Whose line is it anyway?

A tool to check who is dominating the conversation in your meetings

An inclusive work culture is imperative to ensure that the diverse workforce you have recruited is engaged and retained. Such a culture is characterised by the space it extends to underrepresented groups to participate and influence team decisions.

“They say women talk too much. If you have worked in Congress you know that the filibuster was invented by men.”

                                                                           - Clare Boothe Luce, First US ambassador 

Time and time again research has suggested that across industries men continue to dominate workplace conversation. Christopher Karpowitz and Tali Mendelberg, authors of the book The Silent Sex, found that men out-talked women even when the group was sixty percent female. Women only spoke as much as men when they outnumbered them four to one. Despite the plethora of research on this subject, our confirmation bias is likely to insist that this is not an issue in OUR workplace.

Here’s a fun tool for, those of us who are not sure this is really an issue or for those of us looking to emphasize it is and eager to make a change.

Cathy Deng, Software Engineer at Patreon partnered with the GenderAvenger  community to build arementalkingtoomuch. This tool measures when a man is talking vs. when anyone else is talking. It then calculates the percentage of time that men have been dominating the conversation.

Behaviour economics has made it easier to side step the unconscious bias to achieve diversity in recruitment but most organizations are still working on the challenges to achieve inclusion.

When President Obama took office, two-thirds of his top advisors were men. The women in the team found it challenging to have their voice heard in important meetings. Then some of women cabinet members adopted an interesting meeting strategy. When one woman made a statement, other women would repeat it and also credit its author. They called it ‘amplification’!

Thus with more women echoing and emphasising the point, their male colleagues were forced to recognize the contribution. Obama noticing this, began to call upon women and junior aides more often to share their thoughts.

The first step to change is acknowledging that there is a problem in our workplace. Obama took notice of the issue and as a leader acted upon it. Often it is not very easy for a leader to identify the inequitable difference in experience for each gender in a team. This tool is a great opportunity for champions of inclusion to substantiate the claim that there is a need for work to be done on this subject.