Saturday, May 12, 2012

Women, the Selfless Sex? Why Do Women Volunteer More than Men?

At my private high school from home, volunteer hours are as mandatory of a graduation requirement as language and math credits.  Everyone in the school must participate in at least 5 hours of volunteer work every quarter or else they fail their “outreach” requirement. Although this might sound a bit overboard, I always appreciated this about my school as they taught me how important it is to care for others who are less fortunate than me. The organizations I was most involved with in high school were Beacon Hospice, Big Brother Big Sister, the Nashua Children’s Home, Care Net Pregnancy Center, and the Southern New Hampshire Rescue Mission.

                I wanted to blog on this subject of volunteering because I remember in high school the gender difference in the people I volunteered with and think it is something really interesting to consider. After doing more research, I discovered that women greatly outnumber men in volunteer work (over 32% of women volunteer whereas less than 25% of men do). It is also interesting to note that the largest “demographic” of people who volunteer actually have full time jobs. Which means it is not an excuse to say that men work more and therefore do not have time to give up their time to volunteer work because those who are currently volunteering typically have full time jobs.

Currently in New Hampshire, we are having such a shortage of male volunteers for Big Brother Big Sister (1 in every 10) that the organization is asking the female mentors if they would mind taking on a “little brother.” The whole purpose of this program is to provide good role models for children from homes without positive examples of the same sex. I think it is such a shame that men in my hometown haven’t stepped up to take on these roles, but I am glad that my school promotes this organization as there are now 12 new Big Brother/Little Brother relationships because of it.

                I remember in high school, the attitude of the girls towards volunteering was also much different than the guys’.  Some say women are the “selfless sex,” but I honestly think it is just more culturally acceptable for women to volunteer than men. It is sad to say, but male nurses and men with nurturing jobs are given a double take simply because of society’s stereotyping of “women being the comforters.” What a lot of people don’t realize, however, is that there are SO MANY different kinds of ways to volunteer that don’t necessarily have to do with being in a hospital caring for a sick person or baking for a family who just underwent a traumatic experience.

                A bunch of the boys in my graduating class worked in the Southern New Hampshire Rescue Mission, not dishing out dinners like I did, but building bathrooms and bedrooms for the residents to stay in. They were still devoting their time and making a difference in people’s lives, but they were able to use their talents, physical strength in this case, in order to volunteer. I would like to strongly recommend to everyone, especially the four men, to somehow get plugged into volunteer work around campus. There is so much to do, and so many people (especially children in Ithaca) who can use our help!

(Also, the picture above is from a trip to Ukraine that my school's dance team and I went on. We danced in gypsy villages and orphanages all around the country. It was pretty incredible, and to this day, still the favorite two weeks of my life)


  1. It's interesting how the genders seem to deal with volunteering differently. I actually had a different experience with genders volunteering. Every year, my church at home organizes a weeklong mission trip to a poor part of Maine, where highschoolers build or fix up houses for those who are in need. There were an equal amount of female and male volunteers for the trip. However, it was manual labor, so I guess that drew more men than other types of volunteering. I also agree with you, Sophie, in that there is so much we could be doing even locally, to make a huge difference in peoples' lives, but we find excuses. Both genders can and should be volunteering equally and helping others whenever they can.

  2. As a guy, I see what you are saying. I used to serve food to homeless people when I was in high school annually. The people I served food with were mostly women. Granted, I didn't have any sort of job at the time, so I had time to spend serving food. I don't know exactly why such a gender gap exists with volunteering of all things. I guess it exists depending on the job. If it was building houses, men were more likely to do it. If it was helping children or working in the kitchen (like I did), women were more likely to do it. There is so much one can do to help the world be a better place. However, some may feel that helping out others is not worth the time or effort. That needs to change. Men and women should volunteer more so that the world is a better place.

  3. I used to offer meals to abandoned individuals when I was in institution yearly. The individuals I provided meals with were mostly females. Provided, I didn't have any kind of job at time, so I had a chance to invest offering meals. I don't know exactly why such a sex gap prevails with helping out of all elements. I think it prevails with regards to the job. If it was developing homes, men were more likely to do it. If it was assisting kids or operating in the cooking area (like I did), females were more likely to do it. There is so much one can do to help the community be a better position. However, some may think assisting out others is not value time or attempt. That needs to modify. Men and ladies should offer more so that the community is a better position.

    voluntary work

  4. At my prep school we also had a community service requirement and many of the guys in actually became extremely involved in their chosen service-work. However, I can't deny that this gap in community service involvement is clearly evident worldwide. My school is serves as headquarters for an organization called The Breakthrough Collaborative, an organization in which I was very involved, whose objective is to get underprivileged middle school students on the course to obtain a college degree. In the four years in which I was involved in this organization, the gender representation of boys and girls was actually pretty evenly split. Furthermore, the amount of male student teachers (you can be a teacher, tutor, mentor, or simply an office intern for the organization) was greater than the number of female student teachers every year, which I found quite interesting. Nevertheless, every single one of the directors of the organization, on the administrative, non-student end, is a female. I personally think that the reason women may be more involved in voluntary work is associated with the stereotypical gender roles women play in our society. Girls are brought up in a sense that definitely nurtures their maternal instinct—playing with dolls, playing house, all those fun games girls do in their childhood are indicative of a maternal instinct to provide care for others. In turn, I think that once these girls mature, they turn to voluntary work because they feel more of a moral obligation, or more of a societal encouragement to be involved in helping others. I think gender roles are to account for this difference in the amount of female and male volunteers worldwide.


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