Original Research

Male students’ perceptions about gender imbalances in a speech-language pathology and audiology training programme of a South African institution of higher education

Sandra du Plessis
South African Journal of Communication Disorders | Vol 65, No 1 | a570 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajcd.v65i1.570 | © 2018 Sandra Du Plessis | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 06 July 2017 | Published: 16 May 2018

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Sandra du Plessis, Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, South Africa

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Background: The professions of speech-language pathology and audiology (SLPA) are characterised by occupational gender segregation. Reasons given by men are a lack of awareness of SLPA; a perception of poor salaries; a perception of poor working conditions; a stereotype that the profession is a female occupation; and a perception that working with children is feminine.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to describe the perceptions of male students in a specific SLPA training programme regarding gender imbalances. The objectives were to describe the influences of gender on the career orientation of students, the factors shaping students’ career choices and the experiences of students during their undergraduate training.


Method: This study followed a quantitative descriptive survey design. Thirty-one conveniently sampled male SLPA students, across different years of study, completed a self-administered questionnaire.


Results: Participants indicated that they did not believe in the gendered nature of occupations and that SLPA are not ‘female only’ professions. They (65%) recorded that they considered salary and career prospects for choosing a career, and 74% specified that they chose SLPA because of a desire to help people. The perception of male students regarding their training appears to be positive as participants are comfortable with the clinical (71%) and learning (77%) activities. However, barriers were reported and some lecture information may be more obvious or applicable to female students. A need was identified to address the issue of working alone with paediatric clients and pertains to the societal awareness regarding sexual harassment of children, which may impact spontaneity in engagements.


Conclusion: The recruitment of male students should be prioritised to better reflect the client population served by the professions. Recommendations include career counselling in rural schools, recruitment campaigns to identify interested students, public awareness regarding the professions and guidance regarding working with paediatric clients.


speech-language pathology and audiology; male students; career choice


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