Men in Speech Tackling Education, Recruitment and Retention

USF Clinical Instructor in Speech-Language Pathology, Dr. Joseph Constantine noticed the number of male SLP graduate students has declined to about one percent in the past decade. In the spring of 2012, Constantine started Men in Speech Tackling Education, Recruitment and Retention (MISTERR) in hopes of educating the public about the lack of diversity within the speech-language pathology profession. The objective of the group is to recruit and retain SLP students with varied social, cultural, linguistic and experiential backgrounds.

“There is often a perception and belief that nurturing and communicating are in the domain of ‘women's work’ but the world has changed,” said Constantine. “As a culture, we have moved beyond the 1950's-type values that kept women and men in such rigid social roles.”

When asked, USF male students exiting the program indicated that being a male minority and feeling like an outsider was factored into their decision to leave.

Timothy Stockdale, a current student in the SLP graduate program says that while he feels very accepted by his peers there are some social barriers that come with being the only male in a class of about 55 students.

Stockdale has never considered changing degree programs for this reason. However, he feels that closer relationships with others in the program could have provided him with a greater support during difficult times during his education.

The American Speech–Language–Hearing Association (ASHA) statistics depict a decline in the number of male SLPs from 4.7 percent in 2002 to 3.8 percent in 2012.

Feeling like a minority may not be the only factor contributing to the low number of men in SLP. ASHA conducted a study in 1997 that found men were more likely than women to express concerns about finding jobs that provided opportunities for advancement. The same study also showed men were more likely to categorize speech-language pathology and audiology as offering few opportunities for growth.

Perry Flynn, an ASHA board member who is associate professor at the University of North Carolina Greensboro states in the article, Where the Boys Aren’t by Kellie Rowden-Racette, he believes there is third factor contributing to the declining number of men in SLP: lack of awareness.

Constantine believes starting small will help build national attention for SLP, which is why he started MISTERR at USF.

Publishing articles in local newspapers and newsletters can also help spread awareness about what an SLP does and the numerous job opportunities available.

On a national level, Constantine believes continued education and marketing of SLP as a viable and rewarding career choice will help boost the number of males in the field, including corporate partnerships to assist in funding of marketing. Secondly, he believes MISTERR can grow into a national organization and play a major role in recruiting and retaining more diverse students.

“Men today are active and nurturing parents; they are effective nurses, counselors, psychologists and therapists,” said Constantine. “Men and women are blazing new trails with how they interact and communicate with each other. The membership of ASHA should reflect these historic changes but, unfortunately, demographics point to something of a ‘time capsule’ within the association.”

The scope of practice is very broad in SLP.  It not only allows work in schools with children who have problems with language or articulation, but it allows the  opportunity to work in hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical settings treating individuals who may have a number of medical issues.

“Groups like MISTERR can help with recruitment and retention, by holding regular meetings for students and faculty to network and collaborate on pertinent issues,” said Constantine. “The presence of male SLPs as role models at health fairs, screenings and school events could expose young students to diverse professional opportunities.”