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Jul 16

Give Me Back My Tongue!

This article was written by Sara Ben-Ezra, friend and enthusiastic collaborator with WAC. Enjoy!

Polling Question #5: It’s My Job and I’ll Speak if I Want To!

One of the polling questions asked at the launch-event was ‘Do you hold your tongue because you worry about not being liked?’ I find this question very interesting and complex, depending on the circumstances.

In a personal setting, I think it is safe to say that in general both men and women are guilty of filtering what they say in order to be liked. It is a universal desire to be well liked.

The Double Standard

However, holding your tongue becomes more complicated and a bigger problem for women in a professional setting. Men get no backlash for being talkative at work; in fact, they appear more powerful, competent, and respected. Women, on the other hand, are seen as being too ‘domineering or presumptuous’ the more they talk. This double standard is clearly a problem.

Yale University conducted a research study on the relationship between gender and power in the workplace. The study revealed that “high-power women were more likely to adjust their talking time over concerns of being disliked, perceived as out of line or controlling, and other reasons consistent with a fear of experiencing backlash.”

Furthermore, the study explained that powerful women were justified in their fear of being disliked from talking too much. In an experiment comparing talkativeness to competency, the study showed that: “Talkative men were given a competency rating of 5.64 on average, whilst quiet men were given 5.11. Chatty women however got just 4.83 versus 5.62 if they were more quiet.”

This statistic really put the severity of this problem into perspective for me. It essentially explains that by women being successful at their job and contributing thoughts and ideas they are in turn seen as less competent. The lack of respect for powerful women in the workplace is abundantly clear.

Challenging Stereotypes

However, Brescoll the publisher of the study, ends on a positive note: “My advice to any woman who feels like she’s been judged for talking too much is to keep talking, and to encourage her female colleagues to do so as well – it’s the only way that things are going to change.” Keep in mind that when Brescoll advises women to continue talking, she means not talking for the sake of talking, but talking because there is something to say!

Although powerful women will continue to receive backlash for voicing their opinions, part of changing the deeply ingrained sexist atmosphere in the workplace is to challenge those stereotypes by continuing to talk and still be successful.

Click here for more information regarding Brescoll’s research.

Comment below and let us know what your opinions are about holding your tongue in the workplace!

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