It’s International Women Day and leaving aside all the rhetorics and debates associated to this anniversary, I couldn’t but notice that our profession relies mainly on women.
Translators, interpreters, language teachers, project managers… I am sure that in your experience you have met more women than men working in these capacities. Your classmates at Uni, your colleagues, the professionals you follow on Twitter, the people you often deal with… you know it’s a women’s business. (Even if I have to say, the men who work in this industry are fewer but amazingly talented!)
It is said that for interpreters the ratio of women to men is 3:1, which is quite impressive. But why is it so?
1. Women are better at learning languages Scientific evidence says we process languages differently from men and we deal better with abstract strings of language. We also employ several learning strategies and we engage more than men with native speakers. Here is an interesting article from the Guardian and a a lovely infographic from Busuu.
2. Women are better at multitasking This myth has apparently a scientific ground. In one of the multiple studies on the topic, it has been discovered that “(…) in a stressed and complex situation – women are more able to stop and think about what’s going on in front of them.”. Given the high- pace, stressful environment in which interpreters move, it does not come as a surprise that there’s so many of us girls. Not to mention those women who juggle this stressful profession with family, kids, sports and the like. Sorry boys!
3. Women are more empathic We tend to put ourselves in other people’s shoes more than men and this is foundamental for interpreting- you want to be on the same wavelength as your speaker so to reproduce all nuances of what he or she is saying. This article is well worth a read:
4. Women are better communicators The stereotype sees men stressed by their chatterbox wives and desperate for them to shut up… well, apparently we are more talkative and overall, better at communicating than men. Be it with words or with other paralinguistic skills, we fare better than our masculine counterparts.
5. Women work more often in service jobs I don’t have data for this, but quite often more women work in service jobs like teachers, nurses because we have a predisposition to help others, sometimes even too much! It might be due to the fact that women are socially seen as more patient and accommodating? (I definitely challenge this idea, though, as I am Little Miss Impatience and quite restless myself!) Anyway, ours is definitely a service job as we help people to overcome barriers and misunderstandings.
All this said, I would like to wish my lovely female colleagues a wonderful Women’s Day (I know it’s almost over, but still…maybe someone will read me from the US and I’ll be on time!) and remind them that it might be a men’s world… but we do rule the language industry!
(Picture credits: daameriva)