More Evidence on Why Women Participate Less

I’ve previously talked about reasons given by women for not participating in the atheist and movement. The American Secular Census has previously given us survey data to help us figure out a problem. Now we have both in the same place. A couple of days ago, they released information on barriers to participation by women:

  • Most women respondents not currently active in the secular movement are aware of groups and events but do not participate. A smaller percentage were involved at some point but are now inactive. For both of these subsets, insufficient time is cited most often as the main obstacle to participation.
  • Other obstacles named by women outside the secular movement are inconvenient events; insufficient money; bad experience with group, person, or event; not a joiner; and lack of childcare.
  • A non-trivial number of women respondents admitted they are not really sure why they haven’t participated in the secular movement.
  • Although not the top response, lack of childcare was the one factor to emerge as a disproportionately women’s concern. Just 39.1% of all registrants submitting this Census form were women; yet women represented more than 61.1% of the “lack of childcare” responses. No other selection showed a gender imbalance this marked.

There is more information there, mostly about factors having to do with identity. There is also some good news. Go read it all.

More Evidence on Why Women Participate Less
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5 thoughts on “More Evidence on Why Women Participate Less

  1. 1

    This should be really helpful information for con organizers. I know that a few families from my local group took turns baby sitting at Skepticon, one year. So, the individuals had to sacrifice some of their time they could have spent at an event but didn’t skip the whole thing.

    May I ask, what’s the good news you were alluding to?

  2. 2

    At some of the conferences my family members attend, they have started offering a select number of complimentary childcare spots, offered to those who otherwise would be unable to attend. They also offer childcare for a fee to those who can afford it. You have to demonstrate financial need to get a shot at one of the complimentary spots, and the spots that are charged for pay for the complimentary spots. Any profits from the childcare operation go to funding extra complimentary spots the next year. It’s not a perfect setup and I’m sure there’s never enough spots to meet the demand, but it’s better than nothing and does give opportunity for attendance to those who would otherwise be unable to afford it.

  3. ~G~

    I hope they eventually post more detailed data. Some of the stats show a comparison to the overall group, but not compared directly to men. Statistical significance is not given, either. I don’t know the statistical background of those who did this project, but if they are limited by software or otherwise, I’m sure it wouldn’t be hard to find people who could easily give them pages upon pages of more detailed findings in a fairly short amount of time. I say this having used to write SPSS code to produce such things on the fly at a former job.

  4. 4

    ~G~ – You’re right that there is much more detail that could be pulled out of the Census, not just with gender but age, income, education, and so much more. Right now I’m focusing on data that seems relevant to current discussions and issues so that (as Birdterrifier points out) groups may find the information useful in their planning. The Census is an ongoing, web-based, self-selecting survey launched in early November, so these preliminary stats are not being presented as authoritative — they should be considered “snapshots.” Thus I won’t be publishing sample information for quite a while. (I still hope the data is useful to some, since there don’t seem to be any other demographic / viewpoint surveys of the non-religious.) You can learn more at and please consider registering if you are a nontheist. Thanks – Mary Ellen Sikes, President

    P.S. Birdterrifier, I suspect the “good news” Stephanie referred to is that women with experience in the secular movement are just as likely as overall to find no disadvantages to participating.

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