Helping women ensure their voices are heard

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‘Women get interrupted a lot’, says Facebook’s Nicola Mendelsohn

“I remember early in my career that will sometimes I could have a thought in my head, yet I lacked the confidence to be able to get that will thought out,” says Nicola Mendelsohn.

“Then I could hear, usually a man, say the point that will I had in my head, as well as I’d kick myself.”

Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice-president for Europe, the Middle-East as well as Africa, has been described as the most powerful British woman inside tech industry.

She leads a team of hundreds as well as says she will be “open, concise as well as clear” when speaking. However, she says women still face a significant communication problem inside workplace.

“Women get interrupted a lot, or people talk over them. I think there will be an element that will happens inside workplace where we actually condition women not to speak,” she tells the BBC’s The Why Factor.

Her anecdotal evidence will be backed up by linguistic research. Despite the well-liked belief that will women talk more than men, studies consistently suggest the item’s actually men who hog most of the airtime.

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Janet Holmes says her research found that will men tended to ask more questions in public meetings

as well as having more women in meetings doesn’t help. The authors of the book The Silent Sex found in research that will men out-talked women even when the group was 60% female. Women only spoke as much as men when they outnumbered them four to one.

Men are generally more vocal in some other public forums too.

Listen to the BBC World Service’s The Why Factor on Men, Women as well as Language

In public meetings, men asked three-quarters of the questions, on average, while creating up only two-thirds of the audience, according to analysis by Janet Holmes, professor of linguistics at Victoria University of Wellington, completely new Zealand.

They asked almost two-thirds of the questions when the audience was split equally.

Be assertive

So how can women ensure their voices are heard? A quick online search will yield a plethora of advice.

A lot of the item centres on the idea that will women aren’t assertive enough in their use of language. The Washington Post even described “woman in a meeting” as a language of its own.

A recent viral blog post by a former Apple as well as Google employee advised women to stop using the word “just”, describing the item as a “subtle message of subordination, of deference” that will will be used more frequently by women than men.

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Most linguists say the item will be impossible to generalise about male as well as female speech patterns

as well as in 2014 the shampoo brand Pantene released an advert encouraging women not to say sorry too much. the item opened with the question “why are women always apologising?”

Sorry, are they?

According to Oxford University language professor Deborah Cameron the truth will be much more complicated.

Although most linguists acknowledge that will any social division, including gender, will be bound to affect the use of language, she says the item’s impossible to generalise about male as well as female speech.

“Almost all cultures have stereotypes as well as beliefs about This kind of,” says Prof Cameron. “What’s interesting will be that will there’s disagreement over what the differences actually are.

“In some cultures they think women are much more direct than men, in fact they’re seen as too direct as well as even rude.

“inside West, the stereotype will be the some other way around; women are timid, diplomatic, as well as avoid rudeness as well as conflict.”

True or false?

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  • Women talk more than men: Despite This kind of longstanding belief, research consistently shows the sexes use roughly the same number of words a day, as well as men tend to dominate in conversations across a range of contexts
  • Women apologise more than men: There’s no evidence to suggest that will women apologise more
  • Men interrupt more than women: This kind of one will be true as well as has been borne out by linguistic research
  • Men use more aggressive language: No, men as well as women use a range of linguistic styles as well as there are as many differences between individual men as well as women as there are between the sexes

Both Prof Cameron as well as Prof Holmes say these stereotypes are just that will. In practice both men as well as women draw on aspects of language that will are stereotypically masculine as well as feminine, depending on the context as well as what they want to achieve.

“There’s as much difference among men or among women as there will be between the two,” says Prof Cameron.

Competent yet disliked

However, for women, there can be a cost to using “male” language.

“There’s something psychologists call the competence likeability problem,” says Prof Cameron. “A woman who will be judged competent will be seen as less likeable.”

A US study of performance evaluations inside tech sector found that will women were much more likely than men to be given negative feedback about their personality or manner.

Words like “bossy”, “abrasive”, “strident”, as well as “aggressive” cropped up repeatedly for women, yet not for men.

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Women are more likely to be given negative feedback about than men

Nicola Mendelsohn says she was given This kind of feedback early in her career, yet has learnt to ignore the item.

“Those are words that will are used differently for men as well as for women. as well as for women they’re usually used in a negative way, yet for men they’re used, weirdly, in a positive way. So I see the item as an example of bias.”

Because of This kind of bias, Prof Cameron argues that will following advice to be more direct could in fact be counter-productive.

“There’s This kind of whole industry that will says ’empower yourself by changing the way you speak as well as you’ll be treated like men are’. In fact unfortunately that will isn’t the case; women are not judged inside same way as men.

“A woman who asserts herself will be judged as bossy as well as aggressive because the item goes against our stereotype of what feminine behaviour ought to be. So the answer isn’t just to imitate men.”

Which begs the question, what will be the answer?

“The men matter as much as the women here,” says Nicola Mendelsohn. “Men can be the allies here.

“We need men to actively sponsor women, for men to say, ‘I back you, I believe you can do This kind of, how can I help you?’.”

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