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Conversation with Larae Bakerink on Mensa Demographics and Testing: (Former) Elected Chair, American Mensa; (Former) Member, International Board of Directors, Mensa International (5)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2021/12/01


LaRae Bakerink was the Elected Chair of American Mensa and a Member of the Executive Committee of the International Board of Directors of Mensa International. She has been a Member of San Diego Mensa since 2001. Bakerink earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance and an M.B.A. in Management. She lives in San Diego with her husband, Steve. She discusses: staff; tests for acceptance; the magazine; demographics; younger people; and types of email.

Keywords: American Mensa, EQ, Executive Committee, intelligence, IQ, Larae Bakerink, Mensa Foundation, Mensa International, San Diego.

Conversation with Larae Bakerink on Mensa Demographics and Testing: (Former) Elected Chair, American Mensa; (Former) Member, International Board of Directors, Mensa International (5)

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

Scott Douglas Jacobsen: We covered some of the tests. That’s for psychiatrists and psychologists. We covered the social aspects of history, covered the important aspects around the fact that it’s democratic. And it’s volunteer based.

Larae Bakerink[1],[2]: Yes, we do have a staff at the national office. We actually have paid employees. We have the largest staff of any of the national Mensa’s ,but we’re the largest national Mensa of any of the national Mensa’s, but yes, the direction is given by the board to the staff, and then the staff carries it out under the executive director.

Jacobsen: So, how many staff and executive directors are there?

Bakerink: One executive director, I believe there’s a total of nineteen staff.

Jacobsen: That’s quite hefty.

Bakerink: It is, but when you consider the fact that we have so many members and we have these huge events, we have the world gathering coming up this year, and then we have Mind Games, which is another national event that’s just game playing. Now, you want to be a board game nerd. That’s the place to go. It’s four hundred people. You have forty hours to play thirty games. There’s usually seventy games. They’re submitted by game board companies. The games have to be less than two years old, but they have to be on the market. So, no prototypes which is too bad because I’d love to get my hands on some prototypes, but everybody in a big room. You play the games together. You rate them. You score them, and then the top five winners at the end of the weekend get what’s called the Mensa Select seal.

And that means that they’re allowed to put this golden seal on their box that says it was voted one of the highest for whatever year by Mensa members. And it’s a big competition, the game companies like it because we’re the only non-paid award they can get. All the other awards that game companies get, they can put money up for it. For us, they have to earn it. Our members have to grade them high for them to earn it. So, they really like getting our award. And it’s a blast. It is so much fun because you stay up all night. Because you want to make sure you get your thirty games, but, most of the people who attend, they want to play every single game there because you get to take a couple of them home at the end of the event. So, they want to pick the game that they want to take home.

So, we have that plus all the regional gatherings. We have a huge magazine that’s put out every month. There’s a lot to running our organization and the employees also support the foundation. And the foundation is a whole separate thing, its own separate board, separate company. So, we do have a big staff, but every one of them plays a really important role in helping our local groups with leadership development, making sure that everything’s all up to date plus taking in all the scoring because the proctors do not score any of the tests. The proctors give the tests then pack them up, and they all get sent to the national office. They’re scored there. So, the staff handles a lot that you would not want to volunteer to handle. Plus, our website is huge and database management is a big deal. That’s all stuff that you do not want volunteers doing.

Jacobsen: So, some of these tests that you’re permitting for admission. How do they go? What’s the reasonable limit in terms of the scores 160?

Bakerink: See, the scores are on percentiles. They’re not on IQ. Only a psychiatrist can determine an IQ. Our supervisory psychologist is very adamant about that because we’re not licensed to do that. All the tests can do is give you a percentile, and then a psychologist can interpret it for you because it depends on your age and that sort of thing, depending on the test. So, I honestly do not know how high it can go. I know we’ve got members from, I believe, right now our youngest member’s two and a half years old and our oldest member’s one hundred and three. We just had a 92-year-old guy join for the first time. He found some old military whatever. He was so excited that he could qualify and join. So, it’s really neat to see people get excited about it.

Jacobsen: This magazine, how big is the publication?

Bakerink: I think its 48 pages. I never remember, but it’s full color magazine. You can choose to get it mailed to you or by email. It’s a lot. We have a lot of articles submitted. In fact, I have to finish writing my column today. We have a lot of articles submitted by members. Our biggest one every year, our fiction issue where we have fiction submitted by all the members that gets scored and only certain ones actually make it into the magazine. And that one’s really, really popular. People just love getting that one and seeing what their friends are writing. And I hate writing, that’s the one thing I hate. I’m a math person. Give me numbers. That is the hardest part for me being chair is having to write a monthly column.

Jacobsen: Do you do like a monthly newsletter things like this to?

Bakerink: Our local group does a monthly newsletter. In fact, most local groups do so they have their own private newsletter along with the national magazine. Because that lists their events that are happening right in their local area. And then the local group newsletters, everyone. They have some kind of puzzle. They have some kind of trivia quiz. There’s always some kind of game or some games in them. And these are new ones that members are coming up with every month and submitting to their editor to put in. So, it’s pretty amazing. Just the amount of information that comes out of our members that they want to put out and show to other members.

Jacobsen: What would you say are the main hunks, demographics, of America Mensa?

Bakerink: Member age breakdown: Currently, our membership is 47,778 seven hundred and twenty eight. We are over 30,000 male, about 16,000 female. Our officer breakdown is almost half and half male and female. Our officer age breakdown, our average age, is between 46 and 65 for officers, but average age of a new members right now is 28. Average age of members as a whole 53, average age of our officers is 60.

Jacobsen: There’s a certain building up to an officer position that makes some sense too. Building up reputation, knowing organization more, and then deciding to sign up for a potential democratically elected position.

Bakerink: So, the majority of our membership right now is between 46, like two thirds of our membership right now is 46 years and olde, but all of our incoming members, the average new member age, is 28. So, the age range is actually going down because the newer members joining have been younger.

Jacobsen: What do you think is the reason for an influx of younger people?

Bakerink: I honestly do not know. It’s interesting because we will get a big influx of like kids who just started college and they found out about Mensa. They thought they would help with their college career, but then you get busy. You get married, or you have kids, and that kind of falls off. but then you’re looking for more interaction again as your life settles. And then they come back into the fold. So, it’s really interesting to see the waves and the dynamic of how that works, but we’ve been getting our officers age range down more too because our younger group, especially Gen Y, has become more and more involved in it. They want to have a say in what’s happening. And I’m like, “OK, you want to have a say in what’s happening, put your seat, put your butt in a leadership seat,” and they took me up on it. And I’m really glad they did.

They have just done some amazing stuff. Our Gen Y and Gen X have really started putting efforts into participating in leadership and leadership development where we do leadership development workshops, which can be used outside of Mensa. But it’s to help them learn leadership roles in Mensa. So, I think that that’s something that they like a lot because some of them have actually told me that it has helped them at work. Some of the things they’ve learned in leadership from Mensa. So, I do not know why we may be getting new members in. I know that we get a big influx whenever there’s an article about a 4-year-old that has joined Mensa or a two year old that has joined Mensa because it always makes great news. And then all of a sudden, I will get one hundred emails from parents, “My child’s really smart too.” I’m very happy to hear that. You will need to have them tested.

Jacobsen: Is this next to the conspiracy theory emails you get – the hundreds you get every day?

Bakerink: I mean they’re excited and they want to know that their child is smart, but we do not test anyone under the age of 14. So, if someone’s under that age, they’re going to have to go to their own psychologist or have school testing done, but we always get a big influx of participants and people wanting to get involved once there’s some kind of news article out about a young child joining. So, it’s interesting. Or if there’s a movie star, it’s like every once in a while; something will come out about Gina Davis. And she’ll be asked about Mensa. She’ll go take the test. She’s a hoot. She’s just an amazing person. All the stuff she’s done for women in Hollywood. She’s working with female directors and that kind of stuff. It’s pretty awesome.

But I guess it depends on what’s out in the news and that’s kind of how we’ll get a big influx. We used to joke one of our biggest influxes ever was in, I think, the early 70s from a Reader’s Digest article because Reader’s Digest was the thing. It was the bomb for years and years and years. Everybody had it in their house. And they got a huge influx of applications and people wanting to take the test for Mensa because of that article in Reader’s Digest.

Jacobsen: What was the particular article?

Bakerink: It was someone who was a writer for Reader’s Digest who took the Mensa test and then talked about like their first couple of events that they went to, and that they were excited about it. And since it was a positive article. It really had a great repercussions for us. And even if there’s something that happens in Japan with Mensa or Britain or something, we see ripples from that. People wanting to join or at least asking questions about Mensa.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Former Chair, American Mensa; Former Member, International Board of Directors (Executive Committee), Mensa International; Former Ex-Officio Member, Mensa Foundation; Member, San Diego Mensa.

[2] Individual Publication Date: December 1, 2021:; Full Issue Publication Date: January 1, 2022:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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