Dads and BML16: Time to stand up and be counted

Dads! It’s time to stand up and be counted! Literally.

(Note: This post has been amended to reflect the name change from BritMums Live to BML.)

BML, the event formerly known as BritMums Live and the UK’s largest parent blogging conference, is now just three months away. Over 700 bloggers from all over the UK (and beyond) will gather for a day of workshops, wine, networking and wine. (Did I mention the wine?)

Last year, excluding men who were there as speakers or representing sponsors, there were 11 male bloggers present. 11. Out of over 700. That’s 1.5% men, 98.5% women.

You should have seen the queues for the ladies’ toilets.

Is 1.5% really a bad figure, given that the vast majority of parent bloggers are female? Actually, yes, it is. 8% of the Tots100 index of over 8,000 UK parent bloggers are male. On that basis, you would expect 55-60 dads at BritMums Live, as opposed to 11.

11 versus 60. That’s quite a big difference. 60 in a crowd of 700 is a small minority but large enough to make your presence felt. 11 out of 700 feels more like the final battle scenes in the Avengers movies, only we don’t have Iron Man and that big green fella on our team. And the other side is fuelled by that most powerful of weapons: wine. (Have I mentioned the wine at all?)

So why don’t more dads turn up? Here are a few explanations I have heard over the years, which I will answer in turn.

  1. It’s intimidating being one of a tiny number of men in a room full of women. The mums will – rightly – point out that the shoe’s on the other foot for once and, in fairness, all the mums I met last year were positively open and welcoming and expressed a desire for more dads to attend to offer a wider perspective. And, guys, let’s face it, you wouldn’t be so daunted being surrounded by so many women if you were in a nightclub rather than at a conference …
  2. I thought BritMums Live is only for mums. A couple of newish dad bloggers have said this to me recently and I’ve been happy to set them straight on this front. Dads are most welcome, and the removal of the word ‘mum’ in the event’s new name, BML, is a small but significant positive step.
  3. I won’t know anyone. A sizeable proportion of bloggers who attend BML are doing so for the first time. I was one such individual last year, I’m the world’s shyest person – and I had no problem finding people to talk to. (The problem was finding the time to talk to all of them.) If you’ve been around the blogging community at all, you will know more people than you think, they will know you, and most are open to saying hello to someone new if you smile, say hello, and tell them your name, blog name and Twitter handle. (You get used to doing that triple-barrelled introduction after a while.) Only a small number will run away screaming as if they’ve just encountered Frankenstein’s monster.
  4. There’s lots of dad-bashing. I have heard the odd anti-dad comment by panelists in discussions but these have been isolated incidents and, in fairness to the mums, they have often felt aggrieved on our behalf by comments that they feel denigrate the effort their partners make. In general, the attitude is positive.
  5. I’ll wait until a year when there are more dads before I go. This is the worst possible reason for not going. If you want to see a change, be a part of that change. Come and meet people you have gotten to know via their blogs and Twitter. The dads who are there will take you under their wing and so will many of the mums. But if you choose to sit on your hands and wait, the vicious cycle of low male attendance deterring other dads will only continue in perpetuity.

In short, there aren’t really that many good reasons not to attend – any many good ones. There’s also, in case I didn’t already mention it, the prospect of wine.

I don’t expect that men will ever form 50% of the attendees at parenting conferences. Nor should we. But it would be great if we could move towards that 8% figure over the next couple of years.

20 dads this year would be a big step forward. Now who’s with me?

BML16 is on Saturday 25th June at The Brewery in London. Tickets cost Β£80, which gives you access to all sessions and to the Brilliance in Blogging (BiBs) Awards ceremony. You can buy your ticket and find further details on the BritMums website.

Please nominate me in the Best Writer category in both the BritMums BiB Awards (closes April 13th) and the Tots100 MADs (closes April 8th) by clicking on the linksΒ below.

You will need the following details for the BiBs nomination form:

Blog name: Slouching towards Thatcham
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Twitter ID: @thatchamdad
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