Gender balance on video calls

Why women don’t speak up on Zoom calls - and why that’s a problem

Natalie Marchant World Economic Forum 07 Jan 2021

My research into video meetings has highlighted that people (men and women) feel uncomfortable about interrupting on Zoom/Teams type calls and often there are not agreed rules about who should speak/speak next.

It's not universal, but I would say that the women I have spoken to worry more about this than the men. We (men, I am one of them) can seem less bothered that we might be perceived as rude or pushy when we interrupt to speak.

I have found that a good way to help ensure equality of contribution and make it easier to manage the flow of a discussion is to use Video Meeting Signals (VMS™) alongside the spoken word. This allows you to politely request to speak in a visual way using a hand signal, and to indicate what kind of contribution you want to make (you want to speak because you don't understand, because you want to build on the last point, because you have a quite different perspective on the debate).

A good team leader/meeting chair who knows the hand signals can then facilitate contributions much more easily. This really works and is easy to learn.


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