When men don't listen to women


I’ve seen four links recently that have all revolved around a similar theme which I think can be boiled down to men simply not listening to women. It started off with a response by Cordelia Fine et al to an article by Larry Cahill about sex difference in the human brain: 


In this article, Fine and her co-authors outline a number of issues they have with Cahill’s piece, essentially saying that the science is a bit more complicated than he makes out. His reply can be boiled down to “Whatevs”. It’s astonishing. 

The article is the response I had been waiting for, from the group I was expecting it from.  I am glad to know they value my opinion enough to have read my article. Nothing in their response undermines anything I wrote, so I stand by my article completely. I encourage the reader to read and critically evaluate both articles, and form their own opinions.

Can we all spell arrogant? 

The next article I saw was on Slate and talks about interruptions in meetings:


Its conclusions are: 

- Men interrupt more than women overall
Men are almost three times as likely to interrupt women as they are to interrupt other men.
- Women interrupt each other constantly, and almost never interrupt men.
- The more senior the speaker, the more they interrupt.
- There are no senior women who aren’t interrupting their male colleagues.

It concludes (in part):

The results suggest that women don’t advance in their careers beyond a certain point without learning to interrupt, at least in this male-dominated tech setting. This is really striking, and starts to put directional data behind the stereotype whereby strong female leaders are often dismissed with the pejoratives bossy, unpleasant, and bitchy. As a senior woman in technology who has at times been called all of those things, I’d like to say I’m surprised. I’m not.

The third link is:


which is a study that finds: 

that men are much more likely than women to reject findings of sexism in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and even to make sexist comments in response to such research.

and then

“[M]any current STEM diversity initiatives rest on the theory that exposing participants to evidence of gender bias will ultimately reduce bias and enhance diversity,” reads the paper, titled “Can Evidence Impact Attitudes? Public Reactions to Evidence of Gender Bias in STEM Fields.” However, it says, “If clearly demonstrating bias is just as likely to spark reactive justifications as thoughtful analysis, this approach may not be a reliable prejudice-reduction tool.”

And I think some of us have experience of that being true. 

Finally, not STEM but busines, and also talks about interruption. 


YEARS ago, while producing the hit TV series “The Shield,” Glen Mazzara noticed that two young female writers were quiet during story meetings. He pulled them aside and encouraged them to speak up more.

Watch what happens when we do, they replied.

Almost every time they started to speak, they were interrupted or shot down before finishing their pitch. When one had a good idea, a male writer would jump in and run with it before she could complete her thought.

The article goes on to talk about some research that supports some of the above findings: 

When female executives spoke more than their peers, both men and women punished them with 14 percent lower ratings. As this and other research shows, women who worry that talking “too much” will cause them to be disliked are not paranoid; they are often right.

It concludes: 

The long-term solution to the double bind of speaking while female is to increase the number of women in leadership roles. (As we noted in our previous article, research shows that when it comes to leadership skills, although men are more confident, women are more competent.) As more women enter the upper echelons of organizations, people become more accustomed to women’s contributing and leading. Professor Burris and his colleagues studied a credit union where women made up 74 percent of supervisors and 84 percent of front-line employees. Sure enough, when women spoke up there, they were more likely to be heard than men. When President Obama held his last news conference of 2014, he called on eight reporters — all women. It made headlines worldwide. Had a politician given only men a chance to ask questions, it would not have been news; it would have been a regular day.

As 2015 starts, we wonder what would happen if we all held Obama-style meetings, offering women the floor whenever possible. Doing this for even a day or two might be a powerful bias interrupter, demonstrating to our teams and colleagues that speaking while female is still quite difficult. We’re going to try it to see what we learn. We hope you will, too — and then share your experiences with us all on Facebook or in the comments section.

Which is a bit more encouraging than some of the other articles, but we still have a long way to go. 

Every time I wonder whether ALD is just rehashing old ground, I read something like this and realise it’s still needed. 


Even Ruth Bader Ginsburg Gets Interrupted By Men
A study looked at publicly available oral arguments from the current Supreme Court, and oral arguments from each year another woman joined the court—1990, 2002 and 2015—to see what patterns emerged. Here’s what they found, according to the study:

Using a variety of statistical techniques, we find that even though female Justices speak less often and use fewer words than male Justices, they are nonetheless interrupted during oral argument at a significantly higher rate. Men interrupt more than women, and they particularly interrupt women more than they interrupt men. This effect is not limited to the male Justices: the male advocates also regularly interrupt the female Justices. This is surprising, both because the Court’s guidelines explicitly prohibit advocates from interrupting Justices, and because the Chief Justice is supposed to intervene when this occurs. [my emphasis]