Recently, Forbes reported on a study on hearings of the Supreme Court of the United States over the past twelve years. The study found female justices were interrupted three times more than the men, and that the women initiated only four percent of the interruptions.
Guess what. The same pattern appears across the tech industry. “Manterruptions” are a thing. And they’re probably happening within your team, too.
There are a host of reasons why guys may be more comfortable or skilled at interrupting others. It may be that it’s culturally acceptable. Or that men’s vocal cords are longer, resulting in deeper voices that project well and help them break into a conversation.
It could be that women tend to say “Excuse me…” or “May I ask…” when beginning a thought, making it easier to be interrupted.
Regardless, allies have a role to play in creating inclusive meetings. And we’ve got some everyday actions you can take in your next meeting to help ensure that all voices are heard:
- When someone is interrupted, interject and say you’d like to hear them finish.
- If you see someone struggling to break into the conversation, say you’d like to hear other points of view.
- To encourage a quiet person to speak, say, “You look thoughtful. Do you want to share any thoughts with us?”
- If you see a “repeat offender” who manterrupts frequently, pull him aside after a meeting and point it out.
- Nominate a “gatekeeper” to keep the conversations on track, using the Meeting Role Cards from Frame Shift Consulting.
If you have other ways to handle interruptions, tweet them using the tag @betterallies. We’d love to hear from you.
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