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The impact of mansplaining on women’s careers

May 9, 2023

Mansplaining, that is, commenting on or explaining something to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and often inaccurate or simplistic way, has been increasingly discussed in society and within companies. New research shows that the impact of the practice on women’s work is real, including being less likely to speak frequently after mansplaining happens. The outcome: less productivity and job satisfaction.

Researchers from Michigan State University and Colorado State University conducted three studies to investigate how men and women react differently to condescending communication and interruptions. “The first study was a critical incident survey to describe these competence-questioning behaviors when enacted by men toward women in the workplace and how women react toward them. Studies 2 and 3 used experimental paradigms to investigate how women and men perceive and react to these behaviors when enacted by different genders.”, the paper informs.

Results demonstrated that when faced with condescending explanation, voice nonrecognition, or interruption, women reacted more negatively and were more likely to see the behavior as indicative of gender bias when the communicator was a man. Video footage also revealed that women spoke less after being mansplained to, but men weren’t verbally stumped by such interaction.

In terms of practical implications, the authors advise leaders to consider greater attention to when, where, and why competence-questioning behaviors (i.e. mansplaining) occur. “Discussions and trainings that focus on how to appropriately raise doubts about another’s actions or ideas and how to provide feedback can allow opportunities to discuss any gender links in enacting such behaviors, as well as give individuals the tools to ensure competent work occurs while providing psychological safety for others when raising critiques.”

Other tangible actions recommended in the report include observational audits of meetings to highlight when gendered behaviors may be occurring, and training that focuses on how to appropriately raise doubts on others’ work.

Source: National Library of Medicine | Fortune