The ASHA Leader invited readers to respond to “Where the Boys Aren’t,” an article in the August 2013 issue on the disproportionately low
number of men in the field of speech-language pathology.
Some readers responded on the ASHA Community.
Others responded to two related posts—one by Kevin Maier
and Perry Flynn on
ASHAsphere. Others responded with e-mails to email@example.com. Here’s what they
Jack Ryalls, Orlando, Fla.:
A year ago I wrote a letter, “Closing the Gender Chasm”
(on.asha.org/gender-chasm) to The ASHA Leader. I was very happy to see an
in-depth article in the recent issue. A number of important points were raised.
It is disturbing to see that not only is the gender disparity not resolving
over time, it’s actually increased in the 10-year period considered. While the
article identified a number of important contributing factors, it does not
offer much in the way of solutions. What seems to be needed is a change of
Working with award-wining young videographer Ray Valencia,
we developed a video aimed at countering the lack of awareness of the
profession pointed out in the article. We filmed undergraduate and graduate
males in the field working across a wide variety of contexts in the field.
Find “Dudes do Speech Therapy Too” at YouTube.
Alan Kunz, speech and hearing sciences undergraduate,
University of Washington:
This e-mail is in response to “Where the Boys Aren’t,” Aug
A lot of the survey responses surprised me. You have a 1997
study finding men characterize CSD careers as “offering few opportunities for
growth” and a 2009 study finding that only a quarter of men even know SLP
How can such an impactful profession have so little renown,
but among those males who do know it, a negative image?
My guess: Young males, especially those who go to college,
don’t have kids and probably don’t remember going to an SLP if they ever had
to. There’s no exposure to the field. I suggest that in 1997, the number of men
who knew about speech-language pathology was the same, if not even less, and
their answers were mostly based on gut instinct (how exactly the question was
asked is really important, but we don’t know that).
The author mentions other “helping” fields in which the
gender disparity is increasing. That same study shows other, similar fields in
which the gap is decreasing, like nursing and teaching. In fact, several of the
fields the author singles out have only dropped a few tenths of a percent,
which is, of course, statistically insignificant (particularly over a decade).
The only professions experiencing a significant loss in male numbers, according
to her source, are psychology and occupational therapy.
This trend suggests to me that men gravitate towards
“hands-on” fields, but are not averse to “helping” professions in general.
I propose that the number one concern of a male entering
college is a) just finding a path and, no less important, b) finding one that
pays off in the end. $70k is a really good starting pay, no matter what the
author says, and there are plenty of men who are not cut out for engineering or
business but who are nurturing. Perhaps most importantly, communications is
consistently one of the most popular majors in the United State (with a
starting pay of $30k according to CNN). So, interest in speech and hearing
sciences is there, even if latent and untapped.
I might be naïve, but the field itself is not the issue.
It’s a matter of branding.
How do we get awareness of the field out there to men?
We target communications, linguistics, English, and
education departments and fraternities with the following information: pay,
fields (not just pediatrics but geriatrics, research), growth projections,
placement opportunities and the potential for career growth.
We target engineering and neuroscience departments,
emphasizing the fact that speech-language pathology and audiology are
essentially “applied neuroscience” fields, with essentially the same
Most importantly, we target young, incoming freshmen males
who are shopping around. They offer the most potential for results.
Thanks for indulging my thoughts.
Everett Leiter, MA, CCC-SLP, New York:
Kellie Rowden-Racette’s article “Where the Boys Aren’t” was
such a welcome, intelligent discussion of the gender issue in our profession.
As a male practicing in speech-language pathology for over
30 years, I feel passionately that the gender imbalance is a serious problem in
our profession. It is not only an issue of professional concern. It is also an
issue of cultural and linguistic diversity. From our first moment as social
beings, males and females communicate differently. We need to be cognizant of that
in our treatment. After all, if males and females all communicated the same
way, there would be no need whatsoever for our services among the people who
transition from one gender to the other.
In my original training and in all the continuing education
I attend, gender has received scant attention. As a graduate student many years
ago in supervised clinical practicum, all of my university supervisors were
female. Working there predominantly with children, most of my supervisors and
my peers used therapeutic discourse styles that seemed uncomfortable, foreign
and inappropriate for me as a male. Fortunately, as a male clinician, I
discovered a therapeutic discourse style that works for me and my clients. To
this day, however, when I attend an ASHA convention, I often feel like someone
from a neglected minority culture.
What needs to be done? I am not sure. I wonder, for one,
what the role is of our university programs. From what I hear, there are far
more applicants than they are able to accept. In their admissions policies,
however, they are the gatekeepers to our profession. I am also quite certain
that we, who are already practicing in the profession, need to be aware of
gender in communication and of the value of having both genders represented. We
became aware of the value of diversity for other cultural and linguistic
differences decades ago.
Here is one last example. In 2006, I attended a panel
presentation at the ASHA convention about ethnographic and sociolinguistic
aspects of communication research. Addressing a panel of experts, I raised the
question about the ethnographic characteristics of the field investigators in
the various studies presented. Almost invariably, the field investigators were
female graduate students in their 20s. And yet no attention was given to the
possibility that this might have influenced the responses of any of the
subjects in the studies. Some of the panel members raised their voices and
roundly criticized me for even raising the gender issue. A couple of others, to
my relief, expressed that there was some merit in the question. If some experts
in ethnography don’t “get it,” where does that leave the rest of us?
Beth Macauley and Courtney Karasinski, Grand Valley State
University, Grand Rapids, Mich.:
We thought you would like to know that the boys are at Grand
Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan! Seventeen percent of our
inaugural master of science in speech-language pathology class that begins in
two weeks are boys (five out of 30) and between five percent and 10 percent of
our undergraduate students are boys, depending on the academic year. Since our
program in communication sciences and disorders is three years old and our
largest class size is 30 students, we have focused on faculty-student mentoring
and advising. As a result of the personal relationships built, we have mothers,
military, married, multilingual and “first-time-in-college-in their-family”
students, as well as the men, among our student body. We are extremely proud of
our GVSU speech-language pathology students and encourage others to give us a
look. We also encourage any person certified professional (especially in
Michigan) to contact us about supervising our wonderful students and joining
our SLP family!
Chuck Moore, South Bend, Ind.:
After reading the August 2013 ASHA Leader, I found several
of the articles very interesting. I retired in June 2012 after serving in an
urban public school setting for 48 years. I began my career as a practicing SLP
and then as a supervisor of several therapy and special education staffs. I can
relate very well to being either one of very few males or the sole male both
during undergraduate and graduate school and working as a professional. Our
school district’s SLPs have implemented block scheduling, provided services in
the classroom, and utilized RTI procedures despite high caseloads; certified
SLPs have full caseloads while also supervising bachelor-degree assistants.
Often these capable individuals are unable to gain entrance to graduate school
because universities accept a small numbers of applicants.
The lack of males, particularly African American and Latino
males in the urban setting, has been of growing concern, as is the growing
shortage of SLPs. Budget shortages limit salaries and school districts’ ability
to provide support for continuing education opportunities. The Ohio Department
of Education and universities are to be commended for implementing the OMNIE
I believe there will be an increase in SLPs (including
males) if responsible individuals in state and federal government see that
school budgets address realistically the needs of qualified individuals to
serve our children appropriately.