Mendelberg Discusses Her Research in TIME on Women Being Interrupted: 'Mr. Vice President, I'm Speaking.'

Oct. 13, 2020

Tali Mendelberg brings her research to bear in TIME on the issue of how often women are interrupted by men, prompted by the debate between VP candidates Kamala Harris and Mike Pence: 'Mr. Vice President, I'm Speaking.' What Research Says About Men Interrupting Women—And How to Stop It. According to TIME, Vice President Mike Pence interrupted Harris a total of ten times over the course of the event, double the times that Harris interrupted him, and repeatedly objected to moderator Susan Page’s attempts to enforce his speaking-time limit. Mendelberg provided additional commentary on this issue in USA Today.

This widespread phenomenon is the subject of research by Mendelberg, and her book (with Christopher Karpowitz), The Silent Sex: Gender, Deliberation, and Institutions. Mendelberg is John Work Garrett Professor in Politics and a CSDP faculty associate at Princeton University.

Men are often socialized to display dominance in competitive public settings like debates and interrupting is a power move. When Pence interrupted, he created power for himself at the expense of Harris. Pence’s calm tone and civil words may have made his many interruptions and repeatedly talking past his time seem not so bad, but it will be familiar to many women who sit in meetings with men who may not share speaking time equally. In our research, all-female groups discussing politics take equal speaking turns and avoid negative interruptions. When you add in men, they [men] tend to take more than their equal share.