Perceptions on translator gender Public  

Who do you think of when you think of a professional translator?

We wanted to know, so we asked this question to over 1,200 respondents in 11 countries around the globe.

Each respondent was asked this question in their local language so as to not influence the data with a strictly bilingual audience. Furthermore, great care was taken to translate the question in a way that avoided using masculine or feminine words that would subconsciously bias the responses in either direction. 

People just don’t think about translation

The first conclusion that we can draw from the responses is probably something that most of us already realize. People don’t know. That is to say, that most people never even think about translation or the professionals who do it.

From our research, it seems as though most people didn’t have any mental image of a translator as either a man or a woman, with half of respondents selecting “I don’t know.” 

When forced to decide, people associate professional translation with women

So to make our analysis a little more meaningful, we limited the responses to two choices: male and female. When the survey was run in each country again, we see that roughly 70% of respondents worldwide think of women when they think of professional translators.

Perception is influenced by culture

So how do these results break down by different countries? Surely, perceptions on translator gender are influenced by the varying cultures in different countries, right? 

Analyzing the data, we see that of the 11 countries surveyed, almost all of them tended to think of translators as women. The single outlier was Brazil, with more than half of respondents reporting that they think of professional translators as men. 

Those who aren’t sure are more likely to guess male

However, it seems like the Brazilians were not as decisive as in some other countries. Here we define decisiveness as how long each respondent had to think about the question before submitting an answer. We measure this in miliseconds in the chart below. 

Brazilians took up to 5 times longer to answer this question than other countries. So while Brazilians may be more likely to see translators as men, they are not so sure about it.

One key consideration to keep in mind –  countries that were not sure whether to choose female or male were more likely to guess. If Brazilians simply do not know the answer, for example, they are more likely to guess, which would lead to the results skewing more towards a 50-50 split, as we basically see above. 

Men are LESS likely to think of translators as men

When looking at the results broken down by the gender of the respondents, we see that men are actually 10% more likely to view translation as a woman’s job. Female respondents were about 70% likely to think of a professional translator as a woman, whereas male respondents were about 80% likely to do so. 

Perception seems to be cross-generational

When looking at the responses broken down by age of the respondents, we see that there are some differences between age groups, but nothing that is statistically significant. The perceptions held by people seem to be cross-generational, not showing any significant trends between age-groups.

Summary

From a close analysis of these surveys, we get a clear view of just what the world thinks of when they hear the word ‘translator.’ But do they think of translators at all? No. They really don’t. Remember, based on the results of our very first graph in this report, it seems that the world just simply DOESN’T think about translators. Most respondents have no preconceived notion of a translator in their mind, and are therefore completely agnostic. 

However, when pressed to answer the question (by taking away the “I don’t know” choice), people overwhelmingly choose that a typical translator is a woman. This perception is most likely influenced by gender stereotypes in different cultures and in different countries, but overwhelmingly, the world sees the typical gender of a translator as female. 

(If you’re interested in more gender-focused articles, check out “The feminine genius”)

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