his classmates are female.

But Christopher believes that men can be just as good at child care as women - a belief shared by Family Minister Christina Schröder, who declared April 14 the first ever Boys' Day.

The idea is that schoolboys aged 10 to 16 should get the chance to find out about the types of jobs done by women, rather than men, during the course of a working day. These include social roles in nurseries, nursing homes, hospitals and schools as well as other jobs, such as working in florists' shops.

Germany is by no means alone: Neighboring countries, such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Luxembourg, also have their own Boys' Days.

Empathy and patience are invaluable

Christopher thinks that gender differences should not impact upon somebody's ability to work with children. However, he thinks that not all boys - or all girls for that matter - possess an aptitude for it.

Boys and a florist holding flowers

There are other options, such as a visit to the florists

"A look at how things work practically is important, because not everyone is good at working with children," he said. "You have to be especially sensitive, and you have to understand children."

Christopher must look after children after official lesson times are over. He helps with homework and plays with them. Male after-school supervisors, who are something of a novelty, are particularly popular with youngsters.

The problem: Low salaries

There is another male supervisor at the school. Patrick has worked in child care for several years. For him, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages, but he can well understand why there are still so few men working in social roles.

Although Patrick had a number of male colleagues when he was training, he is the only one who still works with young children.

"With many of them, the financial aspect plays a role in their decision, because working with children and young people does not pay very well."

Benefits for everybody

Among those hoping that Boys' Day will prove to be a success is Eva, a colleague of Christopher and Patrick at the school. She believes there will be many winners if it's effective in getting more men into her field.

"It is just a much more pleasant work atmosphere, because it is more balanced. In addition, parents are especially happy when a male carer looks after their offspring," she said.

"A male contact is especially important for the boys, and no woman could effectively replace that."

Author: Nina Treude / rc
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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