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The Silent Sex:
Gender, Deliberation, and Institutions
Christopher F. Karpowitz & Tali Mendelberg

Winner of the 2015 David O. Sears Book Award, International Society of Political Psychology
Winner of the 2015 Robert E. Lane Award, Political Psychology Section of the American Political Science Association
Co-Winners of the 2015 Best Book Award, Experimental Research Section of the American Political Science Association

Paperback | 2014 | $37.50 | £31.95 | ISBN: 9780691159768
472 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 43 line illus. 48 tables.
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Do women participate in and influence meetings equally with men? Does gender shape how a meeting is run and whose voices are heard? The Silent Sex shows how the gender composition and rules of a deliberative body dramatically affect who speaks, how the group interacts, the kinds of issues the group takes up, whose voices prevail, and what the group ultimately decides. It argues that efforts to improve the representation of women will fall short unless they address institutional rules that impede women's voices.

Using groundbreaking experimental research supplemented with analysis of school boards, Christopher Karpowitz and Tali Mendelberg demonstrate how the effects of rules depend on women’s numbers, so that small numbers are not fatal with a consensus process, but consensus is not always beneficial when there are large numbers of women. Men and women enter deliberative settings facing different expectations about their influence and authority. Karpowitz and Mendelberg reveal how the wrong institutional rules can exacerbate women’s deficit of authority while the right rules can close it, and, in the process, establish more cooperative norms of group behavior and more generous policies for the disadvantaged. Rules and numbers have far-reaching implications for the representation of women and their interests.

Bringing clarity and insight to one of today’s most contentious debates, The Silent Sex provides important new findings on ways to bring women’s voices into the conversation on matters of common concern.


"This book examines the extent of the contributions by men and women to public discussions about subjects of common concern. Karpowitz and Mendelberg find evidence of a significant difference in contributions--with men contributing more--and show how gender composition and rules dramatically affect what a group ultimately decides."--Choice


"This pathbreaking book brings us the latest research on why, in most public situations, women don't speak up as much as men. It's not just confidence--institutions matter, too. Sensitive and compelling, The Silent Sex is a must-read for anyone who cares about gender equality."--Jane Mansbridge, Harvard Kennedy School

"In this groundbreaking book, Karpowitz and Mendelberg show how democratic institutions fundamentally shape women's influence. They isolate institutions and conditions that exacerbate inequalities but also situations that close the gender gap. This book will undoubtedly frame generations of debate and discussion about how to craft democratic bodies to ensure equal input. This is a must-read for anyone interested in democracy, gender, and deliberation."--Jamie Druckman, Northwestern University

"The Silent Sex is a game-changing contribution. A stimulating must-read!"--Susan T. Fiske, Princeton University

"The Silent Sex is a revolutionary book. Women must not only be equally represented in our society; they must be equally heard and responded to. Karpowitz and Mendelberg demonstrate that presence and voice are not the same thing, with critical consequences for our politics and society. Even more important, they show us what to do about it. This book will make a difference."--Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America Foundation, Bert G. Kerstetter '66 University Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University

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Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations ix
List of Tables xii
Acknowledgments xv
Introduction 1
Chapter 1: The Problem 8
Chapter 2: The Sources of the Gender Gap in Political Participation 33
Chapter 3: Why Women Don't Speak 51
Chapter 4: The Deliberative Justice Experiment 97
Chapter 5: Speech as a Form of Participation: Floor Time and Perceived Influence 114
Chapter 6: What Makes Women the "Silent Sex" When Their Status Is Low? 143
Chapter 7: Does Descriptive Representation Facilitate Women's Distinctive Voice? 167
Chapter 8: Unpacking the Black Box of Interaction 200
Chapter 9: When Women Speak, Groups Listen--Sometimes: How and When Women's Voice Shapes the Group's Generosity 239
Chapter 10: Gender Inequality in School Boards 273
Conclusion 305
Appendixes 359
References 409
Index 445

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