Want more women in skepticism? Think of the children! Think of all those women at home making dinner and navigating bedtime and supervising the sleeping children in the evenings while all those other people are at the skeptic meetings making friends and planning the newsletter and organizing volunteers to serve as judges for the local science fair, or making plans to meet before dark at a happy hour after work or some weekend afternoon at a bar. Do you know how many of those women there actually are? What percentage of the available pool of skeptics in your community who would like to participate more actively are prohibited from coming because they are responsible for the care of children? Have you even tried to figure it out, even in such a sloppy as some calculations on a cocktail napkin? How many of your skeptical planning or social events are family friendly? Unless you are planning a diversity of events at all times of day, and going out of your way to find out how to serve all the skeptics in your community, you are missing a very large portion of allies.
I get that yes, it’s hard to get a lot of work–which can be tedious–done when children are around, and that it’s unfair to expect children to behave quietly in folding chairs while adults are talking for a long time. I get also that yes, it’s fun for adults to mingle and be more freely themselves, and that weeknights are often easier to schedule casual events than weekends are because people have more family responsibilities on the weekends. But you know what? When you have an anti-child bias*, you have an anti-woman bias, because women are disproportionately responsible for child care. All those skeptical fathers who meet during the week because they do things with their kids on the weekend have the luxury of someone else watching their offspring while they make time for skepticism.
And that solution everyone comes up with to have those skeptical women just hire babysitters on those school nights so they can come to your event? Not as helpful as you might think. If that’s the only thing you can think of, here’s a suggestion: How about piping in some skeptical teenagers to play games with the children during your meeting? They could be set up at the back of the room so they could see their mothers and their mothers wouldn’t have to worry about stranger dangers. Get a microphone for your speakers if you think that would be too noisy. Or instead of Skeptics in the Pub have Skeptics in the Park. Skeptics like picnics, right? With Frisbees? Surely they can drink alcohol outside sometimes, if alcohol and skepticism cannot be separated.
*Don’t freak out. I am not accusing you of personally hating children or even disliking them. But some events are not child-friendly, so if you are planning events that are not child-friendly and no events that are, then there is a bias–perhaps unconscious–against children. And thus against the women who take care of them.