Before I came to work at MCCOY as an Americorps VISTA, I had very little experience with the nonprofit world or community service initiatives. When I attended my first few meetings at MCCOY, I was surprised by how few other men were present. I started to notice an interesting trend: the overwhelming majority of youth service providers who I met were women. Even on MCCOY’s high school Youth Advocacy Council, almost all of the members are girls. According to the White House Project, 73% of workers in the nonprofit sector are women. I’ve started to wonder why service is something that women do more than men.
Maybe service is something that is not as culturally important to most men. Maybe women tend to hear more messages about helping others than most men do and are thus more motivated to pursue service professions. While I can’t speak for others, I know that when I was in high school, I was so focused on sports that volunteering was very low on my list of priorities. Because boys are so intensely encouraged to pursue other types of extracurricular activities and hobbies, they do not appreciate the value of community service as much as they would if they were exposed to it more often. It makes me wonder about the underlying messages that society ingrains in boys and girls. When children get involved in activities outside of school, girls are taught to value traits like collaboration and helping whereas boys are encouraged to cultivate competitiveness and ambition.
Community service, ironically, is not something that only benefits the people receiving the service. Oftentimes, the person providing the service is personally benefited from seeing their actions have positive impacts on other people and from learning from the people they serve. Professions of service, when undertaken for the right reasons, can be extremely rewarding for the providers AND the recipients; it makes me wonder how many people are missing out on that simply because society has not encouraged them to serve others.