Should BritMums Live be doing more for dads?

No man is an island. 11 men, however ...? No man is an island. 11 men, however ...?

Dads were very much in the minority at BritMums Live this weekend. Should there be more of us there?

There aren’t many occasions in life when I find myself outnumbered 70-to-1 by women – except for that time I accidentally walked into the wrong changing room at the gym, maybe – but that’s exactly the situation I found myself in on Friday and Saturday at my first BritMums Live conference.

Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed it. But out of the 700 or so bloggers who attended, by my count, excluding men who were there as sponsors, speakers or in some other capacity, there were just 11 dads – 1.5% of the audience.

I have no issue with being in the minority. Women make up the overwhelming majority of the parent blogging community – according to the Tots100 index, only 8% of their 8,000 UK members are male – and while I believe that men are under-represented, mums will (and should) always remain the dominant force.

My question is this: if we take Tots100’s figure, then why was the percentage at BritMums Live just 1.5%? (Which, I’m led to believe, is similar to what it was in 2014.) And is this even a problem?

I think it is.

Defining the issue

To start with, here are a few observations.

1. Of the 60 finalists for this year’s Brilliance in Blogging Awards, three were male (or 5%, if you’re mathematically inclined).

2. Of the 12 winners, one (8%) was male: Julian from Northern Dad.

3. Of the 13 bloggers selected to give the closing Bloggers’ Keynotes, one (8%) was male: Dave from The DADventurer.

4. Of the quite-a-lot-of bloggers asked to participate in workshop sessions, none was male. (Pretty sure that’s 0%.)

Before I go on, let me state the following. I’m not interested in quotas. Neither am I advocating that BritMums Live changes its name to BritParents Live, any more than I would suggest Mothercare changes to Parentcare.

However, I do wonder if there is something that puts off dad bloggers. At 11 out of 700, dads are a tiny island of testosterone in a sea of oestrogen, struggling not to be overwhelmed by a tidal wave. At Tots100’s 8% proportion – 55-60, say – you have a critical mass.

I was conscious during the weekend that, as a group, most of us dads tended to huddle together around a table in the central hub, which probably didn’t make us overly approachable. (If you were outnumbered 700-odd to 11, wouldn’t you do the same?)

And yet this is part of the problem. I remember reading similar comments on Twitter last year about the disparity in numbers and the self-deprecating jokes about dads finding safety in numbers. It made me think twice before signing up for this year’s event – and from discussions with other dads online it did put some others off. It creates a self-fulfilling cycle: dads don’t attend because there aren’t enough dads already attending.

Is this a problem? Some will say no: BritMums Live is, always has been and always will be a mum-focussed event. As it happens, I agree that it should be mum-focussed.

And yet one of the things I loved about the two days was the diversity of attendees: young and old; pregnancy bloggers, baby bloggers, parents with teens; food, travel, style and health genres; grizzled veterans and relative newcomers. A big reason for me going was to expose myself (not literally!) to all those different perspectives, but the male voice – which accounts for 50% of parents – is like a whisper in a hurricane.

Solving the issue

I’m not one to complain about a problem without having some possible solutions, so if we assume that more should be done to encourage more dads to attend without alienating the core audience of mums, then what exactly? Here are three ideas off the top of my head:

  1. Include an award for Best Dad Blog. It’s not really any different to having an award for other niches such as vlogs or Fresh Voice, and it promotes the cause of dad blogs without lessening the prestige of the other awards.
  2. Include more dads as panel members. (It can work: I understand the all-male Love All Dads podcast crew’s session last year went down well.) By the way, I’m not advocating a dedicated dads’ session – I believe integration rather than segregation is the better way forward.
  3. Can more be done to promote male participation over the next 12 months? John of Dad Blog UK does a monthly BritMums dads’ round-up, which is a great start. But should ‘dads’ as a category be given greater prominence on the BritMums home page? Could there be occasional features centring on dads’ perspectives? Or something else, maybe?

You’ll note that I haven’t suggested that there should be X BiB Award winners or Y keynote speakers next year. I’m not remotely interested in quotas or tokenism. I care far more about driving participation first, which leads to achievement on merit.

Ultimately, what I would like to see is a few more seats at next year’s event filled with XY chromosomes and for the male voice to be heard as part of the conversation. That way we won’t all have to huddle around that one small table again during the coffee breaks. We might have to have two!

What do you think? Would it be beneficial for there to be more dads at BritMums Live 2016? And, if so, what can be done to promote this?

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