One month ago today, the New York Times published an article titled "Speaking While Female," written by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant. Sandberg, as many are aware, is Facebook's COO, and Adam Grant is a writer and the youngest tenured professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. In their piece, they describe the phenomenon of women staying quiet at work because they perceive that "less is more."
But why would they feel that way? Why would women stay quiet in the workplace?
Interrupted, Shot Down, Discounted
It's a rather sad tale of unconscious bias. (In some cases, especially in those cases involving outright gender discrimination, the bias is fully conscious.) "We've both seen it happen again and again," Sandberg and Grant wrote. "When a woman speaks in a professional setting, she walks a tightrope. Either she's barely heard or she's judged as too aggressive. When a man says virtually the same thing, heads nod in appreciation for his fine idea. As a result, women often decide that saying less is more."
Sandberg and Grant cite recent studies that support their view, including one comparing male lawmakers versus female lawmakers (relatively equal power did not equate to more speaking time on the senate floor among female lawmakers), and one where male executives who spoke up got higher marks for competence while female executives who spoke up got lower marks for competence.