Abrasive. Shrill. Ball busting. Bossy. Feisty. Opinionated. Chatterbox. Annoying. Loud.
Have you ever been called one or more of the above words within the workplace?
Have you ever been interrupted in a meeting by a counterpart of the opposite sex with the exact same idea as you?
Have you ever been overlooked for an opportunity to speak, present or be interviewed on your area of expertise?
If you answered yes to any of the above, I'm willing to bet that you are a woman.
The silence is deafening.
There is a common notion that women talk more than men. The notion is questionable at the best of times, particularly when one considers context.
Various social experiments within an office environment, show that men think women speak more often than they actually do. One particular study showed that during an average meeting, women spoke only 25 percent of the time, whilst men spoke for 75 percent. What's more, the trend expands beyond the boardroom.
Turn on the TV, and you will see that there are four times as many male experts than female experts interviewed on news programmes. Research by City University also found there were more than three times as many male reporters as women.
Listen to the radio. You will hear that 1 in 5 solo voices on the radio are female, and only 4% of shared presenters are both female.
Look at the leading voices speaking to and on behalf our nation for the past few decades? Teresa May's appointment to PM serves as a stark reminder that she is only the second female of 76 British Prime Ministers. Further to this, women have never comprised more than 29% of Parliament.
Fear of reprisal.
So why is it that male dominated dialogue is taking up our airwaves and office space? Part of the reason could be that many women are conditioned not to speak up and get themselves noticed. This is through fear of having their character attacked.
A study conducted by Fortune Magazine found that "women’s reviews include another, sharper element that is absent from the men’s such as 'you can come across as abrasive sometimes'...'sometimes you need to step back to let others shine'. This kind of criticism shows up twice in the 83 critical reviews received by men. It shows up in 71 of the 94 critical reviews received by women".
"When a woman speaks in a professional setting, she walks a tightrope. Either she’s barely heard or she’s judged as too aggressive. When a man says virtually the same thing, heads nod in appreciation. As a result, women often decide that saying less is more"
- Sheryl Sandberg. Chief Operating Officer. Facebook
Another reason could be resignation to the prospect of being interrupted.
Most women are no strangers to being talked over, and many, including myself, surrendered to it without realising the gender bias.
However multiple academic studies dating from 1975 to present day, have found on countless occasions that women are more likely to get cut off whilst speaking. Kieran Snyder, a tech startup CEO and holder of a Linguistics PhD recently conducted a four week experiment and found that men not only interrupted twice as often as women, but were nearly three times as likely to interrupt women as they were to interrupt other men.
Next time you're in a meeting, or listening to a radio or TV show with a male and female co-host count how many times the woman is interrupted.
Or you can just view some examples here.
Time to speak up.
Needless to say, something has to change. If this trend continues, we are depriving workplaces of a diverse dialogue. Of genuine talent and expertise. Also, it's sexist.
Radio, TV and Government need to recruit more leading women and give them the airtime they deserve. Society needs to become accustomed to the sound of a leading woman in the public eye articulating her point without fear of condemnation or interruption.
Employers, if they aren't already, should be striving for gender parity. Bosses need to be aware of the statistical bias and ensure that it isn't present within their workplace dialogue. This includes during meetings, presentations and public speaking opportunities.
Meanwhile, if interrupted we are well within our rights to speak up. To put our point forward. To, if interrupted, look that person in the eye and say assertively and unapologetically "I was still talking, I'm going to finish what I was saying".
Women, we are well within our rights to love the sound of our own voice.