Curiosity, Dialogue, and Knowledge
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).
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.
Deerfield Beach, Fla.
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.
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.
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.