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Loquacious women valued less at work than verbose men

Sunday, May 20, 2012  
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Talkative women are getting snubbed in the workplace, according to a recent study by a Yale University business professor.

Men who dominate office conversations are likely to advance their careers, but women who do the same tend to be seen as less capable, according to research by Victoria Brescoll, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management.

In Brescoll’s "Who Takes the Floor and Why: Gender, Power and Volubility in Organizations” study, 156 participants were asked to read an article about a fictitious chief executive -- described as a talkative man, talkative woman, quiet man or quiet woman -- and rate their competency on a seven-point scale. CEOs were conveyed as talkative or quiet based on how often they expressed their opinions in relation to other executives. A rating of seven was considered the highest score for competency.

Participants rated the competency of talkative male CEOs a 5.64, on average, compared with 5.11 for quiet males. Talkative female CEOs, on the other hand, were seen as less suited for their jobs, receiving a 4.83 rating and far underperforming quiet female CEOs, who received a 5.62.

What’s more, related research found powerful women are mindful of the negative consequences of appearing to be too outspoken and talk less than others in their organizations, while powerful men talk more. Brescoll studied the amount of time men and women U.S. senators talk on the Senate floor and cross-referenced that data with The Congressional Record and a "power score” based on position, indirect influence, legislative activity and earmarks calculated by Knowlegis, a non-partisan private firm. She found men with more power talked more than men with less power, but there was no significant difference in how much high- and low-power women talk.

"When men talk a lot and they have power, people want to reward them either by hiring them, voting for them or just giving them more power and responsibility at work,” Brescoll said. "But when women do it, they are seen as being too domineering, too presumptuous. Women perceive this, and that's why they temper how much they talk.”

"What's ironic is that good leaders tend to also be good listeners,” she noted. "So harshly judging female leaders for talking ‘too much’ could have negative consequences not just for individual women, but also for organizations.”

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