Does the female dominance of the language sector represent progress for women in the workplace?

Despite advances over the last 100 years, sexism and misogyny persist, stubbornly, in the workplace. Sexist jokes abound. Women are paid less. There are fewer women in parliament. In almost all sectors, there are fewer women in executive roles.

Almost all sectors; because, in the industry of language, that is, in translation and interpreting, female employees are taking centre stage. In a study spanning 78 countries, Inttrastats has revealed that 82.43% of executive committee members of interpreter’s and translator’s associations are women. Similarly, the majority (64.27%) of freelance interpreters and translators studied were female.

This predominance of women in languages also exists beyond the professional sphere and is apparent in the academic world. While the number of female students in British universities outweighs that of their male counterparts, the majority of teaching staff are male, with men holding 80% of senior posts. (The dominance of males in teaching roles at UK universities is demonstrated by a recent garden party at Cambridge University at which certain tables were labelled for ‘Tutors & Wives’). However, in the faculties of translation at 27 universities across 12 different countries, Inttrastats found that 72.22% of staff are women.

Does this represent progress or is it just another example of society’s gendering of subjects and careers? The conclusion that Inttrastats draws is this: “if language is the defining characteristic of what makes us human, and therefore the source of the differences between people, dialogue – translation – is the only means of overcoming them. In the language industry at least, it would seem women have the power to do that.”

Sources include: Inttrastats, The Guardian, BBC News


At TJC, we offer a wide range of translation and interpreting services to meet your needs. For more information, please visit our website, or send us an email.

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