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nikipedia's avatar

Why do men and women behave differently from one another in group settings?

Asked by nikipedia (27449points) April 23rd, 2009

Or do they? It’s possible my sample is biased, but I have noticed this sort of thing happening consistently.

I was at a journal club meeting today that consisted of 7 women and 8 men. The entire 90-minute discussion was executed by the men in the room. Every one of them participated, and about six of them dominated the discussion. One woman contributed one comment, and I asked a few questions.

Why is this? Do you think it’s as simple as women having softer voices, leading the men to not hear them and talk over them? (This happened at least once today.) Are women too insecure to speak up? Are the men just cleverer and more full of insightful things to say? Are women less likely to consider their contributions meaningful? What’s going on here?

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12 Answers

Jayne's avatar

Jeez, that’s certainly not what my high school English classes are like.

Dog's avatar

Interesting topic.

In my experience when people are passionate about a subject they are more likely to dominate a conversation.

I have seen it happen both ways- women taking the lead and men.

nikipedia's avatar

Interesting that you both referenced the topic as a factor. This was actually a medial temporal lobe journal club, so not an English-y topic, and everyone was present was a graduate student, professor, or postdoctoral fellow, which suggests equivalent interest levels to me.

Dog's avatar

Is this an isolated event or have other similar club meetings been dominated by the same few?

aprilsimnel's avatar

I think it’s a situational thing. You could have a room where the dominant, extroverted people could be of one, either or both sexes. I’ve seen that. I know in my life, there were some people I’ve felt intimidated by in group settings and I stayed silent, no matter how deep my interest in and knowledge of the topic may have been, and I’ve dominated groups as well.

It all depends on the dynamics of the the people involved, what happened to them earlier that day, what sort of personality they already have… you just never know what will happen when people get together.

RedPowerLady's avatar

I potluck all the time. With different groups of people. It seems the men typically get together and play some sort of game (in our circle it is typically cribbage) or they go outside and play with the dogs or chat. While the women typically sit around and gab. No talk of games or going outside, lol. I think it is interesting, we always laugh about it. Of course there are always exceptions but it does surprise me how this typically happens.

In your situation I would say it is male dominance going on. Of course it is not male dominance on purpose (maybe so but likely not). I’ve been part of a group that had the same problem. Even after it was addressed and the men agreed it was a problem it was very difficult to change. It is almost inherent and group dynamics are quite complicated. I would say make sure to speak. It is important that women have a voice too.

Jayne's avatar

The men may be trying to impress the ladies. Just putting that out there.

kevbo's avatar

I don’t know the answer, but I had a similar experience about ten years ago among a regularly meeting group of 4–6 males and like 28 females, and one or more females complained that the males were dominating the discussions. Thankfully some of the women realized how silky that complaint sounded given the numbers.

cwilbur's avatar

I don’t think this behavior is universal – I think it’s cultural and situational.

One of the oddest and most uncomfortable situations I’ve ever been in—at a game convention, I met some people who lived close to me who played board games. They invited me and a friend of mine, female, to come over to their place the next time they had a board game night, and we accepted.

Now, in my usual circle of gaming friends, gender roles are minimized. Men play, women play, everyone plays. So my friend and I went to the game night, and we all had pizza for dinner, and then after dinner was over, the women went to the living room to chat while the men—and my friend—stayed in the kitchen to play games. I felt excessively Victorian at that. And then the next time around, they invited me to the game night but not my friend.

And these were not backwoods rednecks either—these were graduate students and postdocs in Northampton, Massachusetts.

hitomi's avatar

I do think, based solely on the question and not the example, that men and women do behave different in social situations than they do in a one-on-one setting.

This example though…I have to agree with everyone else because I have definitely been in meetings and classes where it was the women dominating the discussion and the men were sitting back and taking it all in. It also depends on the people involved…this might have just happened to be a group of women that weren’t particularly out spoken or felt that they didn’t need to contribute to the discussion.

Val123's avatar

Sad to say, but we’re still in a world where many men are still dismissive of women, especially when they get into groups.

Joybird's avatar

I’ve done extensive nature based retreats. When there are just women no one puts on makeup and sometimes not even deoderant. They pull their hair back simply. They don whatever is comfortable. When I’ve gone on mixed retreats the rules all change…out comes the makeup, the curling irons and blow dryers and then there is the hair flipping thing and the head tilting, neck exposing thing. The women raise their voices an octave when addressing the men.
And just a note….I’ve led the beginning of all male retreats too. They get a little weirded out having a woman lead them into the woods to pick a spot for vision quest. They become clearly unsure of having a strong women take the lead on the trail and inveritably someone will always offer to carry my pack or offer me an arm on rough terrain. Sometimes one or two will flirt. And just a note…but the women don’t do that unless one or two happens to be a lesbian.
I’ve been in presence off by myself at one all male event and noticed they all revert back to more typical male behaviors when they think I am out of sight and the male leader takes over.

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