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Bring in the Boys: Examining the gender makeup of the Parents’ Association

The Greenhill Parents’ Association (P.A.) has historically been an organization dominated by female leadership with few active male members. However, a recent shift has seen Greenhill fathers taking a more active role in P.A. initiatives and activities.

The Greenhill P.A, which seeks to involve Greenhill parents in the school community, meets twice a year in person to discuss ideas and coordinate events. The P.A., which every Greenhill parent is automatically a part of, has approximately 400 regular volunteers and 150 board leaders per Leslie Krakow, President of the P.A. and mother of junior Eli Krakow.

According to Mrs. Krakow, more male volunteers are nominating themselves to board positions, or are being nominated to chair school events than ever before. Mrs. Krakow feels that this can be attributed to both the P.A.’s concerted effort to involve every parent in the school as well as the different family dynamics of today’s society. While there has never been a male P.A. president before, Mrs. Krakow is hopeful that things will change in the next few years.

While Greenhill’s P.A. has always encouraged each parent to volunteer for school events, only five men currently serve in leadership positions. Furthermore, Greenhill’s biggest annual fundraiser, the gala, has never been chaired by a father. The lack of male representation in the P.A. can be partially attributed to the fact that the vast majority of fathers work full-time.

“It’s not always easy because I have a full-time job too, so it’s a little different than people who don’t have a job and volunteer. You’re a little more available when you don’t have another job,” said father of junior Colton Bobbitt and active P.A. member Michael Bobbitt.

Mr. Bobbitt, who has volunteered with the P.A. in a variety of different ways during Colton’s time at Greenhill, has found that his full-time job prevents him from undertaking some larger commitments with the P.A. What allows some of the women that do a lot with the P.A. to do as much as they do is the flexibility in their schedule that comes from not working or not working full-time. However, that has changed recently.

“The increased role of men in the P.A. mirrors what I think is happening in American society, in terms of more involved fathers and more flexible working couples involving themselves in their children’s school lives,” Mrs. Krakow said.

Michelle Garza, mother of Ruby Garza ‘26, Leo Garza ‘28 and Desmond Garza ‘29 is an active volunteer in the Lower School. Although she works full time, she still holds a leadership position in the P.A.

“I am pretty for fortunate in that I have a job that allows me to work from home. It’s definitely easier when you have a job like mine where it’s more flexible because I can schedule things around and most of what I do is done online or over video conferences. I don’t travel very often and I don’t have to be downtown at a meeting at a certain time,” she said.

With women being a family’s main provider becoming more and more common in today’s more modern economic landscape, both Mrs. Krakow and mother of junior Joseph Weinberg and 2014-15 P.A. President Julie Weinberg said there has been an increase in the number of men active since its inception. Mrs. Weinberg attributes this in large part due to a shift in gender roles.

“Gender roles are sort of evolving in a way that is much different than what they were 10 or 20 years ago,” Mrs. Weinberg said.

On top of men being able to get more involved because of a changing society, male involvement has also increased because of new gender non-specific P.A. initiatives that mandate volunteering through the P.A. For instance, the Athletic Department asks that parents of student-athletes in grades 7-12 volunteer at least twice during their child’s sports season, a task organized by the P.A.

Furthermore, P.A. leadership has created specific annual events that they ask fathers to chair and volunteer for in a certain capacity. Hornet Night is an event that has become traditionally chaired by dads.

“We found out that [the men] really love Hornet Night, and they really like to help out at [sporting events],” said Theresa Jones, Events Manager and P.A. Liaison.

Additionally, the P.A. has found volunteering roles for men so that they can feel comfortable working with an organization that is predominantly female.

“For Friday on the Hill [the dads] will come in and grill hot dogs and hamburgers and do [traditionally] manly stuff,” said Ms. Jones.

This year Hornet Night was chaired by Mr. Bobbitt as well as John Morgan, father of junior Grant Morgan. Some women active with the P.A. find that while women are more than capable of running successful and exciting events, the addition of more men to the P.A. leadership has the potential to offer a different dynamic, in part because so few men have been active in the past.

“The men bring a lot of energy, out of the box thinking and creativity, which I think appeals to the kids. Since they haven’t had a historical involvement with the P.A. they often bring a fresh outlook,” Mrs. Weinberg said.

In fact, Ms. Jones said that having one father on the gala committee this year has expedited parts of the planning process.

“This year we do have a man on the gala committee, and he changes the whole dynamic,” said Ms. Jones. “Women like to sit and chat about the decision that we make, and he’s more like, ‘Why can’t we just do this?’ It makes us come to a consensus faster sometimes.”

Fathers who have done work with the P.A. have had no issues working in the female-dominated organization.

“[The leadership] knows what they want to accomplish and they make it easy to get things done by having good instructions when you show up to volunteer,” said Adam Maul, Primer Room Parent and father of Primer student Elle Maul.

In fact, Mr. Bobbitt received compliments for his work as a room parent when Colton was in third grade.

“At the end of the year, Ms. Hall said, ‘Wow you’re one of the best room parents I’ve ever had,’ and I said, ‘Why?’ She said, ‘Well, because you didn’t get into the messiness of the classroom. You just do what we needed.’”

Overall, the P.A.’s female leadership see only positives that can come from the addition of more men to the P.A. One goal now is to get men who are already active into roles to encourage more men to volunteer.

“There are about three or four men that consistently volunteer, and we are trying to put them in more visible roles to help them get more experience,” Ms. Jones said.

Mrs. Weinberg said a male P.A. president could attract more men to the organization.

“I think that having a male P.A. president would absolutely draw more men into the P.A. I think that sort of role model would likely get more dads involved,” Mrs. Weinberg said.

With more fathers moving up the P.A. leadership ladder, Mrs. Krakow feels that this could happen in the near future.

“We have watched the progression of Greenhill dads from occasional volunteers to fathers assuming leadership positions and serving as program chairs. It is my expectation that more fathers will continue to move up the P.A. leadership ladder.”

Graphic by Shreya Agarwala

 

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