When in a meeting and have an opinion on something, do you speak up or shut down? Personally, I’m the type who doesn’t speak very often unless I am 100% positive what I’m going to say will come out right and I won’t totally ruin everyone’s perception of me. This is primarily because I’m constantly afraid of people not taking me seriously, so sadly, I am part of the following statistic.
According to a study recently done by researchers from Brigham Young University and Princeton, published in the American Political Science Review, women are 25% less likely to speak in a meeting where decisions get made than their male counterparts. When a woman is the only female in the group, she tends to keep her thoughts to herself while men do the opposite. Frustrating, but sadly, unsurprising.
However, once there are more females in the group and they’re not in the minority, or if the group has to arrive at a unanimous decision, women are more likely to speak up and state their opinions. Apparently, “when a group has to reach a unanimous decision, women recognize that every vote is equally important, prompting them to feel the need to contribute something to the overall effort and discussion.”
Like I said, I’m not surprised by this: when I used to work in predominantly male settings, particularly since I was one of the youngest of the group, I would feel really uncomfortable speaking up because I just assumed my opinion had no influence nor validity by comparison. When you’re taught not to speak until spoken to for a long time, you just assume nobody wants your opinion unless they ask for it.
One of the study’s co-authors, Chris Karpowitz, said, “When women are silent, they’re not just silent and someone else is making the argument they would have made anyway.”
By being silent, we’re telling other people that we don’t have opinions or that we don’t find our own to be valid, even if others might. So, ladies, make sure you’re heard when you have opinions. Yours are just as valid as anybody else’s in the room (perhaps even more so, as you’ve had more time to silently ponder them first).