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?