Medical Speech Pathology

Curiosity, Dialogue, and Knowledge

Speech Therapy: We Need a Few Good Men


We need a few good men

Statistics of Interest

The likelihood of SLPs in the schools being male was very low: only3%, on average (see Figure 6). A higher proportion of males worked in administrative offices (12%) than in other settings, and the fewest were employed in preschools (1%; p = .000).

  • From the Bureau of Labor and Statistics: In 2011, a full 97.7 percent of the work force in the preschool setting was staffed by women; 82% of elementary and middle school teachers were women; 85% of special education teachers were women; but, only 58% of secondary school teachers were women.

A quote from a letter sent in to ASHA about diversity:

The day when I walk into an ASHA-associated meeting and see an even male-to-female ratio (rather than being, as is the usual case, one of the few males in attendance) is the day I will start taking all of ASHA’s hand-wringing and sanctimonious talk about diversity and inclusiveness seriously.

Ken Mylott

Deerfield Beach, Fla.

jmark2001@hotmail.com

Why don’t guys think Speech Language Pathology is for them?

Looking at the above information, both the statistics and the quote from Ken Mylott, I want to draw a few conclusions that may be beneficial.  First, I think that there needs to be continued focus on this lack of diversity in our field so that more men are at least aware of the opportunities in this field.  Second, I think that one possibility here is that the similarities in the low male to female ratio in preschool work (for both SLPs and teachers) could simply be due to the fact that men are less nurturing (as a general rule) and so are less inclined to seek jobs in these areas. This may also be why we see that with teachers, at least, there is a “leveling out” of the numbers as the grades get higher. The kids are older and easier for guys to interact with.  Third, I think that the one area where I would expect to see more males, in the medical aspect of Speech Language Pathology, there are more males.  But the percentage is still a woeful 5%.  In my opinion, this part is also due in large part to the general perception of SLPs as articulation artists, not swallowing specialists.   I don’t, however, know whether or not I agree with Mr. Ken Mylott’s view that ASHA has just been dragging its feet.

Solutions

Do males need some form of affirmative action to balance the scales for a while?  Is a new GI Joe character named Mr. Speechy needed to plant the seeds early?  What about recruiting pro-wrestlers to talk about speech problems they had (or still have) and how a male role model in speech therapy helped them out (or still could help them)?  Could it be that most guys really just suck at language in general and should stick to engineering, construction management, and  professional athletics?

In all seriousness, I don’t think any of the above tongue in cheek remarks will do much good.  What will do us good is continued dialogue about this. I think that the bitterness that I read in the note that Mr. Mylott wrote is deserved.  ASHA is our governing body, we all pay large amounts yearly to be given services and to promote our profession.  I would like to see more emphasis on the medical aspects of Speech Pathology, and more in the way of specific efforts to inform men of the opportunities within Speech Pathology.  I believe these two things go hand in hand.

Finally

Men also need to wake up and smell the roses here.  While some obvious PR is needed, we have to be adventurous enough to do the research and take the plunge.  Speech Language Pathology is the most interesting and rewarding thing I’ve ever done.  I’ve learned so much from my female professors, colleagues, bosses, and classmates.  The unique atmosphere that has developed because of this asymmetrical representation of males has never felt threatening or exclusive to me.  My only concern is what more could our profession do if it were more representative of the general job market?  What new directions in research and therapy interventions would result from the increased diversity?  Collaboration, inclusion, and diversity all have great benefits in our pluralistic society and in our profession.  We should continue to strive towards these ends.

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30 comments on “Speech Therapy: We Need a Few Good Men

  1. Natasha G.
    May 31, 2012

    I agree that males are SERIOUSLY underrepresented in this field. I joke with my 21 yr old nephew to become an SLP because he can probably go to school for free AND meet a ton of girls without having to be an athlete…lol..But, with the SLP field being female dominated, I often find that males holding many of the executive/administrative positions (i.e department chairs, Directors of Rehab, etc). I wonder what the percentage of male vs. female ASHA presidents since its inception? Essentially, males are “running the show”, so why are you (males in general) not encouraging the younger generation??

    BTW, nice blog!

    • Mark
      February 17, 2015

      In no way, shape or form are males running the show. Any brief survey of the speech field would reveal this. You’re just covering for the blatant sexism in speech pathology and doing an awful job of it at that.

  2. Admin
    May 31, 2012

    Thanks for the comments Natasha. I hope to spread the word to more guys. Honestly, I’ve always felt rather lucky to be in this field regardless of what the female:male ratio is. I honestly never even realized what speech language pathology really meant beyond articulation therapy; so I never considered it as a career option till I already had my English degree wrapped up.

    I’m glad you like the blog. Quite a few new interviews and hopefully more articles are on the way, as well as a power point set from Dr. Yale Rosen (the MD that has allowed me to use the lung pathology slides on the site). Plus, I have a surprise piece from someone I’ll keep anonymous for the time being that I’m looking forward to posting as well.

    Walt Greenslade, CCC-SLP

  3. LL
    November 12, 2012

    Hello, I am a Speech and Language Therapy student from the UK, I am about to start a research project on the gender imbalance in Speech & Language Therapy/ Pathology so have found your views very useful, thank you! (if anyone would like to give further opinions I would be very interested to hear these)

    • Lawrence G.
      December 2, 2012

      I agree. I just graduated my undergraduate studies and I was one of maybe 5 guys out of the whole program in my school. As a request from a professor and interest from myself, I started research on this as well!

    • LiLb
      December 10, 2012

      I am a male graduate student in sLP finishing my first semester. It has been a challenge. I encountered several barriers that I did not anticipate. Largely this involved fitting into the social dynamics of my cohort and the faculty in my department. I have no male mentors and so it is difficult to see how others have dealt with these issues. I am curious, have you observed any patterns in your research that relate to my experience?

      • Lawrence D.
        December 12, 2012

        Hello! Can you please tell me some of the barriers that you encountered?
        I indeed have seen similar patterns that you mentioned in research though, such as being unable to talk to other guys and about male-related topics (sports, girls, etc). It’s seen not only in Speech, but other professions such as Occupational Therapy. Some have mentioned that you should just make sure you’re able to hang out with your male friends, even if they’re not in Speech. It’s great that you’re already in a graduate program though!

      • LL
        December 16, 2012

        Much of the research I have found is more opinion based rather than from reliable research studies. However, I have found similar views to yourself, males have found it difficult to ‘fit in’ with a large group of females or experienced gender stereotyping. It hasn’t all been negative experiences though – many people have said they love their job as a male SLP/SLT; have been role models for clients and been able to integrate the technical and scientific nature of the career that maybe males are drawn to ( I know I am generalising here, I understand different people will prefer different elements of speech and language).

        Where there does seem agreement is that the profession needs to work harder to promote SLP/ SLT to males in schools and colleges and creating a positive media image.

  4. Hunter McGrant
    December 15, 2012

    Does anyone know if it is in fact less competitive to get into graduate SLP schools as a male?

    • Admin
      December 15, 2012

      My guess is that it depends mostly on the candidate meeting the minimum qualifications for entry into a graduate program. Each program may then give credence to more subjective information in deciding whom they select. I, for one, would hope that they give no special dispensation to males. I don’t believe we are in need of that much help.

  5. Michael
    March 2, 2013

    I am a currenly SLP Grad Student and I am looking for something in this career that does NOT work in a school. My undergraduate degree was in biology and I found this profession as something else I could do besides a lab job or research. I am interested in working in a rehab or acute setting in a hospital, as that is where my first experience with what an SLP does came from. My mother was in the hospital with a possible stroke and the acute-care SLP came in to do a bed-side assessment of her condition. This type of work appeals to me a great deal.

    What else drew me more to this profession, as I learned more about it, is the possibility to have my own practice. However, I have struggled with the idea of where to find clients.

    I was looking for articles on this subject when I came across yours and I hope to find more info from people who are actually in the field.

    I’ll look in again to see if there are any other entries or if there is a response.

    Thanks.

  6. Andrew T
    March 18, 2013

    Just thought I’d put in my 2 cents’ worth. I’m a 2nd year Masters of Speech Pathology student in Australia (Griffith Uni, Gold Coast) in the first cohort of a program at this university. I met my first real flesh and blood male speechie a couple of weeks ago, although he wasn’t a “typical” speechie (he worked for a NFP company that distributes AAC devices and living aids). And the faculty will apparently be joined by a male lecturer next semester, although I’ll be almost finished then.

    I’m one of 2 guys in the course (the 3rd dropped out after O-Week) and it has been tough, more for the gruelling course rather than for gender reasons. However, I know that the workplace will be a different kettle of fish. I can see how Speech would not be appealing to your “Average Joe”, because as previously observed, it does require a certain level of caring, which I guess most guys aren’t predisposed to.

    I’m not sure what I’ll do once I’ll graduate, in what area, or if I’ll apply for Audiology, but it has certainly been an interesting road.

    FYI: my girlfriend is also doing the course (coincidence that we’d both wanted to do it when we found out about it!), and the other guy is married. And in the 1st year cohort there’s ONE guy, fresh out of undergrad! Good luck to him, haha!

    And Lawrence D., if you’d like to know anything else, just comment. The other guy in the cohort would also be glad to offer comments or anything to help.

    • Gordon
      September 27, 2013

      Hi Andrew

      I found this whilst looking for student pathology experiences, and found you are studying at Griffith on the Masters. I hope you don’t mind me replying.

      I have just applied for the Masters for 2014.

      How have you found the course?. What was the interview like?. What are the tutors like?., Pracs good?. etc

      Many thanks

      Gordon Marshall

      • Andrew
        February 18, 2015

        Sorry, Gordon, I hadn’t seen the email telling me there’d been a response! Did you get in? Despite 2 cohorts having graduated, I’m still the only male from that course who’s a practising speechie.

    • Mark
      February 17, 2015

      “it does require a certain level of caring, which I guess most guys aren’t predisposed to..”

      Nonsense.

      • Andrew
        February 18, 2015

        Sorry, Mark, I was merely speculating on a possible reason why there are so few males in speech pathology. This was one that has been mentioned many times by (female) speechies I’ve discussed it with. Feel free to add some speculations of your own to the discussion.

      • forbinproject
        July 16, 2017

        Yup. I guess I should go now the lawn and work on my truck now and have a tall cold one while the Mrs. does all the work with the children (except when the kid has done something wrong). Eek. Male, gay, don’t work on cars, love kids, never mowed a lawn, can’t belch the alphabet, and can’t bbq for nothing.

  7. David
    April 28, 2013

    Same with me Lawrence, I am at UQ in Australia in final year so please comment if you want some help!

  8. Dustin
    September 7, 2013

    Hello, I am a 35 year old male who graduated years ago with a degree in marketing and have worked in retail for over 13 years. I came upon speech pathology and thought it sounded interesting. I have started doing volunteer work at a local clinic for stroke victims and find the job very rewarding not to mention fascinating. I’ve decided to go back to school for a career in this field. I just wanted to know if you knew of about the statistic as far as how many males work in the clinical setting? I am still very new to this field but I like the clinical work so far however from what I read more men tend to go the medical route. Also there is a possibility that I may moving to Canada. From what I have been told once you have your degree you can get a job anywhere in the world, is this true? I also was trying to find out that if I started taking courses towards my degree in the US if they would transfer to a Canadian school when I leave.

    Thanks for your help!

  9. Pingback: A Funny Thing Happened | Speech and Hearing

  10. Themistes
    October 19, 2014

    I’ll be starting the program in January (My wife is an SLPA.) and this issue has interested me. However, I don’t see a problem with the scarcity of men in the field. If men, in general, have attributes that are missing from the profession as a whole, then more male SLPs would benefit us, but I don’t think this is the case. Certainly, some men can do well as SLPs–especially in the medical side–but do we have any natural advantages over women in this area? I’d be interested in your thoughts. I am no expert here. Good article!

    • Admin
      October 25, 2014

      Thanks for commenting. I love to see more feedback and comments on the blog.

      I think that both men and women have different perspectives to bring to the field. We are all so different that I’m hesitant to make any sweeping statements about “natural advantages” we might have or not have. I do strongly believe that diversity of all sorts is a benefit for any field. In the case of SLPs, men bring diversity to a profession that is largely female. My thought is simply that we should encourage more men to explore this as an option. I’m really glad I did.

  11. Jason
    November 15, 2014

    Hi I will also be starting my master in Speech Pathology at Griffith (same as Andrew). To be honest, I start worring about the gender issue after reading all these comments. It seems like the stereoyple does exisit and it is more or less a disadvantage to male in the field…. I can foresee how tough it will be next year considering English is not my first langauge as well. It will pleased if anyone can give advises on how does it really work for male in the field

    • Andrew
      February 18, 2015

      Congratulations on getting in! That’s the first step. Second step is survival, hehe! My cohort was pretty unusual in terms of stereotypical speechies. Average age was probably closer to early-mid 30s, with a broad range of ages and backgrounds. The subsequent cohort was much younger by comparison, and perhaps comprised more of your supposed “typical speechie”.

      FYI, of the 28 who entered final semester, I think 25 graduated. Of those, most have jobs in speech now. Of the two guys in my cohort, I’m the only one who has continued with speech (I work at GCUH now).

      Being from a non-English speaking background may present additional challenges, yes, but I think those challenges would have been greater if you were attempting to enter my previous field of work, TESOL. You’ll be ok. It’s a certain type of person who decides to become a speechie, and chances are you’ll make a bunch of friends and all help each other out. Good luck!

      • Sarah
        October 14, 2016

        Hey i just stumbled upon this discussion so not sure if either of you are around still. I have applied for the Griffith masters program for next year. Still waiting on whether I will get to the interview stage. So just wondering the approximate amount of people they take each year and also what your undergrad gpa’s were that got you in. The wait is killing me.
        Thanks.

  12. Mark
    February 17, 2015

    The speech language pathology field, as largely driven by ASHA and its initiatives or lack thereof, has no excuse other than sexism for its dismal male participation.

    Every other field has joined the modern age in at least heavily advertising and recruiting academically appropriate candidates to redress any significant gender imbalance; even if in-the-end an unavoidable meritocracy in highly rigorous academics, exacerbated by low female participation, creates an uneven balance in some STEM fields.

    In SLP, the academics are not so difficult that males should have such drastically lower participation by virtue of any such meritocracy. If there is no meritocratic explanation, than only awareness of the profession is to blame. This implies some uncomfortable likelihoods about the nature of the gender imbalance in the field, as well as ASHA’s culpability. Everything else is indefensible conjecture about the 5% participation rate.

    I have found both the graduate and professional speech language pathology environments to be overtly hostile to males. In graduate school, I was the only male and largely isolated as well as put under a microscope as such. Additionally, I have detailed documentation regarding differing and overtly hostile treatment by professors.

    In the professional environment, there is no pressure to address the gender balance in the workplace. Without such pressure, it is more sociopolitically comfortable for women to preserve their workplace domination than to hire a male.

    In both environments, but more so in child language environments, a female dictated emotional tone is allowed to prevail over the widely accepted emotionally neutral professional standards of communication. To wit, it is gender-hostile for there to be a standard of emotionally charged communication for all things. I feel as if I don’t at least use one explanation point and convey ‘happiness’ in all electronic communication, for instance, that I will be damaging my relationship with the female SLP with whom I am trying to communicate. One might be tempted to brush off this observation as unimportant or perhaps even flawed, but I assure you that it is both important and a reality. The entire field is tainted with a standard of overly-emotional communication and a female aesthetic that acts as a significant social and professional barrier to males. It is easy for females to strip this content form their communication to meet professional standards, as they do throughout almost any other field in which there is a better gender balance, but it tends to be emotionally exhausting and incongruent for a male to add such content. One failure to meet this female standard can set a man back in an environment wherein he is already mostly politically powerless and vulnerable.

    • Andrew
      February 18, 2015

      You should join the The League of Extraordinary Speech Pathology Gentlemen
      https://www.facebook.com/groups/1529012244031046/

      I work in the hospital caseload (in Australia, for comparison sake), and find that the speechies I work with in fact do communicate with an emotionally neutral professionalism that I’ve not seen in other work places. Perhaps it’s just specific to where I work, as this is the only speech job I’ve had so far, but it sounds like there might be more aggression towards males in the US than here. But, again, this comes from limited experience.

      My district did hire a second male recently, which is good, and I’m even getting the uniform (Specially made. The blouse didn’t look too good on me).

      Having said that, I often think that if I’d done a bit of work experience in a few of the caseloads before applying for the course, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to continue. This is more due to the amount of work required, especially in paeds/school caseloads, and also the casual/part time nature of a lot of the available worl. However, I’m glad I stuck with it. Being able to leave the hospital at 4:30 and not have to think about work again is pretty good.

  13. Gordon
    February 18, 2015

    Hi Andrew, this thread looks all very ‘interesting’.

    Did I get into the program?. Yes, I was offered a place, but turned it down at that time as I was offered a position in my current profession – in a university and teaching. I was given a contract and would enable me to save more for when I eventually get round to it. I will be thinking about applying again next round. Til then save, save and save which would balance out tuition debt later on.

    I hope your course is going ok and enjoying your experiences. I have still been undertaking shadowing as / when regarding SLP. Yes, it is female mostly, but my working life to-date has been female staff members mostly in teaching especially. I never even think about it to be honest, but just get on with it. I can see the point of view with being the only male in a class or slightly more, but it should never be a barrier. I do know a few people in the UK who are SLT’s (the same as SLP’s) and it’s similar ratios, and working in schools and out in the community. One is working with stroke survivors and dysphasia and running workshops for males and have found they open up to other males about things. Same with a friend who is a SLT in a primary school (kind of quite a lot of male role models).

    I also like research and interested in the correlation to incidence of bullying in schools and the intervention of SLP’s and therefore to what impacts do they make?.

    It’s all good. Have fun!.

    What pracs did you go to, what places, what were your supervisors like?. Interesting?.

    Have a great day!.

  14. SLP Guy
    November 13, 2016

    Thank you all for your comments. I am interested in learning more about SLP. I have a BS in Bio and I enjoy the idea of being of service to others so much in the workplace. I have never been the only male in a school or work setting, although I have been one of a few males in a work setting and it wasn’t a big deal at all. Since I have never taken an SLP course, I will need to take a cert year first, then go on to the Masters program, should I decide to go in to this field. Does anyone have experience with taking the 1 year of pre-Master’s courses online, then going on to get the Masters, or would you suggest taking the courses in person at the school that offers the Masters, make the connections with faculty and then go on the Masters? Thank you in advance for any help!

  15. SLP Guy
    November 13, 2016

    to add to my previous post: I live in the USA and plan to attend a University here.

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This entry was posted on April 21, 2012 by in Editorial and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , .
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