Former Conservative leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom suggested in recently published comments that male childcarers could be paedophiles.
Speaking to The Times during her abortive leadership bid last week, the MP for South Northamptonshire discussed the problems faced by working parents in need of childcare.
Leadsom, who was appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs after abandoning her leadership bid, told the paper that most parents would not hire men as nannies.
“Now you can call that sexist, I call that cautious and very sensible when you look at the stats. Your odds are stacked against you if you employ a man. We know paedophiles are attracted to working with children. I’m sorry but they’re the facts.”
The newly published comments went down badly with childcare organisations. Tricia Pritchard of nursery union Voice described them as “sexist”.
“Children need male as well as female role models. Both men and women are capable of providing excellent childcare, whether as nannies or in nurseries. There aren’t enough men in childcare, and Mrs Leadsom’s remarks have the potential both to damage the reputation of male childcare professionals already in the workforce and deter men considering childcare as a career.”
“She should also remember that women can put children at risk too.”
Neil Leitch of educational charity the Pre-school Learning Alliance took a similar line, saying:
“No one should feel that their career choices are limited by their gender, and yet such outdated prejudices are not only insulting to those dedicated male practitioners currently working within the sector, but also act as a barrier to more men entering the early years workforce.”
It was in the interests of the nursery sector to encourage male applicants, he continued, given the imminent introduction of the government-funded scheme providing parents of pre-schoolers with 30 hours of free childcare per week.