Being a Man in a Woman’s world

I grew up in a male dominated society. You know the one. The United States of America. The President of the country has always been male. Most corporate CEOs are male. The male population makes, on average, more money than women doing the same jobs. This wasn’t something that was indoctrinated into me by my parents, this is how everything appears to be working and has been since my earliest childhood memories.

I never really thought about this much, even when being given training on things like workplace equality and sexual harrassment. I was in the Navy for many years and didn’t think about it much there even though that branch of the military, while allowing women, was predominently male. At the time I served, women were only allowed in specific roles, but that was slowly changing.

The first time I really thought about the roles of men vs women in society was at my current place of employment. For a couple of years I was involved in the hiring process for four technical departments. What I noticed was that most of the applicants were men. Very few women applied and, of those, very few were qualified for the job. For an Electronic Technician job I once had a “Beauty Technician” apply with no electronics training. I once had a very quailified woman apply, lots of experience. I even remember her name, Jennifer. So I brought her in for an interview. Well, Jennifer was definitely a man in a dress. So still not really a woman even though he was working on it.

These demographics are changing now. I can see it around me at work every day but some jobs are still dominated by men while others are dominated by women.

That brings me around to the point of this article. About 15 years ago, around the same time I was dealing with hiring and firing, I joined this little bit of subculture called “dog shows” and, more specifically, Dog Agility. This is where my eyes were really opened to the disparity in our society between roles for men and women. Even today, all these years later, the dog world is made up mostly of women.

You might think this was a big issue or bothered me or something since I came from the rest of the US corporate/military world where there are mostly men. It didn’t. The dog world welcomed me and has been mostly a positive experience. There have been ups and downs just like everywhere else. I have made a lot of friends and met a lot more women than I ever had before. Being a man from a male dominated society, I always felt awkward around girls and, when I grew up, women. The dog world has made that go away. I no longer find it awkward to strike up a conversation with pretty much anyone or to express my opinion.

I will say that people were so welcoming into the dog show world that I didn’t even realize there had been a shift in predominent gender until I was several years into it and wanted to join my first dog club. This was the local Collie breed club. I attended my very first meeting, which happened to be the Christmas party for the club. It was a small gathering and I remember it well. It was at an Olive Garden restaurant. I found the table with the club and discovered that it held a group of women. I was the only man in attendance. That’s when I started to pay attention. The women were all very nice and welcomed me graciously. I am still a part of that club today.

If you look at this extremely informal article at Agility Nerd, you can see that most Agility competitors are women.

So where are the men in dog sports? Based on an even more informal research study conducted by myself, after talking with many men about dog sports, most of the men are in hunting and protection sports.

Yes, there are men doing Conformation, Agility, Obedience and more. But there are far more women in these areas. And, of course, there are plety of women that do hunting and protection sports. But maybe here’s something a bit telling. I have several friends that do one on one in-home consultations for problem behaviors in dogs. Almost all of them at one time or another recite the same story to me. There is a family that is having issues with a dog. They ask for an in-home consultation. In this story, it is always a married couple. The wife is very concerned about some behavior the dog is exhibiting so she eagerly talks to the trainer they have brought in. The husband either stays away from the consultation or, if present, crosses his arms and looks stern as though he is unhappy to even be in the room with the trainer. The husband typcailly wants no involvement in the resolution of the problem.

Why is this the story? Why do I hear the same story from so many people? It’s definitely not genetic. If it were then I would absolutely stay away from dogs since my father doesn’t like them and my mother is scared of them. So it must be cultural.

What is the purpose of this article? Simply to open your eyes to the disparate proportion of women and men in dog sports and to encourage more men to join in dog sports. But this may take a cultural shift we are not quite ready for.

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