How to get a woman to show up

How to get a woman to show up

What keeps women from showing up? | Modern Mrs Darcy

For a while now, we’ve talked here about what keeps women from showing up. When women are invited to represent–think conferences, meetings, panels, committees, or a thousand more personal events–what factors cause them to say “no”?

First we tackledย what keeps women from showing up, and the big 6 reasons they don’t, based on your answers.

Today, let’s talk about what factors help women say “yes.” What does get women to show up?

(This list is anecdotal and non-scientific, based on your comments, shared stories, and private conversations.)

1. Economics, plain and simple. We’re not eager to show up if the numbers don’t make our attendance enticing–or at least feasible.

2. Our voice is needed. When we know we’re bringing something to the table that wouldn’t otherwise be there (a needed viewpoint, a unique perspective) we’re more likely to make the effort. (But not if we sniff tokenism.)

3. Enthusiasm. If we don’t care, we’re more likely to stay home.

3. A supportive spouse. Those of us who are married–especially if we have kids–need our partners’ practical and moral support.

4. A support system. We need a network we can rely on to help us show up. This may look like grandparents who pitch in, a web of friends who will help us out in a pinch, or four brilliant babysitters on speed dial. It may look like a reliable dog-walker or friends who let us crash on their couches or a bestie who shows up with coffee and cupcakes when we’re about to lose it.

5. Margin. If our day-to-day life is already stressing us out, we’re less likely to sign up for extra obligations.

6. Flexibility. If we can tweak our schedules to suit our needs and bring our families along to our events (especially if we’re breastfeeding a baby), showing up becomes a real possibility and not just a pipe dream.

7. Accessibility. If showing up is easy–not just on the home front, but logistically, we’re more likely to say yes. (A drive across town? Sure. Three flights that total fourteen hours? The odds are against it.)

8. Recovery time. We’re more likely to say yes if we know that by doing so we’re not abandoning sleep, self-care, or psychological wellness for a period of days–or weeks. (See also margin, support system.)

9. Perks. If showing up means we get a free flight to visit family, or a city on our bucket list, or a trip that dovetails easily into a (less expensive) family vacation, or even Red Sox box tickets, we’ll try harder to show up.

(It’s worth pointing out that nothing on this list–except maybe #6–is gender-specific.)

What do you resonate with on this list? What did I forget?ย 

P.S. Women, work, and hockey, and books for the messy, winding road.

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19 comments | Comment


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  1. Support, economics, and flexibility are all pretty key for me.

    Thinking here….economics and perks are what would make me prone to rely on my support system. It’s there, but I don’t want to use it for something that’s not very valuable, you know?

  2. Tim says:

    In reading through your list, I ended up thinking that those are the same things that made it more likely I’d show up too, Anne, including #6.

    In my profession, there are a lot of boards and committees that need broad participation and representation: new judges, experienced judges, younger judges, older judges, women judges and men judges. From what I’ve seen, in addition to the items you cover another key factor is everyone participating freely, no matter whether they are XX or XY.

    Maybe this is the avoidance of tokenism you mentioned, but I think it goes further. The judicial ethics committee I’ve served on for over a dozen years has typically had about equal numbers of men and women on it, and the leadership reflects that as well. The odd thing is that the judiciary as a whole in California is still predominately male, so our committee is over represented by women.

    By the way, thanks for making your blog a place where men are welcome to show up too.


  3. Shelly says:

    Number 4 is a big deal with me. I don’t ever get to attend anything because we have ten kids at home, my husband works a lot, and we don’t have any support system at all. My mom is nearby and still works full-time, and my mother-in-law always says she can’t handle little kids. (I’m wondering how she handled 4 of her own). So, basically, I’m on my own and don’t really expect to be able to do anything for at least ten years, as my youngest is 10 mos. old. Number 6 also resonates with me because it’s much more realistic than dropping 10 kids off at someone’s house.

  4. becky says:

    Women don’t show up? Perhaps I’m not understanding the question because most women I know complain that they’re too busy! Conferences, meetings, panels, committees…from my perspective women (and people in general) are kept too busy with these things! I think it takes a lot of focus and determination to NOT get sucked into a busy life of planning things, being on committees, going to conferences. Church commitments are especially hard to say “no” to.

    • Anne says:

      I didn’t re-tread what was said in the first post, which lends context to this one. I’m specifically talking about career-building, above-and-beyond activities that aren’t already required of us.

      • becky says:

        OK, I guess I’m one of those annoying commenters who doesn’t read the associated posts ๐Ÿ™‚

        Honestly, youngish women are too busy with “activities already required of us” that there’s no room left for career-building. So why put more pressure on them to show up? Personally speaking, my career has been raising and homeschooling 4 kids and managing cooking, cleaning, finances, laundry, etc. Only in the past year have I begun to see time and physical/mental energy freeing up so that I could seriously pursue a different career. To me this is both sad and exciting at the same time!

        I have no problem with SAHDads, but the fact of the matter is that there are far more SAHMs than SAHDs so obviously there won’t be as many youngish women as there are youngish men focused on career-building. I don’t see why this is a problem; there are seasons to life and there’s nothing wrong with focusing on family now and career later. Just thinking about a breastfeeding mom trying to attend or participate in a big career-building event makes me tired! No one needs that kind of stress!

        Women shouldn’t neglect themselves and their talents while raising their families but there is only so much time and energy (and money) available. When kids are young and family duties are taking a huge percentage of a mom’s time/energy, she can find ways to pursue her passions that are less involved than attending/participating in a big event, knowing that the day will come (all too soon, believe me!) when her kids are taking care of themselves and it won’t be overwhelming for her to hop on a plane and attend an event for a week.

        Most of the reasons listed above are much more pronounced for a mom who has children at home. However, why aren’t the older women (who aren’t as busy with their families) not showing up? I’m certainly interested in doing more career building in the next few years as my family responsibilities decline. I would say in 5-10 years none of these things listed would be a factor in my declining a career-building opportunity except for #2. At this point I don’t feel I have anything unique to offer. Right now my plan is to go back to college part time in the next year or two–I dropped out to get married at 18!

  5. monet says:

    Perhaps, like Becky, I’m not understanding the question correctly either. When I was in the Professional Work Force there were all those Meeting, Conferences, and Seminars you HAD to attend.. A lot of them out of state. And since I’m older than most of you you had to FLY to get there and stay the weekend. We didn’t have cellphones, we had phone booths to make our calls. Then there were the ones were I had to attend because I was the Keynote Speaker. Today, I will only attend anything if is something I am truly interested in or learning about and it’s not too far and not too large of a group. I’ve spent far too many wasted hours of my life at needless conferences, meetings and seminars. ๐Ÿ™‚ Happy those days are OVER!

  6. Katherine says:

    I just got back from a three day Dan Allender conference. It was a huge undertaking for our family, with three kids at home, but I was hooked on the investment piece of it. Making the time and effort was a worthwhile investment for me in my work, and it was worth the efforts to get there.
    All that being said, the fact that my husband was fully on board made all the difference. I couldn’t have been “all in” like I was if I didn’t sense that he was supportive of me going. He took some time off work and was a single dad for the three days, and that freed me up to go.
    No small feat, but so worth it.

  7. Great list. The two most recent ones I have come to realize are this:

    1. Know and plan for how much time it will truly take you to prepare for your presentation, participation, etc. If I am speaking to a group for 20 – 45 minutes on something I haven’t spoken on before, I need a minimum of 20 hours to research, prepare, write and practice. And my prayer time is in addition to that.

    2. Do it afraid. I recently spoke at a gathering of church leaders and wanted to back out at the last minute because I thought “what have I gotten myself into”. I felt so inadequate. I stuck with my commitment and God faithfully showed up to help me! A few days later a friend reminded me that we only get better by actually doing. In ten 10 years I will be no more prepared if I never step out and try and learn from the experience.

  8. Even though 50% of the physician work force is female, very few women hold leadership positions. I am the only woman on several of the committees that I serve on at my hospital.

    I think all your reasons hold true for doctors as well.

    But I think its very important for us to show up. Our opinions DO matter.

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