A little while ago, I asked a question: what keeps women from showing up?
I’d recently attended a conference that was very good, but lacked strong female representation from the stage. The conference organizers explained that women had been invited, but they’d turned down the invitations.
I wanted to know why.
Since 95% of MMD readers are female, I asked you to tell me the obstacles that kept YOU from showing up–to conferences, meetings, and other opportunities for growth, be they local or non-, personal or professional–and what would make it easier for you to do so.
(Go read that post for context. It’s short, it won’t take long. We’ll wait.)
For some of you, this is a practical question; for others, it’s hypothetical.
Your answers were diverse, but common themes emerged.
6 reasons came up over and over again. I’ve isolated these reasons to make discussion easier, but they obviously bleed into each other.
The Big 6 reasons that keep women from showing up, not in order:
1. Expense. Plain old economics keeps many women at home. Travel is expensive. Childcare is expensive. If it’s an extracurricular event, missing work is expensive.
2. Small children at home. Young kids–especially nursing infants–are a major obstacle to showing up. And travel is practically impossible in late pregnancy and immediately postpartum.
3. Mother guilt. Many mothers are hesitant to leave their families–whether it’s just for an evening or for a longer stint–to pursue their own thing, whether it’s for work or for personal reasons.
4. Logistics. Many women said that leaving town for a few days requires a military-grade level of planning and execution.
5. Lack of energy. Sheer exhaustion keeps many women from saying “yes” to more opportunities, especially if there’s travel involved. Attending events of any kind requires preparation, attendance, and–especially for the introverts–a recovery period afterward. If travel is required, women are even less likely to say yes.
6. Lack of help. I was surprised at how many women cited unsupportive or unhelpful spouses as a major barrier to showing up. Less surprising was how many women said showing up would be much easier if they had family nearby or a more robust support network.
While the Big 6 were the most commonly cited reasons, others were mentioned repeatedly:
Other significant factors:
• Ageism. Discrimination on the basis of age was cited numerous times.
• Tokenism. Women don’t want to say yes when it’s clear they’re being invited as a “token” woman just to meet a quota.
• Personality. For many people it’s a stretch to meet new people, travel, or (whatever it is that’s hard for them) unless it’s absolutely necessary. If they don’t see it as such, they stay home.
• Lack of opportunity. Numerous commenters said they never received invitations to show up–despite impressive resumés–because they were the wrong gender, wrong age, wrong marital status, or had the wrong background.
• No clear benefits. If the reasons for saying yes aren’t obvious and tangible, there’s no getting to “yes.”
We’ll talk soon about why women DO choose to say yes, but in the meantime…
What do you think about these reasons? Do they ring true?