A Woman's Voice


Researchers at Brigham Young University discovered that having a seat at the table is not the same as having a voice. That's something that most professional women already know. Remember mansplaining?


From Nicole Tersigni, Men to Avoid in Art and Life


Men tend to interrupt women, ignore them, and thenyou know what's comingthey repeat what you just said, as though it were their idea. Plus, there;s the double bind: a man who is assertive is commended, while an assertive woman is regarded as unlikable.


BYU political-science professor Jessica R. Preece explains that over centuries, men have been “slowly socialized over years to discount” women’s input.


Men have been “slowly socialized over years to discount” women’s input.

Princeton professor Tali Mendelberg and BYU professor Christopher F. Karpowitz, authors of The Silent Sex, discovered that women’s presence in a group changes the group dynamic and outcome. In one study, participants were asked to divide money among potential five recipients. Women preferred to allocate more money to those who had the least money, but they could not convince the group to make this allocation if they were the only woman in the group. As a result, Karpowitz no longer believes it is wise to assign one woman to class groups to achieve diversity.


From Nicole Tersigni, Men to Avoid in Art and Life


They found that when groups were told that the decision would be made by majority rule:


From Nicole Tersigni, Men to Avoid in Art and Life


But when groups were told that the decision had to be unanimous, they found:

Karpowitz explains: “Unanimity rule sends the message that everybody’s voice matters.” Men approach a meeting expecting to be influential. It's important to give women an equal opportunity to influence a group decision. To do that, men need to listen.


BYU Professor Jessica R. Preece says that her students think, "Well, if I am just clearly the best, then I can maybe overcome these biases. And the answer is maybe. Sometimes. But mostly, no. It’s bigger than an individual-level problem—it’s a systemic problem, a structural problem.” She concludes: “If we build a world in which women’s voices are valued and listened to, they will speak up without having to be told to. The goal is to create a space where women can be seen as influential as their authentic selves.”

© 2021 Jayne Zanglein