I hear lots of “talk” about it. Women get “talked over” and interrupted in meetings – and have their ideas credited to men who repeat women’s unheralded ideas. In their NY Times series, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant wrote a piece entitled “Speaking While Female.” They addressed the “double bind,” which makes speaking up assertively risky for a woman. They identify the double bind as a chief reason women are less likely to speak up in meetings.
Joanne Lipman addresses the issue of women not being heard in meetings in her a WSJ piece, “Women at Work: a Guide for Men.” She advises men to ask women for their ideas.
Dr. Arin N. Reeves has now published a research study titled “Mansplaining, Manterrupting & Bropropriating: Gender Bias and the Pervasive Interruption of Women.” She defines these three terms this way:
“Mansplaining: a man interrupting a woman to explain to her something that she actually knows more about than he does
Manterrupting: the unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man
Bropropriating: a man taking a woman’s idea and taking credit for it.”
Reeves’ research concludes that men interrupt significantly more than women and are far more likely to interrupt women than men. Men’s interruptions of women are more “intrusive” than their interruptions of men. Women, too, are far more likely to interrupt another woman than a man. Her research confirms a study by Kieran Snyder.
Reeves introduces these terms for phenomena that most women recognize, but that remain below the conscious level for most men. She notes that giving these behaviors names may “highlight the frustration that the interruptive behavior continues to engender.”
I wrote an article on these phenomena (which I have experienced personally).in Forbes WomensMedia a couple of years ago. I explored how and why these things happen and suggested the only solutions I could:
“Awareness . . . is the starting point. Women can practice speaking up more; they can learn to interrupt (politely), hold the floor, and speak with greater confidence and power (having due regard for the double bind). Both men and women can notice when a women’s idea doesn’t get the reaction it deserves. They can endorse the idea and give credit where it is due if another person ‘steals’ the idea.”
So is all this “talk” going to bring enough awareness to make all this happen less? Will men and women allow women to be heard and get credit for their ideas? Fixing this can support the engagement and retention of women – and that is good for business results.