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Women and questions at meetings

A few years ago, I was researching a story about gender differences in meetings, and came across an interesting study from some Canadian researchers. Women generally don’t ask questions anywhere near as much as men in a mixed-gender session, but ask as many in same-gender sessions as men do in either mixed or men-only sessions. I can’t remember the details now, but I’ve paid attention to the gender of the question-askers since, and find it to hold pretty true.

I've been e-mailing with some friends about this lately, and then today, I ran across this article about the importance of Malaysian women speaking up in project development meetings, because otherwise the men will decide what the women's priorities are. A snip:

    "While the menfolk would ask for roads and bridges, the women want piped water supply to their village.

    However, the men may think this is not a priority as their wives can carry water from the well."

While most of us in the U.S. anyway don't face anything this drastic when we don't speak up in meetings, the general point holds true. So, meeting planners, what do you do to encourage women to go up to the mic at your meetings? Or is this reticence so ingrained by the time we're adults that it's unsurmountable (since similar results show up in same-sex schools)?

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