Gender in the Center

Although it says that my name is Peter, this is actually Jo from the Western Washington University writing center.

To echo Jen in the last post, I too have recently participated in a writing center conference. Unlike Jen, however, who is a seasoned veteran at leading conference sessions, I was a newbie. I was working with two fellow writing assistants (tutors), and our conference was on gendered communication in the writing center.

I must admit that to me, gender dynamics, like Hamlet, are everywhere in our lives. Not everyone agrees with me, however. Many people participating in our conference thought that gender had absolutely no effect on their practice as members of the writing center community. Most people pre-conference felt that both their own gender and the gender of the person they were working with didn't really matter when it came to writing and tutoring.

At the Western Washington University writing center, however, we found some pretty interesting numbers involving our own staff and the demographic of people who use our writing center. Although our campus is 55% female and 45% male (pretty standard around the nation), we found that 72% of writers using the center were female. Interestingly, almost 70% of our staff is female as well, and on a larger scale, national writing center Directors are 80% female.

Why do we experience this disparity? Is it because writing center pedagody is geared towards a type of communication that is more stereotypically associated with women? Are women more willing to ask for help on their writing? Is it that writing centers in general are targeted for the humanities rather than the sciences, where women typically make up the majority? What other factors play in here?


  1. Anonymous4:41 PM

    I wonder if there are more women in the writing center because men, stereotypically, never ask for directions, and therefore wouldn't come to a writing center.

  2. Peter, do you have the numbers for gender of writers you see in the center? I'm curious. I don't think we've ever looked at that stat here.... I've read some interesting stuff on gender communication--I imagine one of the most popular writers on the subject is Deborah Tannen (*You Just Don't Understand*). I wonder if anyone has applied some of her theories to writing center work? I would imagine so???

    Sherri at Whatcom

  3. Whoops, duh! I just saw the percentage you gave regarding gender of writing center users. Sorry, I missed that the first time. Maybe I'll go through and count up our stats from last quarter....



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