Have you ever posed the question of whether women make better translators than men? The gender issue often comes into play in many careers, maybe even all careers. You don’t see many women scientists, or mathematicians, just as there are fewer male preschool teachers and nurses. And, is it turns out, fewer male translators and interpreters.
So, what’s up with that? Is it that men don’t choose to follow this career, or could it simply be that women make better translators than men? Let’s take a closer look.
A Female Dominated Industry
Actually, the question of whether women make better translators than men is rarely ever posed. Yet, languages seems to be a female dominated industry. 81 percent of Rosetta Translation interpreters are women, compared to just 19 percent men.
There are also strong opinions from most Project Managers about working with women translators. Ask any PM and they’ll probably have a thing or two to say about men and women translators, one way or the other.
Diana Alvarez, Operations Manager at Day Translations, confirms, “this is definitely a female dominated industry. In my experience, there are a lot of male translators but very few great ones. We have a lot more women translators on call than men.”
However, a survey held by Rosetta Translation of their project managers revealed the opposite. Most of their project managers believed that men translators were actually better than women translators when it came to complex material, or excellent presentation.
This collective belief of their project managers goes against the theory that women make better translators than men. Yet, a further survey revealed that most of the PMs preferred translators were women! 55 percent preferred women translators, compared to 45 percent male.
So, if project managers like working with women translators better, this raises the question:
Do Women Make Better Translators?
This is not a question that is frequently asked, since it’s not one of those occasions where the gender advantage would seem obvious. No great physical strength is required and there is no glass ceiling to break. Languages are not something exclusive to women at school. There’s no immediate reason why women make better translators than men.
If you take a look at the research, there’s actually also no evidence to support the fact that women make better translators than men. An in-depth study on the effect of gender in translation accuracy in Iranian to English translators concluded that gender played no role at all in the end results.
After trialing and sampling various translations from both genders, the work was declared to be equally accurate. The report concludes, “As the results show, we can notify that translators gender does not have an important role in translation accuracy, and we can’t also confirmly say that female translators are better than the male ones in their translations.”
A further report published by Translation Journal also came up with the same results. “The study reported here indicated that the difference between the answers of the two groups as measured by the standard deviations was not meaningful. Therefore, in translation evaluation, the gender of the evaluator can be ignored.”
The Size of The Translation Industry
According to a report by Ibisworld, translation services are expected to reach $38 billion by 2018. Clearly, there are massive opportunities available in this area. And, according to pangeanic, translators worried about losing their jobs to machines can rest easily for now.
“The good news for translators who worry about the technology may one day replace human translations is that only parts of the translation job can be automated by now.”
Due to the nature of the fragmented translation industry, with many freelance translators compared to full time, fixed employees, it’s difficult to prove that there are more women translators than men.
But, this certainly seems to be a career that suits females. Here are some of the factors that make a career in translation interesting to women and possibly makes them better translators than men:
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Working From Home
Freelance translators usually work from home, which gives women the freedom to develop a career while also deciding to have children, should they want to. According to one of our translators, Belén, being a freelance translator has allowed her to work at home with her kids.
She says, “it is stressful to work with kids around,” but that being a translator has allowed her to “earn enough to support myself and my kids,” and also “pay for my kids’ vacations.”
The Gender Issue Is Irrelevant
As already stated, the gender issue seems to be irrelevant. In fact, when many translators work from home, their employer may not even be aware of their gender. This means that discrimination faced by women so often in the workplace does not apply here.
Good Interpersonal Skills
Translation, and especially interpreting, require excellent interpersonal skills. Oftentimes, women are more emotionally intuitive and able to pick up on emotional cues than men. They may also be more equipped to deal with sensitive situations and defuse tense issues.
Where a medical interpreter or court reporter is needed for sensitive cases, such as interpreting for a rape victim, a female may also be preferred.
Ability to Multitask
Studies often suggest that women are better at multitasking than men. Of course, that can’t be said for all women and all men, but a tendency is clear. Since translation and interpretation often require interchanging between one text and another, one language to another; women make better translators naturally. Their ability to switch between tasks with ease is definitely an advantage.
The question of whether women make better translators than men is inconclusive and certainly open to debate. Yet, translation can definitely be considered an attractive career for women.
Women translators can balance their professional and personal lives, and work in an environment free from gender discrimination. They can design a career to suit their lifestyles and make use of inherent emotional intelligence and multitasking ability. And, when they put their minds to it, women make better translators than men!