I first noticed it when I visited my sister.
I went to see her last year at her college and realized the guys in her class kept talking over her. As class continued I found myself getting more and more agitated. My sister is brilliant, and well-spoken, and probably knew more about this than these two smart asses talking over her.
Then when the group discussion started, males dominated it. When females did speak up, they were interrupted repeatedly by men and women alike. And no one seemed to care.
I asked her afterwards if this was normal. She said they it happens all the time, and she was getting angry about it. I told her how I wanted to call them on it, but didn’t feel like I could being the outsider and all.
I thought Berklee would be different.
I have a voice here. I feel free to speak my mind, to express myself. I feel free to wear socks with cats on them if I want to. People ride razor scooters here, and have neon green hair. This is a place to share ideas, to collaborate.
Multiple people I’ve talked to about this have expressed the same sentiment: people here get it. When I talk about a really cool chord progression, other people get into it. We are the outsiders all gathered in one place. We bond over shared experiences from across the world.
But it’s happening here too.
I didn’t realize it until I got to ACI and three people monopolized the conversation. All of them were male. And while they had good points to make, it still struck me as strange. Maybe those three just happened to open up faster than the females in the room. Maybe no one else had anything to say.
I’m not afraid to speak up in class. I’m not afraid to share, to put myself out there. But I didn’t feel like participating because I was feeling anxious that particular day. But I was mad, mad that they were running the show. On the off chance another gal in the room wanted to say something, I broke the ice.
And I continued talking throughout the class. And by the end two or three other women had spoken up.
And it’s not just ACI. In my other classes, males are dominating the conversation. What I’ve noticed is there are usually two to three guys who consistently contribute, maybe a gal or two who will as well, but the majority of people who speak up even just occasionally are male.
Columbia studied this.
What I’ve observed isn’t something I’ve imagined. Columbia did a study called “Gender Issues in the College Classroom“. To summarize their findings, the situation sucks. Not only are women in the classroom interrupted or talked over by classmates regardless of gender, they found that teachers also had a bias.
The study found that teachers tend to call on males more than females. This isn’t surprising to me; I’ve noticed it happening by teachers of both genders. The part of the study I found particularly shocking was the observation that teachers were generally more likely to refer to men in the classroom by name.
So what can we do?
At the bottom of the study there’s a list of steps that you can take to help the situation. That being said, let me tell you how I plan on addressing the issue.
I will continue contributing to class conversations, especially when I recognize an unbalance in who is participating. I will try to express my thought fully and add to the quality of the discussion.
When I am interrupted or talked over in class or in conversations, I will respectfully remind whoever did so that I wasn’t done talking. I find men are more likely to interrupt or talk over me, and I am tired of it. I’m taking a stand.
Lastly, I will observe my classes and see if I can identify any gender bias.
Basically, we’ve got to stop accepting that anyone’s opinion is more valid, whether it be on a basis of gender or age or perceived status. And the only way to facilitate this change is to tune in, listen, and speak up.