Tokyo Olympics Chair’s Comments About Women Spark Age-Old Debate

Author: Jennifer N. Dienst       

men speaking

According to research, men tend to talk and interrupt more than women, going against a recent statement by Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee..

Yoshiro Mori, president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee, resigned Feb. 12 following criticism of that his comments about women talking too much during meetings showed disdain for women.

“When you increase the number of female executive members, if their speaking time isn’t restricted to a certain extent, they have difficulty finishing, which is annoying,” Mori said during a committee meeting, according to The Washington Post. “Women are competitive. When one person raises a hand, others think they need to speak up as well. That’s why everyone speaks.”

During a special meeting of the committee in Tokyo on Feb. 12, Mori admitted his remarks were inappropriate and had caused chaos. But his original comments have fueled a bigger conversation about the differences in the ways men and women communicate, who actually speaks more, and the impact that has on how a person is perceived. In a Twitter thread with thousands of retweets, organizational psychologist Adam Grant pointed out that, according to Western research, “it’s usually men who won’t shut up” and that men tend to interrupt more intrusively than women. (As one Twitter respondent pointed out, there’s even an app for that).

In his Tweet, Grant specifically cited a 2012 study, “Who Takes the Floor and Why: Gender, Power, and Volubility in Organizations,” published in

Administrative Science Quarterly. The author, Victoria Brescoll, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management, studies how stereotypes impact an individual’s status and power within an organization. In this particular study, she looked at the 2005 and 2007 U.S. Senate sessions, comparing how often male and female senators spoke according to their legislative position and power. She found that the more powerful the male senator, the more they spoke — but not so for the female senators.

Brescoll also conducted a separate experiment for the study, asking participants to imagine themselves as either the most or least powerful person at a work meeting. Men who perceived themselves as the most powerful said they would talk more than other team members during the meeting, while women who imagined themselves similarly said that they would speak for the same amount of time as their low-powered counterparts. Why? Because they didn’t want to be disliked or perceived as controlling.

Mori’s comments reinforce Brescoll’s findings about how women are perceived when they speak at meetings. “When men talk a lot and they have power, people want to reward them either by hiring them, voting for them, or just giving them more power and responsibility at work,” Brescoll said in a post on Yale’s website about the study. “But when women do it, they are seen as being too domineering, too presumptuous. Women perceive this, and that’s why they temper how much they talk.”

Unfortunately, women don’t just censor themselves when in leadership roles, but they are still not getting the same opportunities as men to take a seat at the table, if events are any indication. The recent shift to digital hasn’t helped to level the playing field when it comes to equal gender representation among speakers and panelists at events. Convene recently reported that the Gender-Avenger Tally app continues to pick up on imbalances in gender diversity during virtual meetings.

Jennifer N. Dienst is managing editor at Convene. This story was updated Feb. 15.

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