Many working women will argue that their contributions to business discussions during meetings are less well-received than their male counterparts. Now research is backing that up. From the Senate floor, to Hollywood, to the healthcare industry, researchers have found that women are more frequently interrupted when they speak during meetings, and are viewed negatively for suggesting operational changes. Much of this occurs in very subtle, almost unnoticeable ways, yet it is pervasive. The impact of this is significant. It discounts potentially good ideas, alienates a large percentage of the workforce, and significantly limits leadership opportunities for women.
Teaching women and girls to speak up is only half the solution. We need to teach groups to listen appropriately. From classrooms to boardrooms, there are strategies to be sure everyone gets heard.
Obviously, businesses need to find ways to interrupt this gender bias. Just as orchestras that use blind auditions increase the number of women who are selected, organizations can increase women’s contributions by adopting practices that focus less on the speaker and more on the idea. For example, in innovation tournaments, employees submit suggestions and solutions to problems anonymously. Experts evaluate the proposals, give feedback to all participants and then implement the best plans. (“Speaking While Female”, Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. The New York Times, Jan. 12, 2015.)