Managerial Gender Bias in Granting Flex Time, Backlash Against Men Flex-Time Seekers

Managers hold gender biases in granting flex time requests, and most employees inaccurately anticipate managers’ likelihood of approving these proposals, found Yale’s Victoria Brescoll with Jennifer Glass of University of Texas-Austin and Harvard’s Alexandra Sedlovskaya.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

Men across job levels were more likely than women to receive flex time to pursue career advancement or to address family issues, found their survey of 76 managers.

Jennifer Glass

Jennifer Glass

Men in high-status jobs were more likely receive approval for career development, and men in low-level jobs tended to get flex time for family issues.
Both groups were more likely than women to receive requested work schedule accommodations.

Women in low-status jobs with childcare requirements were among the least likely to receive accommodations from their managers.
In addition, all employees tended to overestimate the likelihood of receiving a flexible work schedule and underestimate “backlash” after the request.

Women in high-status jobs requesting flextime for career advancement were most likely to expect their requests would be granted, yet they had a lower approval rate than men in high-status jobs.
Conversely, these schedule-accommodated men were least likely to believe they would receive flextime for career development reasons, yet they often received approval.

Brescoll suggested that men in high-status positions who are granted flex time to pursue career development achieve more rapid career advancement.
In contrast, women in high-status roles who request flex time for the same purpose may “…be suspected of hiding the true reason for their request, or they may be viewed as less deserving of further training because it’s assumed that they’ll leave their jobs in the future.”

Women in the workplace encounter a “gendered wall of resistance” (schedule accommodation denials due to gender), whereas men face “status-specific resistance” (objections based on reason for flex time request), according to Brescoll.

Employees’ lack of awareness of managerial bias in granting flextime coupled with realistic concern about negative consequences of workplace accommodation requests can lead to lower productivity, unnecessary turnover and persistent social problems like child poverty and lack of upward mobility for low-wage workers.

Laurie Rudman

Laurie Rudman

In fact, volunteers attributed more “feminine” traits (weakness, uncertainty) and fewer “masculine” traits (competitiveness, ambition) to male leave requestors, found Laurie Rudman and Kris Mescher of Rutgers University.

Kris Mescher

Kris Mescher

Rudman and Mescher asked volunteers of both genders and diverse ethnic backgrounds to evaluate fictional vignettes concerning men who requested a 12-week family leave to care for a sick child or an ailing mother.

Participants attributed poor organizational citizenship (“bad worker stigma”) to men who requested family leave and recommended organizational penalties (e.g., demotion, layoff, ineligibility for bonus) for them.

When men were viewed with the “feminine stigma” of “weakness” and other traditionally-feminine characteristics, they were more likely to incur organizational penalties.

Joseph Vandello

Joseph Vandello

Jennifer Bosson

Jennifer Bosson

The impact of these stigmas on men seeking flexible work arrangements was confirmed in related research by University of South Florida’s Joseph Vandello, Vanessa Hettinger, Jennifer  Bosson, and Jasmine Siddiqi.

Their experimental study found that volunteers assigned lower job evaluations, less masculine and more feminine traits to employees who requested flex time than those with traditional work arrangements.

Jasmine Siddiqi

Jasmine Siddiqi

However, evaluators judged requestors as “warmer” and more “moral,” suggesting that flexibility-seeking employees may be more well-liked and judged as a desirable work colleague.

-*How do you counteract implicit biases in approving workplace flexibility arrangements?

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Knowing without Knowing – Implicit Learning in Action

Lyn Abramson

Lyn Abramson

Implicit learning – knowing without conscious awareness – has positive effects like accelerating foreign language learning and developing more secure computer authentication systems.
It also has negative consequences like prejudiced, biased decision-making.
All of these effects require sufficient sleep to enable memory consolidation of implicit learning.

Patricia Devine

Patricia Devine

When implicit learning leads to inaccurate beliefs about others, the result is often prejudiced behavior.
In contrast,  when biased perceptions are about one self, they can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, or grandiosity, according to University of Wisconsin’s William T. L. Cox, Lyn Abramson and Patricia Devine with Steven Hollon of Vanderbilt.

Brian Nosek

Brian Nosek

A validated way to identify hidden beliefs about race, age, gender, weight, and more is the Implicit Association Test, developed by University of Virginia’s Brian Nosek, Mahzarin Banaji of Harvard and University of Washington’s Anthony Greenwald.

Mahzarin Banaji

Mahzarin Banaji

Banaji and Greenwald’s popular book provides numerous examples of frequently used thinking short cuts that lead to biased beliefs, decisions, judgments, and behaviors.

Anthony Greenwald

Anthony Greenwald

Similarly, most people make quick assessments of others based on appearance using habitual strategies that don’t account for perceptual limitations, noted journalist Joseph Hallinan, who summarized research on bias, misperceptions, and judgment errors.

Joseph Hallinan

Joseph Hallinan

He cited the impact of situational framing on decision making:  When a decision option is posed as a potential gain, most people are less inclined to take risky decisions.
However, they are more willing to take risks if the option is positioned as a possible loss.

Kara Morgan-Short

Kara Morgan-Short

Implicit language learning was demonstrated by “immersion” listening to multiple native speakers.
University of Illinois at Chicago’s Kara Morgan-Short teamed with Karsten Steinhauer of McGill University and Georgetown’s Cristina Sanz and Michael T. Ullman to conduct brain scans on these language learners, and found they showed “native-like language processing.”
By contrast, explicit grammar training did not improve language learning.

Karsten Steinhauer

Karsten Steinhauer

Likewise, implicit learning principles can increase computer security authentication, useful in high-security nuclear plants or military facilities that usually require the code-holder to be physically present.

Cristina Sanz

Cristina Sanz

Security can be compromised when attackers:

  • Steal the user’s hardware token,
  • Fake the user’s identify through biometrics,
  • Coerce the victim into revealing the secret key or password (“rubber hose cryptanalysis”).
Hristo Bojinov

Hristo Bojinov

Unconscious knowledge” is a highly secure approach to biometrics authentication, demonstrated by Stanford University’s Hristo Bojinov and Dan Boneh, collaborating with Daniel Sanchez and Paul Reber of Northwestern and SRI’s Patrick Lincoln.

They included implicit learning principles in a computer game to subliminally deliver a security password without the user’s conscious awareness of the password.

Paul Reber

Paul Reber

Players “intercepted” falling objects in one of six non-random positions on a computer game screen by pressing a key corresponding to the screen position.
The game repeated a hidden sequence of 30 successive positions more than 100 times during game play.

Players made fewer errors when they encountered this sequence on successive rounds, suggesting they implicitly learned the sequence.
Skill re-tests after two weeks demonstrated that players retained this learned skill, but they were unable to consciously reconstruct or recognize fragments of the planted code sequence.

Patrick Lincoln

Patrick Lincoln

Team Bojinov’s implicit learning game demonstrated a new method of highly secure authentication that resists “rubber hose cryptanalysis” by implicitly training the user to enact the password without conscious knowledge of the code.
Their new project analyzes the rate of forgetting implicitly learned passwords and optimal frequency of security authentication refresher sessions.

However, this innovation in security authentication is dependent on the authenticator having sufficient sleep to consolidate implicit learning in memory, found Innsbruck Medical University’s Stefan Fischer, I. Wilhelm, and J. Born, who examined sleep’s impact on implicit memory formation in children ages 7- 11 and 12 young adults between ages 20 and 30.

Fischer’s team measured serial reaction time task before and after eight implicit learning sessions concentrated on rules underlying grammatical and non-grammatical language structures.
Most volunteer responded quickly, demonstrating implicit rule understanding, even though they couldn’t explain why their performance improved.

When adult participants had an interval of sleep between training sessions, their response times were quicker.
In contrast, well-rested children did not show a similar performance improvement, suggesting that sleep actually interferes with implicit performance gains among children.

Implicit learning can boost performance, seemingly “effortlessly,” but requires sufficient sleep to consolidate longer term performance improvements.
These findings are another argument against sleep deprivation in “Crunch Time” all-night work marathons.

-*How do you capitalize on implicit learning to improve performance?

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Clearly-Imagined Future Self Enables More Effective Goal Planning

Most people choose near-term payoffs over distant benefits, often leading to poor outcomes when the future arrives.

Hal Hersfield

Hal Hersfield

Many individuals have difficulty envisioning a personal future because a distant time horizon is more abstract than the tangible reality of an extended present.
This bias toward short-term rewards generally leads to inadequate planning for future eventualities, like health care and financial requirements.

However, making the intangible future more concrete alters this near-term preference.

Laura Carstensen

Laura Carstensen

Volunteers received a visual aid to clearly imagining a future self by viewing a current photo of themselves or a digitally-aged photo from the same present-day view in a study by NYU’s Hal Hershfield collaborating with Daniel Goldstein of London Business School, Stanford’s  William F. SharpeLaura CarstensenJeremy Bailenson, and Leo Yeykelis plus Jesse Fox of Ohio State University.

Jeremy Bailenson

Jeremy Bailenson

The team asked participants in each group to estimate the amount of their income they would save for retirement.
People who saw their aged photos said they would save substantially more money than those who saw the present-day image.

Leo Yeykelis

Leo Yeykelis

When participants interacted with realistic, immersive age-progressed renderings of themselves, they tended to defer present rewards for future monetary rewards.

Hershfield and collaborators argued that the aged photos are vivid, less-deniable glimpses of a personal future.
These images enabled people to more realistically imagine their distant future lives by enhancing their experience of “self-continuity” over time.

Jesse Fox

Jesse Fox

Financial planners, health care advisors, and life insurers have applied these findings by developing a commercial version of this future self-image, to enable people to develop more realistic savings and retirement strategies for a tangible future self.

Emily Pronin

Emily Pronin

Another team’s findings supported Hershfield’s suggestion that people view their future selves as “other” and alien rather than personally relevant and meaningful.

Christopher Olivola

Christopher Olivola

Princeton’s Emily Pronin, Christopher Olivola, now of University of Warwick and Kathleen Kennedy, now of Columbia, asked participants to estimate the amount of an unsavory liquid mixture they would be willing to drink immediately and in several months to advance scientific knowledge.
In addition, volunteers estimated the amount of this liquid that another participant should drink.

Kathleen Kennedy

Kathleen Kennedy

Most volunteers judged that they would drink more in the future and that others should drink about the same amount.
However, participants estimated that they would drink only about half as much if consumed immediately.

This suggests that judgments about the future self and unknown other people are similarly distant from the present self.

These time perception biases include:

  • Quasi-hyperbolic time discounting, which leads most people to make an inter-temporal choice for a smaller payoff in the present instead of a larger payoff in the future.
    They attributed this trend to discounting a less-imaginable future payoff for a more tangible, nearer-term benefit.
  • Affective forecasting errors, described in a previous blog post, leading to inaccurate predictions of future choices, preferences, emotional reactions, and behaviors due to:
    • Projection biasAssuming that a present state will occur at a future time in a different circumstance,
    • Impact bias Overestimating future emotional responses to adverse events, and underestimating adaptability and coping,
    • Narrow bracketing — Considering individual decisions and outcomes without reference to context or long-term additive effects with other decisions and circumstances.

-*How do you overcome biases to plan for future goals and needs?

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Women’s Branding – Impact of Rebranding at Marriage, Divorce

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

Playwright, esthete, and bon vivant Oscar Wilde anticipated current attention to personal branding in his comment, “Names are everything.”

It is well-known that women who change their names at marriage are more difficult to find and connect to their pre-marriage professional accomplishments.
This is a “Brand Equity Risk,” and may result in reduced “personal brand value.

However, “rebranding” at marriage was prevalent among about 19,000 women who married in 2012, surveyed by TheKnot.com and www.WeddingChannel.com.
A significant majority – 86 percent – changed their birth names to their husband’s surname, with just 14% choosing another option such as:

  • Retaining their original name (<8%),
  • Hyphenating both partners’ last names (6%),
  • Creating a new surname, often from parts of each partner’s name.
Brian Powell

Brian Powell

Just three years before, Indiana University’s  Brian Powell and Laura Hamilton of University of California – Merced, found that that significantly fewer respondents – 71 percent of 815 survey participants – believed a woman should change her name at marriage, and half of those said it should be legally required.

Laura Hamilton

Laura Hamilton

This suggests that there is an increasing sentiment toward rebranding at marriage.

Richard Kopelman

Richard Kopelman

However, Baruch College’s Richard Kopelman, with  Rita Shea-Van Fossen of Ramapo College, Eletherios Paraskevas, Sacred Heart University’s Leanna Lawter, and David Prottas of Adelphi University, reported significantly decreasing incidence of women changing birth names at marriage from the 1990s to the 2000s. 

Claudia Goldin

Claudia Goldin

Likewise, Harvard’s  Claudia Goldin and Maria Shim, found a similar trend in their evaluation of  New York Times‘ marriage announcements, Massachusetts birth records, and Harvard alumni records: Fewer college-educated women kept their birth names in 2004 than in the 1970s and 1980s.

Maria Shim

Maria Shim

They noted that older brides and those who graduated from elite educational institutions were more likely to retain their original names, as were  those with occupations in arts, writing, and media.

Rita Shea-Van Fossen

Rita Shea-Van Fossen

Wayne State University’s Ernest Abel and Michael Kruger echoed Goldin and Shim’s finding that older brides are more likely to retain their original “brand.”

Ernest Abel

Ernest Abel

Women who married between ages 35 and 39 were six times more likely to keep their original names than women who married when they were 20 to 24 years old, reported Abel and Kruger in their analysis of 2575 wedding announcements in the New York Times.
They found that women who married in 2007–2008 were three times more likely to retain their birth names than those married in 1990–1991.

Stephanie Coontz

Stephanie Coontz

Diana Boxer

Diana Boxer

Stephanie Coontz of Evergreen College said that many of the women who changed their names in the 1970s did so as a counterpoint to marital inequality in obtaining credit, renting an apartment, and owning real property.
Other cross-cultural gender-specific identity practices were outlined by University of Florida’s Diana Boxer and Elena Gritsenko’s Women and surnames across cultures: reconstituting identity in marriage.

Education, age, religious affiliation, cultural traditions, and sentiment seem to over-ride typical advice for building a brand:  Repeated exposure to a consistent message over time.
Brand strategists who consider threats to corporate brand value could contribute to post-marriage rebranding decision-making by quantifying the potential long-term financial impact of women’s  nominal changes after marriage and marital dissolution.

-*What are the benefits to personal brand value of keeping or changing original names?

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When Women Predominate in Groups: Stigma Contagion

Women in Engineering or Information Technology organizations may find themselves the only person using the women’s restroom, one advantage in light of well-documented workplace challenges associated with minority status.
Men face similar challenges when they work in Human Resources, Marketing, or Communications, where more women are employed.

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Vicki Belt

Vicki Belt

Despite potential isolation of experiencing gender minority status, Harvard’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter advised women who wish to advance: ”avoid the Ps: Personnel, Public Relations, Purchasing, to avoid being “pigeonholed in a female ghetto.
This recommendation was validated by Vicki Belt, then of University of Newcastle, and noted that technical women often intentionally avoided female-dominated groups.

Tessa West

Tessa West

In fact, both women and men held implicit biases against women-dominated groups, found Research by NYU’s Tessa West, Madeline Heilman, Lindy Gullett, and Joe Magee with Corinne Moss-Racusin of Yale University.

Madeline Heilman

Madeline Heilman

The team organized five-person groups to perform “a male-typed cooperative task” as quickly as possible.
Groups differed in proportion of women to men:

  • 2 women and 3 men
  • 3 women and 2 men
  • 4 women and 1 man.
Lindy Gullett

Lindy Gullett

Groups with more women performed equally well as the group with more men.

Joe Magee

Joe Magee

However, when the number of women increased in the work groups, participants’ evaluations of  the group’s effectiveness decreased. Similarly, both women and men offered lower ratings participants’ contributions when more women were in the work group.
Both men and women in the same group judged their own team mates more harshly when their groups have a greater proportion of women.

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Corinne Moss-Racusin

Group gender composition also negatively affected team cohesiveness:  After 10 weeks, those who worked in groups with more women said they were less interested in working together again.

West and team suggested that women in work groups may be subject to “stigma-by-association,” when negative evaluations of a stigmatized individual spread to an associated individual.
As a result, men who work with women may be subject to a “contagion effect” and may be perceived as having similar stereotypic strengths and weaknesses.

Carol Kulik

Carol Kulik

Hugh Bainbridge

Hugh Bainbridge

The prevalence of stigma-by-association in the workplace was conceptualized by University of South Australia’s Carol Kulik with Hugh Bainbridge of University of New South Wales and University of Melbourne’s Christina Cregan in a “masculine” performance task.
Women were evaluated as less competent at “masculine” tasks, and this negative evaluation was also assigned all group members through stigma contagion.

Michelle Haynes

Michelle Haynes

NYU’s Heilman extended her work on women’s perceptions of their capabilities in an ingeniously-designed study with Michelle Haynes of the University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

They asked participants to work remotely with another person on tasks traditionally associated with a male role:  Acting as a managing supervisor at an investment company.
Volunteers were paired with male or female “partners,” but each volunteer actually acted alone without a teammate.

When female participants received positive group feedback, they “gave away” credit to men “teammates” unless their contribution was specific and indisputable.
However, women showcased their accomplishments when they worked with female “partners.”
Women systematically undervalued their contributions to group problem-solving when they collaborated on teams with men, but not when they work with other women.

This study demonstrated that women’s expectations and beliefs about their work contexts, themselves, their peers, and organizational superior influence how they construe group feedback on performance.
Women may continue to limit their advancement when they implicitly accept micro-inequities and limiting performance stereotypes.

Anita Wooley Williams

Anita Wooley Williams

An unexpected positive finding about women’s role in work groups emerged from work by Carnegie Mellon University‘s Anita Williams Woolley, with Christopher F. Chabris of Union College, and MIT’s Alexander Pentland, Nada Hashmi, and Thomas W. Malone, who demonstrated that the “collective intelligence” of collaborative group members exceeds the cognitive abilities of individual members.

Christopher Chabris

Christopher Chabris

In fact, the average and maximum intelligence of individual group members did not significantly predict the performance of their groups overall.

Alexander Pentland

Alexander Pentland

This means that a group’s performance is more dependent on interaction behaviors and norms than on individual cognitive capabilities.
These findings support Emotional Intelligence theory’s assertion that self-management and interpersonal behaviors are more important to individual achievement than measured intelligence.

Nada Hashmi

Nada Hashmi

Wooley’s team assigned nearly 700 volunteers to groups ranging between two and five members to work on visual puzzles, negotiations, brainstorming, games and complex rule-based design assignments.
Collective intelligence of each group accounted for only about 40 percent of the variation in performance on this wide range of tasks.

Thomas W. Malone

Thomas W. Malone

The remaining 60% contribution to collective intelligence depends on members’ “social sensitivity“:  Accurately perceiving each other’s emotions, and ability to more equally share conversational turns.
Groups with more women excelled in both capabilities, and the team noted that accurate social perception and conversational turn-taking skills that may be further developed with attention and effort.

-*How can workplace Inclusion and Diversity programs mitigate the impact of stigma-by-association?

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How Effective are Strategic Threats, Anger, and Unpredictability in Negotiations?

Most researchers conclude that negotiators who establish a collaborative atmosphere for a “win-win” solution achieve superior results.

Marwan Sinaceur

Marwan Sinaceur

However, Marwan Sinaceur of  INSEAD and Stanford’s Larissa Tiedens investigated the potentially-risky tactic of employing strategic anger in negotiations, and found that anger expressions increase expressers’ advantage and “ability to claim value” when negotiation partners think they have few or poor alternatives.

Larissa Tiedens

Larissa Tiedens

Sinaceur and Tiedens suggested that anger expression communicates toughness, leading most non-angry counterparts to concede more to an angry negotiator.
However, other studies report that people have more negative reactions when women display anger,

-*But what about the impact of “strategic” expressions of anger that aren’t actually felt?

Stephane Cote

Stephane Cote

Ivona Hideg

Ivona Hideg

University of Toronto’s Stéphane Côté collaborated with Ivona Hideg of Wilfrid Laurier University and University of Amsterdam’s Gerben van Kleef to evaluate the impact of surface acting (showing anger that is not truly felt) on the behavior of negotiation counterparts.

They found that disingenuous anger expressions can backfire, leading to intractable, escalating demands, attributed to reduced trust.

Gerben van Kleef

Gerben van Kleef

In contrast, “deep acting” anger that is actually felt, decreased negotiation demands, as demonstrated in Sinaceur and Tiedens’ work.

-*Are threats more effective than expressing anger in eliciting concessions in negotiation?

Christophe Haag

Christophe Haag

Sinaceur and team collaborated with Margaret Neale of Stanford and Emlyon Business School’s Christophe Haag, and reported that threats delivered with “poise,” confidence and self-control trump anger to achieve great concessions.
A potential negotiation “work-around” is expressing inconsistent emotions in negotiations.

Adam Hajo

Adam Hajo

Saraceur teamed with van Kleef with Rice University’s Adam Hajo, and Adam Galinsky of Columbia, and found that negotiators who shifted among angry, happy, and disappointed expressions made recipients feel less control over the outcome, and extracted more concessions from their counterparts.

Adam Galinsky

Adam Galinsky

Emotional inconsistency proved more powerful than expressed anger in  extracting concessions, so women may achieve superior negotiation outcomes with varied, unpredictable emotional expression.

-*How do you use and manage emotional expression in negotiations?

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Air Time Matters: Speak Up in the First Five Minutes of a Meeting

More than thirty years ago, University of Florida’s Marvin Shaw observed that participation in small group approximates the 80/20 Principle:

Marvin Shaw

Marvin Shaw

In a 5 member team, 2 members make 70% of comments
In a  6 member team, 3 members make 70% of comments
In a  8 member team, 3 members make 67% of comments

Most of the comment contributors were men, and those who speak most are typically viewed as most influential, according to Melissa Thomas-Hunt of University of Virginia.
This suggests that women can be at a disadvantage in groups if they don’t speak up.

Melissa Thomas-Hunt

Melissa Thomas-Hunt

Thomas-Hunt found that women were less influential in small groups even when they possessed specific expertise in survival skills, a stereotypically male endeavor.
Further, women with elite knowledge were judged as less expert by others.

Conversely, men who possessed expertise were more influential than expert women.
Overall group task performance was affected by these dynamics:  Groups with a female expert made less accurate assessments than groups with a male expert, perhaps because females’ expertise was discounted or ignored due to gender-related expectations for specific competencies.

Christopher Karpowitz

Christopher Karpowitz

Women spoke less when there are fewer women in a group, but not when women predominated and decisions were made by majority rule, according to Christopher Karpowitz of Brigham Young University, Princeton University’s Tali Mendelberg and Lee Shaker of Portland State University.

Tali Mendelberg

Tali Mendelberg

They also found that women spoke equally in small groups when there were few women but the decision required unanimous vote.
One implication is that women benefit from building consensus when they are in the minority.

Powerful women who talk more than male counterparts incur backlash from both male and female observers, according to Victoria Brescoll of Yale.

Victoria Brescoll

Victoria Brescoll

In an experimental study, both female and male volunteers read about a female CEO who talked longer than others.  They judged her as significantly less competent and less suitable for leadership than a male CEO who was reported to speak for the same amount of time.

A high-power woman who talked much less than others was judged as equally competent and capable of leading as a high-power man who talked much more than others.
Raters were less generous in their ratings of a high-power male who talked much less than others:  He was judged as equally incompetent and unsuitable for leadership as a high-power female who talked much more than expected.

This suggests that both men and women are punished for behaviors different from gender-role expectations.

Lee Shaker

Lee Shaker

Women’s tendency not to speak up in groups begins well before they enter the workplace, found Harvard’s Catherine Krupnick.
She and her team investigated differences between male and female students’ participation in classroom discussion and the impact of the instructor’s gender on students’ participation.

They reviewed videotapes of 12 women and 12 men instructors, and concluded that male students talked two and a half times longer than female students when the instructor was male and the majority of the students were male — a frequent situation in many educational and work organizations.
On the other hand, female students spoke almost three times longer when instructors were female.

Women students were interrupted more frequently than their male counterparts, most often by other women, and leading them to withdraw from the discussion for the remainder of the class.

Krupnick posited that women’s lower participation in classrooms – and perhaps in other small groups – may be explained by their:

  • Unwillingness to compete against men,
  • Vulnerability to interruption,
  • Unwillingness to interject into men’s and other women’s long uninterrupted statements, known as “discourse runs,”
  • Individual differences in assertiveness, confidence, and speed of formulating responses.
Elizabeth Aries

Elizabeth Aries

Amherst’s Elizabeth Aries noticed that groups composed entirely of women students tended to have a participatory style in which women took turns and spoke for about equal amounts of time throughout the class hour.

In contrast, male groups appeared more contest-like, with extremely uneven amounts of talk per man.
They competed by telling personal anecdotes or raising their voices to establish hierarchies of participation, and this competitive style persisted in mixed-gender groups.

Kathleen Welch-Torres, then of Yale, compared women’s and men’s assertiveness in class discussions at Yale and Brown (mixed-gender institution) with women’s class participation at Wellesley and Smith (single-gender).
She reported that women at both of the mixed-sex institutions were verbally less assertive than men, by using “hedges,” qualifiers and questioning intonations.
However, women at the single-gender institutions Smith and Wellesley were more assertive than women at Yale and Brown and more assertive than men at the coeducational institutions.

Larraine Zappert

Larraine Zappert

Kendyll Stansbury

Kendyll Stansbury

Welch-Torres linked these behaviors to measures of self-esteem and her findings are similar to those of Stanford’s Laraine Zappert and Kendyll Stansbury  who reported that female graduate students held lower self-esteem, less trust in their judgments, and greater fear of making mistakes than male graduate students.

Recommendations to help women move toward fuller participation in small groups from Melissa Thomas-Hunt and Margaret Neale of Stanford include:

Margaret Neale

Margaret Neale

  • Before a meeting:
    • Ask trusted attendees to:
      • Support your ideas during the meeting,
      • Solicit your input in the meeting,
    • Refer to your specific expertise during the meeting,
    • Set a goal for number of contributions in the first five minutes of a meeting.
    • In a meeting:
      • If interrupted: Restate, rephrase and provide specific evidence based on expertise,
      • Showcase  others’ expertise by soliciting their input,
      • Create environment in which  other participants have equal opportunity to participate,
      • Urge members to consider each alternative, rather than disregarding suggestions presented by “lower status” individual.

-*How do you ensure that your expertise is recognized and influential in small group settings?

*What “best practices” do you apply to ensure active participation by women and minority-group members?

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