The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2022 - 19

Culture and Gender:
Reasons Behind
Lower Pay?
There are myriad reasons for
lower pay in the language
professions, so I won't go
into them in depth here,
except to state the obvious:
market forces dictate how
much you can charge for
your services, and ours is an
oversubscribed profession,
particularly for translators
who have a common
language combination.
In addition, and despite
the naysaying, machine
translation is getting better
all the time and increasingly
taking over quite a lot of the
work, which means there are
certain agencies that expect
their translators to " postedit "
at an even lower rate!
As if to compound the issue,
the translation profession
is comprised of mostly
women. In terms of paid
employment, 60% of women
have never negotiated pay
with an employer, and many
women would rather leave a
job than do this.4
Could this
scenario be replicated in the
case of female freelancers?
It's quite likely, but I merely
wish to speak in pragmatic
terms, without apportioning
blame, because only by
addressing the issue can we
hope to combat it.
Another obstacle when it
comes to tackling low rates
might originate in cultural
differences. I've experienced
this myself when attending
various courses run by both
U.S. and U.K. translators, with
the former generally being
more forthcoming, casual,
and willing to talk about
money than the latter. Often,
it's considered impolite to
talk about money in British
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Why Talking about Rates
Is Good for Translators
It stands to reason that
disclosing what we
charge, particularly those
translators who are higher
earners, will increase
awareness about rates
among translators at
every level. Lower earning
translators can then use
this knowledge to raise
themselves up to a more
economically equitable
platform. However,
there's much reluctance to
approach this topic of rates
in our profession.
ATA Past President Corinne
McKay, a well-known and
reputable translator based
and European circles, and it
can be embarrassing and feel
intrusive when someone asks
about your rates, particularly
if you suspect that you're not
earning enough or you're not
earning what you would like.
Cultural ideas about money
reflect what it means if you
earn too much or too little,
resulting in stigmas for both
high and low earners. This
could lead to unnecessary
feelings of inferiority (e.g.,
What if you don't earn
enough to go on vacation?).
Our profession can feel very
elitest and class-conscious in
this respect.
Moreover, most translators
tend to have a more
introspective, introverted
nature and work as
freelancers, so it's difficult
to get collectively and
professionally organized
around discussing money.
Rates also vary and often
depend on many factors,
including subject matter,
language combination,
the level of formatting a
document requires, etc.
in the U.S., writes coherently
about a reluctance to talk
about rates in one of her blog
posts.5
Having taken a few
of Corinne's courses, I can
vouch that she was never shy
about broaching the topic of
earnings and was the first
translator to really open my
eyes to a translator's earning
potential. She also didn't
just talk about rates in the
general sense. Instead, she
told you what she was actually
earning. Other reputable
translators have taken a
bold approach and commit
the rare, refreshing, but
equally blasphemous act of
advertising their rates on
their websites for all and
sundry to see.
Advertising your rates
is a growing trend, and
I'm seeing more of this
on translator websites,
particularly in the U.S. Of
course, we're not all aiming
to be high rollers, and that's
okay (many translators
are happy with moderate
earnings), but wouldn't being
more open with each other
about what we charge help to
at least propel the discussion
along and, as a result, aid in
combatting lower earnings
and level the playing field
in terms of earnings within
the profession? Perhaps it's
time, then, to speak more
honestly and openly about
our own rates.
Higher Earners
Of course, it's also true that
many translators at the
top of their game (in terms
of being able to command
large sums) are often very
much " out there. " In other
words, these translators are
not shy about promoting
themselves and often set up
lucrative courses so other
American Translators Association 19
As translators,
we often not
only don't know
what others are
charging for
roughly the same
type of work,
but we don't
even know the
potential amount
we could be
charging!
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The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2022

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