Powerful women curtail how much they talk at work

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Ca.) address the Senate in 2011. Sen. Boxer\'s statements were studied along with her colleagues to expand the Yale study. (Boxer.senate.gov)
Analyzing the relationship between gender, power and talking

wtopstaff | November 14, 2014 7:33 am

WASHINGTON – Powerful women tend to talk less at the office than their male counterparts, fearing the negative consequences of appearing too outspoken according to a Yale University study.

Researcher Tori Brescoll, of the School of Management, observed the amount of time men and women in powerful roles spend gabbing at the office.

Brescoll tells WTOP she found men with more power talk more than men with less influence at work. But there is no significant difference in how much high and lower powered women talk.

“When men talk a lot and they have power, people want to reward them either by hiring them, voting for them, or just giving them more power and responsibility at work,” Brescoll says. “But when women do it, they are seen as being too domineering, too presumptuous. Women perceive this, and that’s why they temper how much they talk.”

To further the study between gender, power and talking, Brescoll looked to the United States Senate where every spoken word is recorded.

During the 2005 and 2007 congressional sessions, she analyzed gender, the amount of time each senator spoke on the Senate floor using footage from C-SPAN cross-referenced with the Congressional Record, and a “power score” based on position, indirect influence, legislative activity, and earmarks calculated by Knowlegis, a non-partisan private firm, according to the study published in the Administrative Science Quarterly .

“What’s ironic is that good leaders tend to also be good listeners. So harshly judging female leaders for talking ‘too much’ could have negative consequences not just for individual women, but also for organizations,” Brescoll says.

As a woman taking on this study, Brescoll says the results were not desirable.

“Sometimes these kind of results depress me, because it shows that women are still discriminated against at work. But now that we know this, we can try to move past it,” Brescoll says.

WTOP’s Megan Cloherty contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)


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