Study Examines Gender Gap in Q&A Participation After Lectures at Academic Conferences

A new study led by Shoshana N. Jarvis, a data scientist at Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, finds that women are less likely than their male peers to ask questions of colleagues who present papers at academic conferences. And the research found that this may be due to anxiety about how colleagues will receive their comments.

In an analysis of 32 academic presentations at an interdisciplinary conference – where 63 percent of the attendees were men – men asked 78 percent of the questions. In a second study, email surveys were sent to attendees of a psychology conference. The survey results showed that women respondents reported being less comfortable participating in Q&A sessions and more likely to fear experiencing professional backlash if they did participate. Women and men were equally likely to report holding back questions, but they gave different reasons for doing so: Women were more likely to hold back because of anxiety, but men did so to allow other people time to ask questions.

“More men participate in Q&A sessions compared to what we would expect based on who’s in the audience. When asked, men say they are more comfortable participating, and women are more afraid of experiencing backlash for their participation,” Dr. Jarvis said.

Dr. Jarvis is a graduate of Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, where she majored in psychology. She holds a master’s degree in psychology and a Ph.D. in management from the University of California, Berkeley.

The full study, “Stepping Up to the Mic: Gender Gaps in Participation in Live Question-and-Answer Sessions at Academic Conferences,” was published in the journal Psychological Science. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


RSSComments (0)

Leave a Reply