Study Reveals Women Speak Less When Outnumbered

A study led by Dr Christopher Karpowitz of Brigham Young University shows that having a seat at the table is very different than having a voice, for women.

In most groups that they studied, the time that women spoke was significantly less than their proportional representation – amounting to less than 75 percent of the time that men spoke.

There is an exception to this rule of gender participation, however. The time inequality disappeared when researchers instructed participants to decide by a unanimous vote instead of majority rule.

“In school boards, governing boards of organizations and firms, and legislative committees, women are often a minority of members and the group uses majority rule to make its decisions. These settings will produce a dramatic inequality in women’s floor time and in many other ways. Women are less likely to be viewed and to view themselves as influential in the group and to feel that their voice is heard.”

It would be more helpful to have an interactive analysis of these groups, such as records of who talks to whom and who give eye contact, to pin down what's going on. Are women giving nonverbal attention more to men than to other women when more than one person wants to speak, for example. Or do only men tend to ignore women. Are women being cut off? Are they failing to cut off men, while men routinely do it? Having specific patterns of interaction clarified would give a more practical problem solving approach than expecting to set up a demand for consensus.

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