The realm of the Parent-Teacher Association in Anne Arundel County is still largely ruled by women. In fact, 84 of the county's 100 PTAs are led by Female presidents.

But lately more men are making inroads into local PTAs, both in Anne Arundel and throughout Maryland. In neighboring Howard County, for example, the number of male PTA presidents increased from six last year to eight this year, while the figure for other male officers jumped from 12 to 20.

According to Anne Arundel PTA President Carolyn Roeding, the number of male presidents, officers and members has been on a steady incline since the early 1980s. Besides the 16 male presidents currently serving, another 100 or so are male officers and numerous rank-and-filers.

Both the state and national PTA offices view this as a happy development. Rightly so. It reflects the growing involvement of fathers in areas of their children's lives that formerly, and unfairly, were dumped in the laps of mothers. Changing diapers at 3 a.m., taking charge of visits to the pediatrician, leading shoe-buying expeditions and other duties once regarded as "women's work" are no longer viewed by most males with fear or disdain.

Now they want to help run the local PTA, too.

Cynics may explain this shift by noting that men have had to get involved since more than half of American women hold down jobs outside the home. But it's just as likely that many men have realized they should take more of a hand in child-rearing, not simply out of fairness and responsibility but also out of a desire to get in on the fun and satisfaction of bringing up the kids.

Says Maryland PTA President Vicki Rafel, "This is a trend we're seeing statewide. We try to encourage this kind of diversity among our officers, in terms of gender and also ethnicity and race."

Do the men bring anything different to the PTAs? Ms. Roeding answers with a question: "Is there a difference between the way men and women think? . . . Men tend to look at things in a more logical, reasoned manner, while women are more sensitive to the human side of things. But now all these elements are being tossed together." The main beneficiaries of this change will be students. Kids can't help but reap advantages when both Mom and Dad take an active interest in their lives.

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