May 29, 2015 Practice Points

The Pervasive Interruption of Women and What to Do About It

By Tiffany deGruy

In the recent article “Mansplaining, Manterrupting & Bropropriating: Gender Bias and the Pervasive Interruption of Women,” lead researcher Dr. Arin N. Reeves explains her research into whether there are gender differences between which gender is interrupted more in meetings, conference calls, and panel discussions.

After observing over 2,400 minutes of conversations in live meetings, conference calls, and panel discussions, Dr. Reeves found that there was an average of 29.6 interruptions per meeting. Overall, interruptions occurred most frequently in plenary panel discussions. Interruptions occurred more when the meeting took place face to face rather than over the phone. Of the total interruptions noted, 67.8 percent were by men and 32.2 percent were by women. “Men definitely interrupted more than women, and they were also far more likely to interrupt women than they were to interrupt men … Interestingly, women also are far more likely to interrupt other women than they are to interrupt men.” When men interrupted, 71.8 percent were interruptions of women compared to 28.2 percent of interruptions of other men. When women interrupted, 64.6 percent of the time the woman interrupted another woman.

Dr. Reeves found that “most of the men’s interruptions of others … were not conscious or deliberate.” However, women were “overwhelmingly conscious of being interrupted” and reported that they often felt disrespected, invisible, stuck, and frustrated.

Dr. Reeves offers several ideas for inclusion, including: create and use agendas for meetings, take turns, remind people at the beginning of the meeting that interruptions prevent an effective exchange of ideas and make meetings longer than necessary, for men to get engaged, for women to stay engaged, to disinterrupt interruptions, and to speak up about interruptions.

Overall, Dr. Reeves opines that “we cannot talk about women’s retention, advancement and leadership in workplaces without exploring what happens when women are consistently interrupted in the workplace.” However, by “simply acknowledging the interrupting and the impact of it will start a very necessary conversation in our workplaces.”

Keywords: litigation, woman advocate, gender differences, interruptions, meetings, women’s advancement

Tiffany deGruy works at Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP in Birmingham, Alabama


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