Recently covered in Forbes, a new study by CEGA affiliated faculty Shanthi Manian and Ketki Sheth reveals that participants in an experiment more often followed advice when the people giving it used assertive “cheap talk,” and did so regardless of the advice-giver’s gender. This work builds on a CEGA-funded study by the same researchers in collaboration with EASST Fellow Shibiru Ayalew, which found that participants in a similar experiment in Ethiopia were 10% less likely to follow identical advice when it came from female versus male leaders, but reversed their gendered preferences when the leaders were presented as highly trained and competent:
“Women leaders are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. When women speak assertively they risk being seen as pushy and difficult, but when they smile and speak softly they risk irrelevance. Now a new study claims that a simple communication strategy can neutralize gender bias.
The project began when economist Shanthi Manian noticed that people tend to listen to ‘big talkers,’ but that women are less likely to communicate that way. She wondered if that difference in communication could explain why a growing body of evidence has found that people are less likely to believe statements made by women.
“A person’s success often depends on whether others believe what they say,” Manian wrote in the paper. What would happen if women did start throwing around the kind of unverifiable statements that characterize classic ‘cheap talk’? If women started making claims like “I have exceptional analytical skills,” or “I am a strong leader” would people believe them?”
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