Ok, well that was a bit of a devil’s advocate there. I was just trying to cut away some of the excess from the conversation. So what are we left with? Women don’t tend to write theoretical books or perform as keynote speakers as often as men. This may be simply because they do not wish to do this. They are not necessarily depriving themselves of an opportunity for greater income or greater status. Is it still a problem?
For one thing the principle of The Fair List is valid. Any time we see unequal representation,whether it be in terms of race, gender, or any other human division, it is an occasion for concern: not panic, but a re-appraisal of the selection process. Organizations should look for hidden bias in their own practices, and in the outer community. It is incumbent on them to do what they can to remedy any inequality they find.
It is also a problem when the two branches of language teaching become so estranged from each other. I have been on both sides of the fence, so I can attest that there is a certain amount of mutual distrust. It is not helpful to dismiss the others as less meaningful or less innovative. We need to break out of our silos, because we have much to learn from each other. An international teacher can benefit from developing empathy and a sense that the student exists beyond the classroom. A stay at home might learn to take a few risks and open her mind to new developments.
On a more practical note, there’s a strong feeling in the air that the tide is coming in. Our sandcastles are not as invulnerable as we thought. Language teaching in Canada is shifting, and there is not much we can do to resist this. If changes to education and immigration policy continue in the pattern that we see now, public esl education will be quite a different field in a few years. In a market as tight as Toronto’s, these changes will have a ripple effect on all language teaching in the city. We cannot waste our energies sniping at each other. The more bound we are by prejudices and habituation, the more vulnerable we will be. As a community, we need to be united; as individuals we need to be as flexible as possible.
So sure, let’s talk about gender issues; let’s have that conversation. But let’s have it on a basis of mutual respect, not as adversaries.
* And yes I’m aware there’s an awfully tortured mixed metaphor here; I’m owning it.