The field of speech-language pathology (SLP) is one largely dominated by women. Only 2.8 percent of the field accounts for male SLPs. Gregory Code, a graduate student studying communicative disorders, conducted research to find out why there are fewer men than women in the field of SLP.
Greg decided to analyze the temperament and personality traits of men and women in speech-language pathology and other professions. He employed the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, which consisted of 70 force-choice questions. He then scored the responses, and the participants were assigned a personality type. 694 people submitted completed responses that Greg was able to include.
The personality types are determined by the combination of characteristic pairs. A person can be an extrovert (E) or introvert (I), sensing (S) or intuitive (I), thinking (T) or feeling (F) and judging (J) or perceiving (P). The results indicated that the number one personality type for SLPs is ISFJ, which accounted for 32.2 percent of SLPs and the second was ESFJ, which accounted for 21.9 percent. SLPs are 1.7 times more likely than the general public to have the feeling and judging personality traits. Male SLPs are 1.7 times more likely to have the feeling characteristic compared to males in the general population. Females in the general population are three times more likely than males in the general population to have the feeling characteristic. This indicates that personality types play a large factor in reasoning for the gender imbalance in speech-language pathology.
As a fellow CDIS graduate student, I was baffled by this research. I found it necessary to ask Greg and the only two men in my cohort, James Lovell and William Coburn, about their experiences in the program and their reasoning for choosing this field.
Why did you choose this major?
Greg: I originally wanted to work as a special education teacher. I called my cousin who was a special education teacher and asked him some questions about it. He said it wasn’t the best time to be a teacher and said he thought I would be better suited as a speech-language pathologist. Of course, I had no idea what that was or what they did. I started doing research right away, and it sounded like something I would be good at.
James: I chose this major because I take great interest in the field of speech-language pathology. My sister who is an SLP inspired me to pursue this rewarding career. There are so many different settings that I may be able to help individuals with their speech-language deficits (i.e., hospitals, schools, etc.). Also, the compensation is quite lucrative for an SLP.
William: I chose this major because I have a son with Auditory Processing Deficit (APD) and he is currently receiving speech services back home in Washington State. It’s been a very hectic journey not only for him but for me as a father too. My wife is currently a licensed SLP with her own private practice, which helped fuel my decision. I love seeing her clients coming and going with smiles and the reactions of their parents when talking about how far their child has come since their first day of therapy.
How do you think men can positively impact the field?
Greg: In the school population, it is quite common for a child to grow up without any sort of male role model. Every male I have met in this profession would be an excellent role model for these kids. It might be the only positive role model they will ever have. Just maybe it could make a difference for these kids.
James: I believe men can positively impact the field because some clients may prefer a male SLP. In some cases, male or female clients might work better with a man. To have the option of a female or male SLP will help the client to be more comfortable and productive in their therapy sessions.
William: I feel that men can play an important role with younger clients, specifically because there are many children with speech and language disorders who do not have a male role model or positive male interaction in their daily routines. This provides an excellent opportunity for men to step up and make a difference for these kids who really need the experience of interacting with males who care about their future.
What advice would you give to other males pursuing this major?
Greg: Don’t let other people influence your decision about entering into this field. Just remember that the professors will remember who you are, even in large class sizes and that can be good or bad, so take care in how you present yourself.
James: The advice that I would give to other males pursuing this major is you must have patience, empathy, and passion for helping others. Working in this field is all about helping the client. Since this field is predominately female, you must be able to work well with them and accept that they will mostly have the authority role in the workplace.
William: My advice is don’t be afraid to go for it. It’s been an interesting beginning, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the journey. You will feel out of place at first because you’re surrounded by a cohort of almost all females, but they will end up collaborating with you and helping you see things from the female perspective, which is extremely valuable. You can also give them a male’s perspective when they need other ideas for therapy sessions involving male clients.
What are some of the positives about being a male in a female-driven field?
Greg: I think being around women all the time has made me a more balanced individual. I think most women have natural nurturing skills and I have not only learned a lot from my female supervisors but also my female peers. As I mentioned above, because male SLPs are not that common, people tend to remember you more, and that could be an advantage when applying for jobs.
James: The positives of being a male in this female-driven field is that we are valuable because we are a selected few. Since there are limited males in this profession, we are high in demand. We may have more opportunities or be selected first before our female counterpart.
William: It’s nice to provide a positive male interaction with clients who do not have the opportunity to get that experience in their daily routine. You can see different reactions from clients who do not have the male interactions, and they seem happy, for the most part, to have spent roughly an hour with someone providing them a different perspective than what they are used too.
How do you think we can reach other males and get them interested in speech-language pathology?
Greg: I think the right advertising would work. We know the personality types in our profession, so we should use that somehow in marketing. The nursing field decided to attract more males into that profession about a decade or so ago. There were TV and radio ads on for years. They targeted the male population, and it worked. I have never seen any type of advertising for the speech-language pathology profession, geared toward males or females. It’s not that these males have not chosen this profession in favor of a more traditional career, it’s that they don’t know this profession exists.
James: That is a hard question! This idea may be unfair for females, but to have some sort of incentive for males to pursue this field will probably help.
William: I think advertising for the field, in general, is something that needs to be improved upon. I cannot remember ever seeing an advertisement on television, in a magazine, online or on a billboard for speech-language pathology. This includes both male and females. There is such a great demand for SLP’s that one would think it would be appealing to more people. I think the problem is not getting the word out about the amazing opportunities that speech pathology can provide. With the majority of SLPs being female, it will take time for males to understand that they have a place here and they are needed.
What is your personality characteristic?