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Pam Enderby: My life in the speech and language profession

Recently, we sat down with Pam Enderby, the Emeritus Professor of Community Rehabilitation at University of Sheffield, to discuss her career over the last 30 years, diversity in the speech and language profession, and some tips for anyone starting out their careers as a SLT.

On choosing speech and language therapy

‘I knew I wasn’t very academic at school however, there were other things that were appealing. I liked working with people and I also knew that I could talk!

‘I remember thinking, wouldn’t it be awful if you couldn’t speak, which led me to consider speech and language therapy’

On equal pay

 

‘It was quite clear there was no career structure [in speech and language therapy].

‘It made me think, should of I have gone into pharmacy or psychology. Then I thought, why do they have a career structure and not speech and language therapy?

‘Our work is of equal value to these other male dominated [professions]

‘We had a chat with the unions, and had independent reviews of the job complexities that seemed to go on forever...’

Why was the equal pay case important and how did it change in your profession?

‘One of the main things is that it has kept people in the profession. 

‘There has to be a career structure to keep experienced therapists within our profession...’

Did it change you in the process?

‘I did feel that if we had a few people round a table, we could sort it out immediately. It took 14 years. So many tribunals, so many high courts and everything was so laboured. 

Life lessons

 

‘You can always learn! That’s driven a lot of my research as well.

‘You might think you are good as a professional… but you’ve got to know that somebody can do better and [you have to think] how can you learn from them.’

A feminised profession

 

‘Men who look at the profession and see that it is mostly women, then move to another caring or interesting discipline that is more male dominated.

‘There are so many client groups where you do need a mixed gender population. There are many young men with head injuries who might relate more easily to a male SLT.

‘We do need more SLT from different backgrounds, cultures and social-economic groups to bring a richness to the discussion, to make sure we are actually responding in the right way to the broad range of client groups.’

Diversity in the profession

 

‘I think one of the things is to emphasise the scientific aspect of it and also the measurement aspect as we know men are often very interested in those aspects of careers generally.

‘We also need to show that men can bring something unique, that at the moment we haven’t got.

‘We have to have a diverse profession.’

A life in the profession 

      

‘I’ve put my foot in it quite a few times.

‘I try to comfort myself, that if you do a lot, you are going to get a proportion wrong. If you do nothing, you will get nothing wrong!

‘I did apply to do zoology as a degree… and I did think of teaching for a while and I am glad I didn’t do that, for lots of different reasons, but mainly because I am very happy doing my job.