Where are all the Guys?

This blog is a reflection on something that was brought to my attention whilst I was on my training weekend. I looked around the room and remember thinking “Where are all the guys?”… I convinced myself they all chose to receive their training in Bristol and that some more appearances would be made on our pre-departure day. I was definitely wrong. Since then I have been informed that in general, a lot more girls apply for ICS than guys.

Just as a disclaimer, this is not a personal cry for more guys on my placement (being a young woman), but it has got me thinking about why there is a lack of guys and why it would be generally nicer for more guys to apply. On our placement in Honduras, there is a girl to guy ratio of 7 girls to 3 guys – and I am pretty sure that there isn’t much difference across all of the placements that ICS offer. To explore this issue a bit further I interviewed a few of the guys from my team to see what they thought about the ‘guy shortage’. Together we came to the conclusion that more guys should get involved!!

The first thing that I wanted to know is how the guys that are a part of ICS got to hear about the programme. The general consensus was word of mouth. However, I came across an interesting point that was made by Ed, that “a lot of people are unaware of the programme” and that maybe this was leading to the shortage in guys. I know, you’re thinking ‘but girls still apply, Sharna what are you talking about?’ But the guys agreed that maybe girls are more proactive in seeking out volunteer programmes. If this is the case then maybe with a little promotion and awareness raising a lot more guys would hear about the programme and therefore the chances would increase of them applying. It’s just an idea but it makes sense.

So what motivated the guys to apply?

DANNY: I think it’s a good opportunity to do some hands on work within my subject area. I think my main reason however, was for the challenge.

ED: I think it’s down to the fact that you can travel and see an entirely new part of the world, but most importantly it is an adventure. I was very interested in development and really wanted to get involved and do something positive and productive. Having studied politics I wanted to see first-hand some of things I had studied and to just immerse myself in a different culture. Another major attraction was that the programme is entirely funded by the government so it’s a massive opportunity.

CARLOS: I studied development so I wanted to gain some practical experience. Also, I had never been travelling so it was good opportunity for me to see things I haven’t seen, and experience things that I haven’t experienced. Anything where you can make a positive impact is worth doing.

And I completely agree with every one of these statements. The project in itself is the perfect opportunity to learn about yourself and to learn about a new and exciting culture.

So logically the next thing I wanted to know is ‘why is it that fewer guys apply for the programme than girls’?

Following this question I was confronted with a bit more hesitation and humming and haa’ing, but the points I received were valid all the same.

DANNY: I think charity work in general tends to attract more females. Maybe it’s something to do with male expectations to go straight into a job rather than taking a gap year or pursuing charity work. I don’t believe that should be the case though, because you can work in international development either in hope of a career or temporarily before doing something else.

ED: I think it really depends on the individual. It may be seen that humanitarian work is more for females. However, the reality of the programme is that it’s very hands on and practical. I think again it’s down to awareness. I think more guys would be involved if it was presented to them.

CARLOS: Maybe guys don’t plan ahead as much, they may want to get straight into something and taking part in a project that is unpaid and just for the experience may not appeal to them from a first glance.

It was clear from the guys’ responses that they believed the programme was worthwhile and that it provided them with some valuable experiences that they probably couldn’t gain anywhere else. They described their passion for being immersed in a new culture and language and described the reality of the programme to be ‘eye opening’ and so different from just studying a culture in the confines of a lecture theatre. Ed and Carlos also described the rewarding feeling of being part of such a positive and proactive programme and agreed that to ‘take a load off someone else’ and witness tangible outcomes of their work is definitely fulfilling. A few challenges were mentioned such as the language barrier and the strain that living in a small place with others puts on you. But in general the responses in regards to how worthwhile the project is were overwhelmingly positive.

When asked whether they would recommend the project to other guys these were their responses:

DANNY: I would definitely recommend it. It is a worthwhile use of time whilst you are and here and when you get back. The commitment to the programme is realistic; it looks good on your C.V and can be a way into competitive civil or public sector jobs. It gives you the opportunity to learn a new language and it’s not too difficult but still a challenge.

ED: Absolutely. Reasons being…for a start it is an amazing opportunity regardless of gender. I think it is a really great opportunity and a healthy challenge. It looks good on your C.V…I just think on so many levels it is a beneficial thing to do.

CARLOS: Yeah, I definitely would, just because it is something different. The small challenges are not reasons to not come and it could definitely increase your prospects. If you are at a time in your life where you don’t know what to do next, this is the perfect opportunity to do it.

I think upon reflection, the experience is one that is for everyone and there is no reason why more guys shouldn’t get involved. Maybe with a push to spread the word about Progressio and the placements that ICS have to offer, more guys can hear about it and hopefully get applying! I think now it is our mission to get the word out to as many as possible, if it means revisiting our universities, or using social networking…we will make it happen. Watch this space.

Progressio ICS volunteer Sharna Allen reflects on why more boys should get applying to ICS.

Photo: Progressio ICS volunteer Edward Maddocks gets stuck in to the challenging project work in Marcala, Honduras.

Interview: Progressio ICS volunteers Edward Maddocks, Danny Smith-Whittle and Carlos Bostock debate the benefits of Progressio ICS



Hi, I'm Ed's dad... great article and nice photo of Ed cultivating what looks like pretty hard ground. You do highlight some very interesting ideas about the value of doing something worthwhile when you've got the chance. Broadening one's horizons is so important. A direct awareness and experience (in us wealthy northern Europeans) of how the other three quarters of humanity lives also develops more compassion and understanding.
I hope all goes well for the rest of the trip.