If you are listening in on a corporate earnings call, it’s likely a man will be on the other line. In a new analysis of 155,000 company conference calls over the past 19 years, men dominated talking on the corporate conference call, speaking 92% of the time, according to automated research firm Prattle, which did the numbers at Bloomberg’s request.
Men dominate the conference call
The reason for women’s absence is twofold, the research suggests: there are more men present in general during these calls and the men who are in the room enjoy taking up the whole conversation. Women made up 10.2% of earnings calls on average, but when they spoke, the analysis found that it was largely limited to introductory remarks.
“Male executives provide significantly more verbose answers to analyst questions than their female counterparts,” Prattle CEO Evan Schnidman said to Bloomberg. “One could surmise that male executives are more prone to speaking simply to hear themselves speak.”
Men hogging the conversation is not limited to earnings and conference calls. Routine interruptions can happen at the highest levels of power. One study found that female Supreme Court justices got interrupted three times as often as men. Because they were interrupted more, it became harder for them to shape and convince their colleagues of their arguments.
The loss of women’s voices in decision rooms can lead to worse outcomes. When female analysts do not get into the room, companies and the people that follow them miss out on their advice. A 2010 report in the Journal of Accounting Research found that female equity analysts issued “bolder and more accurate forecasts” than their male counterparts, partly out of self-selection: If you were a female analyst in a male-dominated market, you had to be stronger to stick around, the thinking went. People in the market recognized these female analysts’ superior abilities and responded to it.
Speaking up in a meeting can be intimidating, whether you are on a conference call or in a boardroom. To get over this fear and make your ideas heard, Amy Bernstein, editor of Harvard Business Review, advises thinking of the mission at hand: “It’s not about you. It’s about the idea. And when you get to that point, you liberate yourself from all of those doubts and all of the communication of those doubts and you make it so much easier to get your ideas across. And you become so much more interesting.”