The silent sex : gender, deliberation, and institutions / Christopher F. Karpowitz, Tali Mendelberg.

  • Karpowitz, Christopher F., 1969-
  • Books
  • Online

About this work


“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”—Provided by publisher.


Princeton, New Jersey ; Woodstock, Oxfordshire : Princeton University Press, 2014.

Physical description

xvii, 450 pages : Grayscale Illustration, Tables ; 25 cm

Bibliographic information

Includes bibliographical references and index.

Creator/production credits

Jacket photograph © Africa Studio/Shutterstock. Jacket design by Lorraine Doneker.

Reproduction note

Electronic text and image data. Ann Arbor, Mich. : University of Michigan, Michigan Publishing, 2019. EPUB file. ([ACLS Humanities E-Book])


Published by Princeton University Press.
This book has been composed in Minion and Avant Garde.
Printed on acid-free paper.
Printed in the United States of America.


The Problem -- The Sources of the Gender Gap in Political Participation -- Why Women Don't Speak -- The Deliberative Justice Experiment -- Speech as a Form of Participation: Floor Time and Perceived Influence -- What Makes Women the “Silent Sex” When Their Status Is Low? -- Does Descriptive Representation Facilitate Women's Distinctive Voice? -- Unpacking the Black Box of Interaction -- When Women Speak, Groups Listen—Sometimes: How and When Women's Voice Shapes the Group's Generosity -- Gender Inequality in School Boards.



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