Who speaks most? Not the Little Mermaid
Women have been silenced or discouraged from speaking in public over millennia. So it’s not hard to guess who speaks most – at least in public situations. Deborah Tannen in her book “You just don’t Understand” tells us that women are more willing to speak in private than public. In a public setting they have either been kept quiet deliberately:
Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. Corinthians 1 14.34
Or by exclusion. Most women did not get the vote until the 20th century, with Finland being the first country in 1907 and France only relenting as a late shocker in 1944. Even today women’s voices do not carry the authority they should, despite being 50% of the workforce, 60% of graduates and contributing to 80% of consumer decisions. Their representation in the upper echelons of power is still limited. The lack of senior women means they struggle to find role models and female mentors. They continue to see men dominating when speaking in public.
Trivia but important
Early influencers and role models for women such as Hollywood movie characters, show the number of speaking parts allocated to women is only around 30%. In the earlier Disney classics princess films, the heroines speak as much as, or more than the men. “Snow White” at about 50%. “Cinderella” is 60%. And in “Sleeping Beauty,” women deliver a 71 % of the total dialogue. Though these were films created over 50 years ago, they give female characters opportunity for women to have their voices heard.
But yet another astonishing piece of information, trivial if it wasn’t so important. If having cinched waists, big eyes and breathless voices wasn’t enough, our favourite Disney cartoon heroines since the 90s have had their speaking contributions reduced. Research has shown that in recent movies post 1990, male characters speak 68% -77% of the time. This includes the staples of most young girls growing up: The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocahontas and Beauty and the Beast. Our very earliest female role models it seems are portrayed as being less loquacious than the men.
Did you even notice? It’s so benign, it just slips straight into the subconscious.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that taking all this into consideration, that women report being reluctant to speak in meetings, especially if they are male dominated or say that public speaking intimidates them. The American Political Science Review found they speak 75% less than men in those situations. Which is certainly most business situations. They have no big speakers even their favourite cartoons!
- “Manterruptions” (being interrupted by a man in meetings)
- “Bropriation” (having your idea hi-jacked by a man)
- Your idea given to a man to follow through
- “Manels” – all male panels
- “Mansplaining” – men explaining something to women they already know.
Now we have an app
But wait no more. Now there is an app. GenderTimer is an app created to promotes gender awareness in social groups and workplaces. Gender Timer indicates who speaks most and dominates the air space in your meetings. It serves as a framework for discussing standard gender speaking patterns in public places.
If anyone has used this app and want to report their findings we will be happy to publish them. Does it make a difference? Let us know.
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Many thanks to the participant who brought this to my attention in my workshop at #JUMP2016