Data confirms it: mansplaining isn’t an invention of women
On the 2nd February 2021 the University of Stanford published a paper that demonstrates that mansplaining exists and the data confirms it.
Stanford researchers, together with the volunteers of the Seminar Dynamic Collective, deeply investigated gender discriminations within the context of the economics seminars of 33 US institutions, among them the top institutions in this field.
Mansplaining is an English-language neologism, which unites the words “man” and “explaining” and is used to indicate the often paternalistic or patronizing attitude of men, who feel the need of and the power to interrupt women, explain them everything, or judge what they say.
From January 2019 to the summer of the same year, researchers analysed a total of 468 economics seminars and Job Market Talks, conferences and meetings where young economists are recruited. The speakers of these seminars were 343 totally: 118 women and 225 men, and as far as the Job Market Talks are concerned (128), the male speakers were 50 and the female 32.
The predominance of male members over women can be already inferred from these figures, but this data represents only the tip of the iceberg.
In the paper published on the 2nd of February researchers underline the quantitative and qualitative nature of their analysis. From the quantitative point of view, the time, duration, and number of interactions between speaker and audience have been registered, including who asked questions and how many questions were being answered or ignored. From the qualitative point of view, instead, the typology of questions were registered, if they were criticism, comments, clarification requests, advice, and with what tone they were uttered, whether paternalistic, patronizing, hostile or else.
From the analysis of collected data it emerges that men interrupt women far more often than what women do and 4,5 questions more come from men than from women during the economics seminars, up to 7 during the Job Market Talks.
As far as the answers are concerned, it seems that women answer much more than men. On average, women answer 3,5 questions more than men during seminars, and up to 6,2 during the Job Market Talks.
Roughly ⅔ of these questions, which corresponds to 65%, are questions asked by men.
On average, female speakers are interrupted 12% more than men.
Even though answering questions and making sentences or concepts clearer doesn’t take up too much time, multiple interruptions demotivate and disrupt the seminars’ fluidity.
Female speakers, moreover, seem to be answering questions posed by other women far more often than their male colleagues. This fact further demonstrates that gender discriminations do exist among the audience of economics seminars, an environment usually considered particularly aggressive and competitive, as stated in the paper.
But there’s more to it. According to collected data, women receive more hostile or paternalistic questions than their male colleagues, and this aspect compromises even more the atmosphere within the economics seminars and Job Market Talks.
Will receiving 12% more of interruptions than their male colleagues have consequences on women’s careers?
It can’t be stated with certainty, but it can be assumed that answering to multiple clarification requests, especially from male colleagues, may undermine the female speakers or belittle them from a personal and professional point of view. Somewhat unsurprisingly, gender disparity can be inferred from the collection of both quantitative and qualitative data. Indeed, both the number of interruptions towards women and the tone and typology in which they are publicly uttered must not be undervalued.
Researchers remind us that the American Economic Association adopted the code of professional conduct in 2018, which establishes the importance of considering every idea equally and of creating a proper professional dialogue, respectful of everyone without any discriminations.
In fact, the equality mentioned in the code isn’t respected, as proved by the data.
The University of Stanford’s investigation was carried out in the field of economics, but the paper reminds us that gender discriminations and different treatments between men and women can be found in every field, especially in the academic one.
Mansplaining and, generally, gender bias in the academic and professional context have serious consequences on both the personal life and the career of single individuals and the whole society.
Only through charges and evidence that these discriminations do actually exist will it be possible to eradicate oppressive behaviours that only serve to promote and consolidate male privilege over time.