Where are all the men? No, I’m not talking about last Friday night’s screening of the cult classic The House Bunny in Tavern’s lounge, I’m talking about last Tuesday’s Midd Action Fair.
For those of you who don’t know, at the start of every academic year the college’s Center for Community Engagement (CCE) invites community organizers and college service groups to Wilson Hall to drum up interest in volunteerism. This year as opposed to just perusing the stalls, I found myself responsible for manning the Brother to Brother table. So, anything but punctual, at 5:55 I extracted myself from Davis Library’s clutches and hustled up to McCullough. As I ambled into Wilson, I was immediately drawn to the snack table but as soon as my fascination with chocolate chip cookies and Vermont cheddar subsided, I noticed something was off about the room; it was all women. Now I’m not generally a betting man, but I would gladly wager that at the very most 35% of that room was male-identifying. Moreover, it wasn’t just a matter of women getting there on time and men following closely behind; throughout the event this inverse-MIT-esque gender difference persisted.
Now before I delve into some data and examine how gender may influence your proclivity to volunteer, I’d like to make a shout out to all those individuals and groups that serve our community. Whether it’s the Men’s Rugby team grilling up burgers for the Charter House on Sundays or people volunteering their time to serve as EMTs, thank you so much for what you do. That being said, both here at Midd and all around the nation, as men, we need to step up our engagement in community service.
Certainly, at Midd, the CCE anecdotally estimates that 65% of students who participate in CCE programs are female-identifying. So to those in the know on our campus, it seems clear that women tend to participate in community service more than men. But what happens when we look at colleges more broadly? A 2009 study by Emily Kirby found that of 20-29 year olds with some college experience, the volunteer rate was 21% for men and 29% for women. Interesting, so it looks like it’s not just men at Midd who are dropping the ball. Indeed, this gender gap in volunteerism isn’t just a college level issue. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015, 36 million women — 27.8% of the female population — volunteered in the US while only 27 million men — 21.8% of males — volunteered.
From all this data it seems pretty clear that women do volunteer more than men. It’s not an anecdote, it’s not a rumor, it’s a fact. And if it’s a fact that might lead you to say, “Well sorry Sedge, that’s just the way it is. It’s society’s fault or genetics’ fault, what do you want me to do about it?” And to that I’d respond, I want you to volunteer. At an institution of higher-learning like this we are, at least I hope, the doctors, lawyers, teachers and informed citizens of tomorrow. As such, we ought to use the platform and privilege we have to encourage volunteerism. We might not all end up being as famous as Lebron James, but if we (especially those of us who are male-identifying) each take it upon ourselves to be a positive example with regard to community service, the only direction we can go is up. Societal change stems from individual action, so if you want to see a caring society flourish, plant the seed and start volunteering. If you want to show our government that what really makes America great is our charitable contributions to those in need, start volunteering. And perhaps most of all if you want to improve the lives of those around you, start volunteering.
Let me be clear, I’m not advocating that we all drop out and start spending all our time in soup kitchens. Rather, I’m suggesting that especially in the wake of the hurricanes that tore through the Caribbean, Florida, and Texas and the earthquake that ravaged Mexico City, we might want to think about how we can help our community. So next time that you’re thinking about re-watching The Office one more time or dartying on a Friday afternoon, especially if you’re a man, maybe consider volunteering a bit of your time to a good cause. And hey, if you don’t know which way to turn, and you’re male-identifying, I know for a fact that we’d love to have you at Brother to Brother. Sunday nights, 5:30 p.m., Chellis House. Hope to see you there.