This past June, Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown was barred from speaking on the House floor after she used the word “vagina” while debating a proposed anti-abortion bill. It was one of the stories that led to the creation of Vagina News. I felt a strong connection to the story – not initially because of the word “vagina”, or the fact that it’s unquestionably relevant to a discussion about abortion – but because I’m all too familiar with the experience of being pressured into silence in a predominantly male group. I suspect most women are.
A recently published study puts science behind that shared
experience. Researchers found that, in collaborative group settings, “the time
that women spoke was significantly less than their proportional
representation—amounting to less than 75 percent of the time that men spoke.”
It also found that groups reached dramatically different conclusions when
making decisions by secret ballot vs. open voting, suggesting that women are
often pressured into siding with the male majority.
I have not read the full 15-page report, but I plan to;
Google “Gender Inequality in Deliberative Participation” if you’d like to join me. You’ll also find a number of interesting articles about it by Googling ‘American Political Science Review woman speak less.’
For my part, I’m going to keep speaking my mind in spite of
pressure to the contrary, and thank you in advance for cheering me on when it
gets me into trouble.