Syndicated Columnists

Heidi Stevens: Sorry, but could I just get a word in edgewise here about that Uber board member?

Former Uber board member David Bonderman is wrong. Research shows women actually talk less than men in meetings.
Former Uber board member David Bonderman is wrong. Research shows women actually talk less than men in meetings. Bloomberg

That Uber board member was right — more women does mean more talking. Because we have to repeat ourselves multiple times to be heard and start over every time we get interrupted.

Look at Sen. Kamala Harris. I came home from work Tuesday and my husband filled me in a little bit on the Jeff Sessions hearing, which I hadn’t watched.

“They kept interrupting Kamala Harris!” he said. “And they didn’t interrupt any of the men!”

I tried to register shock, but my face wouldn’t go there.

But back to David Bonderman, the Uber board member. He stepped down Wednesday after catching heat for what I assume was an attempt at a joke.

Fellow board member Arianna Huffington was discussing how one woman on a board leads to more women joining a board. Bonderman replied, “Actually, what it shows is that it’s much more likely to be more talking.”

Huffington replied, “Oh, come on, David.”

And the exchange happened at a meeting about the company’s lousy culture. LOL.

Statistically speaking, Bonderman’s statement was inaccurate. Researchers at Brigham Young University and Princeton University found that on school boards, governing boards of organizations and firms, and legislative committees, women speak significantly less often than men.

But I don’t think he was trying to cite research. I think he thought he was at a Christmas party, and it was the end of the evening where all the men gather and joke about how long it will take their chatty wives to say their goodbyes.

Anyway, his heart was in the wrong place, but his statement was hardly shocking. Multiple studies show women are marginalized in meetings and conversations.

In “Sex Roles, Interruptions and Silences in Conversations,” sociologists Don Zimmerman and Candace West recorded and analyzed public conversations between two people: 10 between two men, 10 between two women and 11 between a man and a woman. In the same-sex groups, a total of seven interruptions happened. In the male/female group, there were 48 interruptions. And 46 of them were a man interrupting a woman.

A 2014 study at George Washington University found that men interrupt women 2.1 times during a three-minute conversation — 33 percent more often than when they talk with men.

Remember the pact that female Obama staffers made to amplify each other’s voices in meetings? When a woman made a key point, the other women in the room would repeat it and give credit to its originator. (More talking!)

“‘Woman in a Meeting’ is a language of its own,” The Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri wrote in 2015. She translated some famous quotes into the way women would have to say them in a meeting, so as not to be perceived as angry or threatening. (Which really ups your chances of being interrupted.)

“Give me liberty, or give me death” translated to “Dave, if I could, I could just — I just really feel like if we had liberty it would be terrific, and the alternative would just be awful, you know? That’s just how it strikes me. I don’t know.”

Her essay was emailed and Facebook shared roughly 7 gazillion times by my female friends.

But a lot of us are still stuck going to meetings. For that, I’ll leave you with the advice of Jessica Bennett, author of “Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual (For a Sexist Workplace).”

If you witness a woman being interrupted: “You can be a Manterrupter Interrupter, interjecting manterruptions on behalf of your female colleagues,” Bennett writes. “It’s as easy as, ‘Hey, can you let her finish?’”

If you’re being interrupted: “Just keep talking. Keep your pauses short. Maintain your momentum. No matter if he waves his hands, raises his voice or squirms in his chair, you do you,” she writes. Or, push back. “Bob, I wasn’t done finishing that point. Give me one more sec.”

It’s more talking. But it’s also more equal. And that’s a good thing for everyone.