Women less likely to voice opinions with a group of men: study

Lia Grainger
Shine OnSeptember 26, 2012

The days when a woman's place was in the kitchen are long gone, and yet despite the best efforts of both men and women to beat back gender inequality, it seems that some old habits — and inequities — die hard. One example is a recent study that found in some group settings, women are less likely to speak up when outnumbered by men, reports MSN.

The research team, led by scientists at Brigham Young University and Princeton University, put together small groups that contained men and women, and then had them deliberate on a decision.

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Overall, woman spoke about 75 per cent as much as men did. When decisions were made by majority rule, female contribution to the discussion dropped even lower, and when women were outnumbered by men, the ladies were also less likely to speak. Female participation rose when decisions were made by collective reasoning and consensus, and also when there were more females present than males.

"Women have something unique and important to add to the group, and that's being lost at least under some circumstances," says Chris Karpowitz, one of the study's authors.

So what can we do about this apparent reluctance on the part of women to voice opinions in certain environments and situations? The authors of this study, which was published in the journal American Political Science Review, claim  hat changing the way we talk about and make important decisions could encourage more female participation.

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"Deliberative design can avoid inequality by fitting institutional procedure to the social context of the situation" the authors write.

MSN's article suggests that when women are outnumbered by men, unanimous rule should be adopted, but when women are a large majority, majority rule will lead to equal representation of the sexes.

How do you think the sexes can be equally represented in group decision making process? What have you noticed in your work environment? Tell us in the comments.

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