Withdrawn women

A new study finds that women speak less when surrounded by men.

Editorial board

A new study published in the American Political Science Review found that in collaborative discussions, women speak significantly less than men when they are the minority. This finding has implications for equality in the legislative and political process, as well as classroom discussions.

Some argue that gender inequality is a thing of the past — a relic of a bygone era in which women’s subservience was never questioned. But this study points to gender inequality continuing to be an issue that requires our attention.

True, the problems women face today may not be as blatant as unequal voting rights or educational opportunities, but simply being less visible doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Men still outnumber women in science, techonolgy, engineering and math fields. In the political sphere, the constituency of women across the board is grossly underrepresented.

The study in the American Political Science Review made note of the unequal participation time men exercised: “Even if men and women enter deliberation with the same preferences and equal formal rights, the disproportionate exercise of these rights by men erodes the political and civic standing of women, a group not yet equal in society.” It’s unlikely that men seek to actively dominate a group discussion once they see their gender is the majority. For whatever reason, women seem to retreat in this social situation, thereby, silencing their equally important perspectives and ideas.

What causes women to withdraw themselves is still unknown, but by making ourselves more conscience of the issue, we take a step forward in promoting gender equality.