Contemporary Argumentation and Debate
The Journal of the Cross Examination Debate Association
Irene Matz and Jon Bruschke 29
Sarah F. Ryan and Benjamin K. Sovacool
Allan Louden, Forum Editor
|Timothy M. O’Donnell||75|
Carly Woods, Matthew Brigham, Brent Heavner, Takuzo Konishi, John Rief, Brent Saindon, and Gordon R. Mitchell
Rae Lynn Schwartz-DuPre
Jon Bruschke and Toni Nielson
Contemporary Argumentation and Debate, Vol. 27 (2006) 29
GENDER INEQUITY IN DEBATE, LEGAL AND BUSINESS PROFESSIONS
S. Irene Matz and Jon Bruschke
The question of gender diversity in intercollegiate debate Continues to stir interest and concern. Studies conducted between the middle- 1 980s through 2003 show that the percentage of female Collegiate debate competitors low compared to the population of females enrolled in universities and colleges (Logue, 1993; Skarb, 2003; Stepp, 1997; Stepp & Gardner, 2001; Rogers, 1997). This finding is especially disheartening given the overall trend of increased female enrollment in post-secondary education; indeed, there is even concern that current enrollment trends display an imbalance in favor of females who now comprise 57% of the national student body (Gurian, 2005, p. Bl).
This study has three purposes. First, it will present the most recent data on gender diversity. Second, it will incorporate these data with every prior study in an effort to establish an overall pattern. Third, this paper will explore whether trends in the debate community mirror trends in other social venues in an attempt to identify models that the debate community could emulate.
Although the debate community has brainstormed diversity issues, there have been few studies that compare debate to other arenas, such the business world, the legal field, and other areas of academia. Wirth (2001), for example, notes that females hold an increasing share in the labor force but still struggle to attain senior management positions, a pattern that might be strikingly analogous to a debate community where females participate in far greater numbers at the novice and junior varsity levels but rarely appear on the speaker award lists or in the late elimination rounds of major national tournaments. If patterns of similarity exist, there may be lessons the debate community can take to address gender diversity in a more systematic way than it has thus far.
Review of the Literature
The best-studied events are the national championship tournaments, both the Cross Examination Debate Association (CEDA) national tournament and the National Debate Tournament (NDT). Participation patterns of each demonstrate gender exclusion in slightly different ways. Considering the NDT first, the earliest studies reported that roughly 14% to 15% of debaters participating at the NDT in the mid-1980s were female (Friedley & Manchester, 1985; Logue, 1993; Skarb, 2003, p. 45). Southworth’s (2003) complete listing of female participation shows that between 1947-2002 overall female participation has been 14.2% and never higher than 24%. Although since 1995 there has been a slight tendency toward increased participation, females only comprise roughly one-fifth of all NDT competitors (see Table 1). The CEDA national tournament has a slightly different pattern. Demographics have been tracked by Stepp and Gardner (2001) who conducted a ten-year study collecting demographic data from competitors attending the national championship between 1991-2001. From 1991 to 1997, female participation rates increased but since that time there has been a steady decline. At no point have females ever constituted more than 41% of the preliminary round competitors. Comparatively, the CEDA national tournament has more overall female participation but shows no evidence of growth in gender diversity, and the NDT shows a trend toward increased diversity but much lower female participation overall. At neither tournament have females ever constituted more than roughly 40% of the overall participant pool. The pattern of female participation at these tournaments is not encouraging inasmuch as progress towards improving gender diversity.
In viewing other tournaments for comparison, Rogers (1997) tracked
17 Great Salt Lake (GSL) tournaments in 1992 and
found that 43% of the competitors were females or minorities. It might appear that females are gaining in participation, but because this research was not longitudinal, it is unknown whether this higher representation was consistent at subsequent GSL tournaments. The participation rates reflect a higher percent at the novice level (55%) with only 40% at the junior varsity and 22% at the open levels supporting results from other tournaments that females are not equally represented at the elimination rounds.
Skarb (2003) conducted the first and only extant study to examine all debaters who competed in at least one tournament in his study of the 2002-2003 college debate season. Of the 1552 participants, 39% were females. Their participation at regional debate tournaments was 40.8%, while they comprised 30.3% of attendees at national tournaments (p. 45). There were stark differences across divisions of competition; for example, only 28.8% of participants at the open national tournaments were females, while the figure was 52.8% at novice regional tournaments (p. 45). In general, these studies show that females are underrepresented in debate and that there is no notable trend toward increased equity.
Although it is not the focus of this study, it is worth noting that gender inequity is even more pronounced among the judge and director population, and that trend is getting markedly worse (Stepp & Gardner, 2001).
Females are even more underrepresented in terms of success. In Stepp and Gardner’s (2001) ten-year study, on an average, females made up 35.9% of participants but only 26.2% of students advancing to the elimination rounds were female. Rogers (1997) found that women had proportional success in novice and junior varsity divisions but not in open divisions. Skarb (2003) found that all-female teams lost to all-male teams 53.9% of the time overall, and the trend was more pronounced in the open divisions especially in the elimination rounds in open divisions. In tie1, all-female teams actually beat all-male teams more often in the novice divisions. Whereas in open division, they lost 62.7% of their elimination debates to all-male teams and 63.5% of their debates to mixed-sex teams. Skarb also found that male speakers averaged roughly half a speaker point a round more than female speakers. This finding is very consistent with that of Bruschke & Johnson (1994) who studied 1,720 speaker points given at tournaments spanning the 1988 through 1992 seasons. Finally, Southworth’s (2003) comprehensive history of the NDT shows that between 1947-2002 females comprised 14.2% of participants overall but only 9.8% of elimination round participants and 6.7% of speaker award recipients.
Methods and Results
In order to explore whether these trends continue to persist, demographic information was collected through the debateresults.com website during the 2005-2006 season. After having received Institutional Review Board approval from the institution of the authors, informed consent information was posted on the website and entrants were requested to provide demographic information. Of the 1,505 collegiate debaters in the database, 566 provided demographic information. Because the request was posted to the website in January of 2006, some competitors may not have provided information because they had ceased attending tournaments. Of those who responded, 200 were female (35%), a figure significantly lower than half (Z-approximation p < .001). Of the 126 judges who provided information, 29 were female (23%), again significantly less than half (Z-approximation p < .001).
Only anecdotal information was collected about success rates; however, it is notable that at the 2006 CEDA National tournament only two of the top 20 speakers were female (10%), and only five of the top 30 (16.7%). At the 2006 National Debate Tournament, only two of the top 20 (10.0%) speakers were female, only four of the top 30 (13.3%), and only six of 64 (9.4%) elimination round participants.
For the purposes of comparison, Table 1 includes the results of this study with those of others included in the present literature review. Several patterns are striking. First, female participation taps out around 40% and no study has ever found more than 43% female participation. Second, there is no trend toward increased female participation. Although an encouraging increase in female participation is noted between the middle 1980s and 1991, despite two studies finding a greater than 40% participation rate in 1997, no study since 1998 has found female participation as high as 40%. Furthermore, the trend of unequal participation becomes more pronounced as competition becomes more intense, that is, disparity rates are higher in open compared to novice divisions, at national rather than regional tournaments, in elimination rounds as compared to preliminary rounds, and in speaker awards compared to participation rates. No study exists to controvert any of these conclusions, and there can be little doubt that gender inequity is obvious and persistent in the world of competitive academic debate.
STUDENT COMPETITORS AT CEDA NATIONALS FROM 1991-2000 BY SEX
|Year||Tourney||Percent Female (a)||Source|
|1981||NDT||19%||Logue (1993), qtd in Stepp (1997)|
|1983||NDT||15%||Logue (1993), qtd in Stepp (1997)|
|1984||NDT||15%||Fiedley & Manchester (1985)|
|1984||Regional CEDA Tournaments||29%||Medcalf (1984) qtd in Stepp (1997)|
|1986||CEDA nationals||26%||Logue (1986)|
|1986||Regional CEDA Tournaments||35%||Logue (1986)|
|1991||CEDA nationals||29%||Stepp& Gardner (2001)|
|1992||CEDA nationals||35%||Stepp& Gardner (2001)|
|1993||CEDA nationals||37%||Stepp& Gardner (2001)|
|1994||CEDA nationals||36%||Stepp& Gardner (2001)|
|1995||CEDA nationals||37%||Stepp& Gardner (2001)|
Stepp& Gardner (2001)
Stepp& Gardner (2001)
|1997||17 tourneys||43%||Rogers (1997)|
|1997||GSL||22% (open), 40% (JV), 55% (novice)||Stepp (1997)|
|1998||CEDA nationals||38%||Stepp& Gardner (2001)|
|1999||CEDA nationals||36%||Stepp& Gardner (2001)|
|2000||CEDA nationals||36%||Stepp& Gardner (2001)|
|2003||All tournaments||39%||Skarb (2003)|
|2006||Several tournaments||35%||Present study|
(a) Percentages rounded to nearest integer
NDT -- National Debate Tournament
CEDA -- Cross-Examination Debate Association
GSL -- Great Salt Lake
Female Participation in Other Fields
The Workforce, the Legal Field, and Academia
Insofar as strategies to promote gender equity contain lessons
that transfer across fields, it is helpful to research women’s
presence in other arenas. There may be lessons from various workforce experiences in various professions—their advance and current representations of membership—that can inform efforts in debate. Given the large number of collegiate debate participates who go on to work in legal and business professions (Keele & Matlon, 1984) and the strikingly similar pattern of gender exclusions in the upper but not lower echelons of the fields, knowledge of successes and failures in those fields may be especially relevant to debate.
Women always have been in the workforce. Between 1870 and 2005, there was amazing growth in women’s paid labor participation (Fagenson, 1993; Gibson, 1995). Alpern reports the workforce was 13% female in the year 1870, building incrementally throughout the decades to the present participation late of 60% (Fagenson, 1993, p. 25). in addition to women’s actual presence in the workforce, their opportunities for advancement into elevated positions also changed. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (May, 2005), females have made notable gains in the workforce from 1970 to 2004. Approximately 43% of females were in the workforce in the l970s; and this figure grew to 59.2% in the year 2004 with “half of all management, professional, and related occupations are held by women” (Chao & Utgoff, 2005, P. 1; Coughlin, Wingard & Hollihan, 2005, P. xxiii and Wilson, 2004, p. xii).
Despite these gains, advancement into top leadership positions in a variety of workforce settings proceed at a glacial pace. in the United States (U.S.) government, females occupy 69 seats in the House of Representatives (16% of 435 seats) and 14 out of 100 serve as U.S. senators (Wilson, 2004, p. xii). Presently only one female, Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg, sits on the U.S. Supreme Court since the unexpected retirement of Judge Sandra Day O’Connor (Takahama, 2006). Although females have penetrated governmental arenas as shown above, their representation is still substantially less than males.
Other professions exhibit a striking absence of female leadership. For example, in the business sector, only nine females hold CEOs titles for Fortune 500 companies, and a total of 19 hold office in Fortune 1000 companies (Revell, 2005). Currently, 16.4% of corporate officer positions at Fortune 500 companies are held by females. Although up from 15.7% three years ago, it is a disappointing, slow progress when compared with the number of skilled and competent females in the workplace (Big number, 2006). Consequently, qualified females who found they could not penetrate the “glass ceiling,” formed their own companies. As a result, between 1987 and 1999, the number of female-owned firms climbed by 103% nationwide. in 1999, there were 9.1 million female-owned companies in the U.S. employing 27.5 million people and generating $3.6 trillion in sales. These businesses accounted for 38% of all firms in the country (Book, 2000, p. xvi).
Not only are females absent in upper-level management positions and government-elected offices, but females in the legal arena are struggling to attain partner-level status. According to the National Directory of Legal Employers and Catalyst (a national research firm), 40% of students enrolled in top law schools over the past two decades have been female, and the figure is nearly 50% since 2000. Despite these educational trends, only 15.6% of law partners nationwide are female (Tischler, 2004). The research shows that females are gravely underrepresented in upper leadership, government and legal arenas.
The pattern of female participation and success is remarkably similar in the fields of law, business, education generally, and academic debate. At lower levels of participation, the raw percentages of females to males shows a tendency towards balance or even greater female inclusion (over half professional Occupations are held by women), measured variously as undergraduate enrollment, law school enrollment, workforce participation, or novice and junior varsity level debate Participation. At higher levels of success, female participation drops sharply, measured variously as tenure attainment, partner attainment, CEO attainment, or speaker award and elimination round attainment (Chao & Utgoff, 2005, p. 1; Coughlin et al., & Wilson, 2004). Because the pattern of disproportion is so similar, the solutions may be similar as well. The remainder of this paper ill explore successful solutions that have been tried in other venues to suggest productive directions for the academic debate community.
A consistent concern from both females in debate and the workforce is the informal networking where they feel excluded horn “boys clubs” or “old boys” networks (Rhode, 2003, 13; Reskin as cited Rhode, 2003, p. 63). This inside “club” keeps females excluded and limited in information gathering and relationship building. Mentoring programs may be a common method to address these concerns because they connect people and give access to information and advancement strategies. The opportunity for students to development a mentoring relationship could lead to more insights into the field and encouragement for advancement in debate competition since presently no mentoring programs exist in this community.
Women in law firms identified inadequate mentor programs and access to informal networks as barriers to success (Herring, 2003; Wellington, 2003). A Catalyst study (1998) showed that women of color mentioned the lack of mentors as a barrier to their advancement (Rhode, 2003). Another Catalyst study conducted in 2001 surveyed 6,300 law graduates, both females and males, and reported lack of mentoring opportunities as a barrier to advancement. Of the 24% of people who responded to the Catalyst survey, 52% of females and 29% of males agreed about the lack of mentoring opportunities (Women in the law making the case, 2001). If access to informal networks limits the advancement and retention of females, then a supportive program that encourages inclusion would seem crucial for women’s professional success.
One recommendation is a strong mentor program that promotes discussion of goals, issues, and problems that concern females. Mentoring is defined as “significant personal and professional assistance given by a more experienced person to a less experienced person” (Wadsworth, 2002, p. 2). Mentors can serve as role models, share pertinent strategies, add encouragement and affirm the mentees’ self esteem, and validate their sense of power and worth ( Quick, 2000; Wadsworth, 2002). Mentors can contribute to female’s success with their advice, guidance and modeling. Northouse (2001) describes mentoring as “one of the most critical types of relationship for career advancement” (p. 229). Support, such as coaching, encouragement and sponsorship, can promote advancement. Lear identifies that learning from the right mentors is one of the four steps in leadership (in Bennis & Goldsmith, 2003). Mentoring can contribute to clarifying missions and goals, and build norms for interaction while building individual skills and proficiency (Kozlowski, Gully, Nason, & Smith, 1997; Pearce & Conger, 2003; Wadsworth, 2002). Additionally, this mentoring relationship can impact salary and promotional opportunities.
According to a Catalyst study of 705 women at the vice president level or above from Fortune 1000 corporations, 40% reported presently having at least one mentor, and 77% report having had a mentor previously in their career (Women in leadership, 2003). For example, General Mills, a leading global manufacturer and marketer of consumer food products, offers a mentor program where corporate officers are matched with diverse employees. Another mentor option is the company’s “seven diversity-focused employee networks” that provide an opportunity for information sharing and networking. Their mission is to create support for employees and communication that addresses company issues as well as promoting a cross-functional, two-way learning exchange and dialogue between both mentors and mentees. Anecdotal evidence from participants suggests the program is a success (Working mother magazine, 2006).
Aetna Inc., one of the nation’s leaders in health care and insurances, has a longstanding commitment to supporting diversity in the workplace with corporate networking and philanthropic initiatives (Aetna commits, 2006). Aetna’s mentor program is designed for executives to advise and counsel small business owners with strategies on improving their businesses (Aetha commits, 2006; Aetna 2005 diversity annual report, 2006). Similarly, IBM sponsors a volunteer program where employees mentor college students studying science, engineering, match and technologies (Ashida, 2006). Each year, hundreds of employees volunteer to mentor students with a program that facilitates thinking, encourages risk taking and team responsibility (Fuchs, 2(102). Feedback from these corporations attest to the successful outcome of the participations who felt more informed and supported. Gender equity has been problematic in the workforce, and these equity concerns mirror the debate community too.
There have been no mentoring programs for debate students; however, a directive for a mentoring program serving debate coaches, faculty, and judges was developed at around the turn of the century. The program is no longer active and, although no documents survive from the efforts, oral conversations with some participants have given us a useful picture of the program. Program success was limited; mentors were generally willing to volunteer their time, but mentee enrollment was lacking. An unpublished survey of potential mentees taken at the CEDA national conference revealed that potential mentees felt there was a lack of time at conferences or tournaments. Generally, mentees were more interested in less structured meetings at conferences and more mentoring at their own institutions that focused on specific topics such as interfacing with general councils, development initiatives, and other pressing issues. Short courses at NCA conferences, discussing specific debate issues, such as development, were more relevant to their needs. Participants seemed to prefer more one-on-one, informal mentoring.
In the field of academe, one academic program that has demonstrated success is credited to Purdue University’s Engineering Department titled “Undergraduate Mentees and Mentors (M&M) Program” that focuses on increasing retention rates in engineering for female students. The impetus for the program was the bleak number of female engineers (8.5%) in the United States and percentage of female undergrads (20%) pursuing an engineering degree. Previous studies showed that women leave engineering studies not because of poor grades, but because of a non-encouraging academic atmosphere, a parallel drawn with women debaters.
To better serve and advance females, the Purdue Engineering Department designed a program where first and third-year females were matched in a mentee/mentor relationship with second and fourth year students. Purdue’s objective was to create a positive climate where students felt support and affirmation and received strategic career and academic advice. Engineering students were chosen to participate because of their desire and enthusiasm. The program included monthly meetings with professional guests who addressed topical issues benefiting the mentees. Additionally, the participants met outside of the monthly meetings offering personal support. Approximately 70% met an additional one to three hours per month and 25% met four to six hours.
The Annual Report for 2005-06 program included results of the participants’ surveys that monitored their activities, developments, and members’ satisfaction. Each program was rated on a Likert scale from 1-5 with 5 being the highest rank. For 1st and 3rd year students, the support goal received a 4.15 rating, affirmation a 3.97, and strategic advice 4.52. For 2 and 4th year students, the figures respectively were 4.29, 4.00, and 4.43. Their high rankings clearly show the satisfaction level of the participants. Since its initiation in 1992, there has been consistent enrollment with 40 students the first year and 96 each remaining year to the present day. A five-year period from 1993-1998 documented yearly retention rates for mentees and mentors that revealed six to IL) points higher than for those students not participating in the undergraduate programs (WIEP Report, 1998). The Engineering department reports their Mentor Program as the keystone activity in their retention efforts, with 95% to 100% of program participants consistently retained in the Engineering Department. [he study also found that after graduation, as competent professionals, the mentees became mentors (Reklaitis, 2006; Wadsworth, 2002). This is an excellent example of the benefits of mentoring that could be implemented into the debate community.
Mentor relationships offer individuals a resource for opportunities
and support that can assist them throughout their career by not only contributing
to their professional development but also their psychosocial growth (Ragins
& Cotton, 1999). Many
positive outcomes are associated with mentored careers; for example, increased promotions, career satisfaction, higher incomes, and more mobility (Dreher & Ash, 1990; Ragins & Cotton, 1999; Scandura, 1992; Whitely, Dougherty, & Dreher, 1991). Women have greater opportunity to break through the “glass ceiling” as a result of these supportive relationships. Moreover, women are breaking the glass ceiling as evidenced by their increased success in professional positions (Book, 2000; Chao & Utgoff, 2005; Coughlin et al. 2005; Takahama, 2006; & Wilson, 2004). Women in these mentoring relationships attest that these relationships affected their professional careers (Aetna commits, 2006; Fuchs, 2002; Women in leadership, 2003; & Working mother magazine, 2006). The “glass ceiling” in debate is reflected at the junior varsity level where women are less likely to advance to the higher competition levels (Stepp, 1997).
Both previous and current studies reveal an uneven playing field in both debate tournaments and the workforce; women need support to confront issues and plan strategies for success. The first step for the debate community is to acknowledge the lack of gender diversity and recognize this as a cause for urgency. Inequity in debate does not exist because we inherit it from the high school ranks and the novice and junior varsity divisions that were more gender balanced (McRee & Cote, 2002). Gender inequity is a problem largely unique to open division national tournaments and more pronounced in the elimination rounds and speaker award lists. As with females, who are well represented in the workforce but fewer represented in the upper leadership positions, the problem is not female participation in debate. The problem is that they are not participating in open divisions, and when they do they are not succeeding either in proportion to males or relative to their own participation in preliminary rounds.
A mentor program, similar to the Engineering Department at Purdue, could be designed within the debate community where senior-level debaters are matched with the lower-level debaters especially at the novice and junior divisions. Their experiences and insights could provide information and motivation for younger debaters. This could influence their retention rates as well as their successes. As with the professional women who defined mentors as role models sharing strategies, encouragement and validation, the same model could serve in the debate community resulting in equity within their population.
In the future, a first step to progress is to explain these participation patterns. There are several possibilities. One possibility is poor recruitment, but that has been ruled out because enrollment numbers show high school and the novice and junior varsity divisions are more gender balanced (McRee & Cote, 2002).
Another possibility is overt discrimination or harassment. This
possibility has not been widely studied, although Skarb (2003) does point to
concrete instances of sexual harassment. In our opinion, this shameful behavior
cannot by itself fully explain the lack of female participation, nor does it
go very far in explaining why the lack of female participation is generally
limited to open divisions at national tournaments. Although it is possible that
more harassment and overt bias occurs in the open divisions of national tournaments,
there is no evidence to suggest this is the case. Of course, vigorous efforts
to address sexual harassment
should be an ongoing concern. Concern with harassment can and should be a top-of-the-shelf concern, but is incomplete as an explanation for the patterns of exclusion discussed here, but a possibility for future research.
This paper is concerned more with strategy than tactics. Much work needs to be done to identify how a mentorship program could bc implemented successfully, to compare different types of mentoring, and to review more carefully the logistics of successful mentoring programs. Intercollegiate debate faces special challenges. Unlike corporate actors, the intercollegiate debate community has no strong, central structure and very few resources. In fact, a characteristic of contemporary forensics is the overall weakness of the importance of central governing bodies and individual programs with supporting people who serve as change agents This is not an indictment of the structure of the debate universe nor a warrant for more central authority necessarily. It is a call to recognize that we face this dialectical challenge: Inclusion efforts need to be more coherent, unified, and persistent than they are now if any success is to be expected, but these efforts must come in the context of a community that lacks (and is generally resistant to) centralized, top-down management. Creative approaches will be necessary to navigate successfully these issues.
A second area for progress, and one we have not examined prior to this point, is the nature of the debates themselves. Female exclusion is markedly more pronounced at the higher levels of competition; the primary difference between the higher and lower levels of debate is the style of those debates. Debates at the highest levels tend to incorporate more of the best and worst of our activity. The debates are generally faster, increasing the possibility oh ui-depth discussions but running the risk of shallow strategies relying on dropped sub-points rather than quality of argument. The research burden is generally greater, increasing the opportunity for broad and in-depth research but also the likelihood that very low quality evidence will be introduced and carry the day, The strategies are more sophisticated, which can increase critical thinking, but at the risk of becoming so esoteric and idiosyncratic to debate practice that they have little or no value (educational or otherwise) beyond the debate round. At any rate, because the most obvious difference between higher and lower levels of competition is the debates themselves, the time has come to examine more critically our most taken-for-granted assumptions about how our debates occur and ask whether the style of debate at the higher levels of competition is complicit in reproducing female exclusion. Presumption on the issues suggests that it at least plays a role. The success of the gendered-language critiques in at least making debaters conscious about language choices suggests that important changes are possible through and within the debates themselves.
We cannot stress enough our belief that the problem of female
tinder-representation will very likely persist until the community views this
as a shared problem that all share the responsibility for addressing. Efforts
at present have generally consisted of informal symposia and individual efforts.
The stance of the larger community has generally been to let these individual
efforts take sole responsibility for gender equity or to critique their strategies
when they fail to eliminate our shared problem. While there is, in our opinion,
broad conceptual support for gender equity, there is little motivation to take
a proactive role in achieving concrete outcomes. Our community must embrace
the fight for gender equity as a shared problem and not one that individuals
or as something that diversity forums can address by themselves. There is no
evidence that the piecemeal efforts currently extant will be sufficient to offset
ongoing gender inequity. Attacking the issues as a community with a program
could: “Fully integrating women which is not an impossible dream or an
intractable problem. It is achievable if there is the vision and the will to
do so” (Making change, 2002).