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Visible Women

Recently, I started reading “Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men” by Caroline Criado Perez. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you get your hands on a copy (whether you are a man or a woman), as it really is an informative read. Although many of us are well aware of the concept of male privilege, this book is a real eye-opener, providing fascinating statistics and examples on how it really is a world designed by men for men. It is not an attack on men, it merely shows the extent to which women (often unintentionally, through lack of historical consideration in data used in areas from public transport to city planning and bathrooms) are so much less visible than their male counterparts.

With this in mind, and encouraged by a fantastic female translator/musician I met at the MET (Mediterranean Editors and Translators) conference in 2018, I decided it was time to be brave and to try and have my voice heard.

Translation is a profession that attracts a high number of women (I don’t have statistics, but from attending various professional conferences, it is clear to see that the vast majority of participants are female). However, despite this, at every event I have attended, many of the presentations are given by middle-aged, white men. This is not an attack against these men, many of them are esteemed colleagues and have much to share, but it did make me start questioning why the voices of successful (young) women are not showcased as much. I don’t imagine the organisers would favour male contributions, so what else could be behind this? Could it be that we do not put ourselves forward enough? Could it be a lack of confidence, and a feeling of invisibility in this man’s world? Nothing has physically stopped me from applying to participate in a translation conference, but as a woman in her thirties, I suppose I felt like I may not be taken seriously. This made me realise that women will not become more visible unless we, as well as men, endeavour to bring about change.

Therefore, recently, I put forward a proposal to give a presentation at a professional conference in October 2020. For the past two years I have been tempted to talk about technical translation (which, according to Jody Bryne in her book “Technical Translation Usability Strategies for Translating Technical Documentation”, accounts for 90% of global translation output but is subject to very little academic study, unlike literary translation, which is rather a niche area comparatively). It is a topic I have a lot to say about, with 10 years of industry experience, and I think it deserves more air time (just like women)!

I will find out whether I have been selected later in the year, but for now I can sleep well knowing that I have at least made some effort to add another female voice to the professional chorus.


  1. Being one of those middle-aged males (and not having taken any offense at all), I would agree with the misrepresentation of women in terms of the number of speakers. I wish to suggest that certain non-gender factors contribute to that fact. To speak in front of a crowd requires confidence in facing a flesh-and-blood public. Many if not most translators are drawn to the profession speficially because they do not have be social, espeicially those over the age of 40. The new generation is often more confident with or without justification. Regardless of their knowledge, many women fear exposing themselves to public criticism, which is what lecturing involves. If the language of the lecture is not their native language, it is all the more daunting. Both my wife and I gave a lecture at the ATA 60 lecture. For all those reasons, she invested much more effort than I in order to feel 100% confident. To be fair, I am used to public speaking but she felt the need to be perfectly ready. So, I would agree that women need to change their attitude if they are to be proportionally represented but translators are not the most socially confident group as a rule.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts, Stephen and also thank you for not taking offence. Due to the Covid-19 situation, this conference has been cancelled, but I fully intend to apply again next year. I wish you and your wife all the best!


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