Monday, October 13, 2014

Conrad Carter
Gender and Politics
Gender roles in Sunday School
Participation in the religious practices has many forms. In most mainstream religions today congregations are asked if not required to participate in church activities. Whether its through teaching classes, teaching or supporting sermons, dedicating time to support of build up the church and it members, there are hundreds of ways that people participate within their religious organizations. This is especially true of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Members are constantly invited to participate in nearly all aspects of the church services. This paper will focus mainly on the participation of females and males during the Sunday school portion of Sabbath day worship. During this hour men and women come together and participate in a lesson given by a single person. Through out the lesson those in attendance will be asked to participate or comment on the lesson. Although this participation is not required it is strongly encouraged and expected in every lesson. I will be looking at the participation of females and males, most of which are around the age of 22-30. I will compare the number males that participate to the number of females that participate. This will be conducted in a married student ward, or a congregation that is composed of recently married students. Most of the members attend BYU with a few attending UVU. Although some of these students are from outside of the United States the majority of them have lived in America for most of their lives.
I hypothesis that participation will be dominated by the males participants because of the patriarchal order of the church. Male participants will participate much more because they have been taught to be leaders not just in the home but in society and church settings as well.
This participation may be swayed by several factors. The first factor to take into consideration is that nearly all male participants have served missions for the LDS Church. While around three fourths of female participants have served missions for the LDS Church. This could make male participants more eager to speak up or participate in the lesson. Although I don't believe that the ratio of females to males who served missions will have huge implications on participation. Another factor to take into consideration is the topic of discussion. If the topic is not well known then the representation of participation may not be accurate. On the other hand if the topics is really well known to some but not others then this may also affect the outcome of the data collected. Another possible issue could be the confidence of those participating. Past experience may have lead to their lack of participation. For example if a member was offended by the person teaching the lesson they may no longer want to participate. There could also be cases where some people might just be shy. I am assuming that most of these situations will occur equally among both females and males and will in turn not have any really affect on the overall outcome. Some might argue that there is a problem with this type of test because it is tested on a small group of people who are in similar situations. I would argue that this is the ideal setting because the group being studied is quite similar and there will almost always be one female to one male in the class.
This data was collected over the space of 3 Sundays. There were around 50 participants in the class each Sunday. It is important to note that the teacher of the class was male and that this may have in fact altered the outcome. The first Sunday 9 females participated and 11 males. The second Sunday there were 9 females who participated and 10 males. The third Sunday there were 10 females that participated and 8 males. Based on the results my hypotheses wasn’t correct in this situation. There doesn't seem to be any real statistical difference showing that male participation will increase over female participation due to the patriarchal order of the church or due to the male dominate culture in the church. At least not as significant as I previously thought. Although there could be more statistical evidence if the data was taken over a longer span of time. It might also help if the study was conducted on multiple wards and in off campus settings.
In this setting were there were newly wed couples there were many times when both husband and wife would provide an answer to one question. Participation wasn’t exactly equal but once again it was a lot closer than what I had expected.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Participation in the Religious and Educational Spheres

Participation is a fundamental part of life. But how do you qualify or quantify participation? I analyzed recruited and volunteered gender participation in two areas to adequately address the topic of gender participation in the public sphere.
            The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held their semiannual conference this past weekend, which gathers members of the LDS faith to receive inspiration and instruction from Church leaders. Both this October 2014 meeting and the April 2014 meeting had only 8% female speakers or two female speakers throughout the four general meetings. This is not a surprising occurrence for members of the LDS Church, which like the Catholic Church does not ordain women to the priesthood or clergy.
            However I found that this discrepancy in gender participation on the highest level of the LDS church, did not affect the participation of men and women members of the Church around the United States. I ran an informal observational test on the gender participation in response to LDS General Conference on the social media platform, Twitter. I conducted this test by going through the most recent 200 tweets that use #ldsconf on Monday, October 6th. I only included users that I could clearly differentiate the sex of through their user name and twitter picture. I found that there was almost an even amount of twitter participation by men and women in reaction to this church meeting. 52% of the tweets were from male twitter users, while 48% of the tweets were from female users. This illustrates that the LDS church as a whole has more equal voluntary participation than the general meeting would lead observers to believe.

       A similar story is told in the leadership at Brigham Young University. BYU has published demographic reports about the student body since 1997. BYU has had 49% or above female enrollment 14/17 of these years. I postulated before I researched this topic that BYU would have around 20-30% female leaders (a number close to the percentage of female members of Congress). I looked to data from BYUSA, the official student association, which was formed in 1988 for the purpose of serving the student body to test my hypothesis. However, I found that in the past 26 years there have only been two female presidents of BYUSA. This low ratio of female to male presidents highlights the difference in gender participation on BYU campus. But why with an approximately equal student body has BYUSA had only 2 female presidents? According to a member of BYUSA whom could not find data kept on the matter there have been many less campaigns by female students running for BYUSA president. I have no data to confirm or deny this, but this claim suggests that there is a lack of participation by female students in the political discourse of BYU. 
            There has been much discussion of classroom participation and the higher tendency for male participation in these settings (Karpowitz, Mendelberg, Oliphant 2014). Thus I decided to analyze a different type of classroom experience. I am currently enrolled in an Entrepreneurship Lecture Series course that meets once weekly for the entire semester. In this course we have leading entrepreneurs come talk to the class about how they achieved success and give general advice to students. The past three semesters (the only semesters I was able to obtain data for) there has not been a women entrepreneur who has presented to the class. The professor came up to myself and three other female students who were sitting together after class one day and thanked us for our participation. He told us that the world of entrepreneurship and BYU was severely lacking female businesswomen and that they had trouble finding qualified women to present to the class in the field of entrepreneurship.

            Why is there such a discrepancy in female and male participation at Brigham Young University? Or more importantly why should we care if women are not voluntarily participating as much in BYUSA or in entrepreneurship on BYU campus? One implication of this participation gap could be the lower rate of female graduation at BYU. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the national 6-year graduation rate was 56% for males and 61% for females. It was also still higher for women than for men at both public (60% vs. 5%) and private universities (68% vs. 63%). I used the 6-year graduation data due to the fact that many BYU students chose to serve missions during their tenure at the University, and 6 years should account for this phenomenon. Each of these has at least a 5% higher graduation rate for women than men. BYU, on the other hand, has only a 1% higher graduation rate for women than men on the same 6-year graduation scale. This is not a huge difference, but is definitely something worth attention. There are possible cultural variables affecting this discrepancy as well. This supported by the data from the Utah Department of Workforce Services that reveals that Utah has the lowest graduation rates for women in the country.

            These two spheres of discourse: religious and education display male/female participation in different ways. Both have similar low levels of female participation in leadership positions whether due to recruiting bias or low voluntary involvement. However the LDS church had nearly equal amounts of participation in public discourse on a social media platform. Participation in the public discourse is important for the progression of society and for the promotion of equal and fair ideals. It is important that we realize the power of participation on not only our individual progress, but also on society as a whole.


There is a lot of compelling evidence out there that suggests men are much more active in discursive settings than women. I did a bit of research in my own little world in order to see how things stack up. When deciding upon a venue, the nerd inside of me wanted to find a type of setting that I could measure in multiple different scenarios. So, for the first time ever, having three different jobs felt like a luxury. What do almost all unimpressive, entry-level jobs have in common? - The dreaded staff meeting. Each of my three jobs varies in male to female ratio and heaven knows that each of them has regular staff meetings in a singular format; an appropriate discursive setting to tackle some simple research. I'll talk a little bit about what I found and then I will try to piece together some common explanations and perhaps suggest some new ones. Throughout the post, I will be referring to different academic sources that come from individuals much smarter than I. Here come some pie charts.

Let's start with the real doozy. This is what the male to female participation ratio looks like in my sales job staff meetings. I saw this coming but I was still kind of surprised by it. Ah, the magic of a pie chart. Anyway, it can be seen that the three different females that work as sales reps made a whopping seven percent of the comments (including questions, jokes, anything). These data were gathered over eight different meetings, so it was not just one isolated incident. Overall, 151 of the comments came from male employees while only 11 comments came from female employees. When analyzing these figures, the first important thing to notice is the ratio of male to female employees. Yes, you can see that females were severely outnumbered. However, if these three females would have participated at an equal rate with male participants they would have made eleven or twelve comments each. It is also important to note that the meeting is always directed by a male manager. There are a number of excellent studies that explain why these two things are important.

An experiment conducted by Chris Karpowitz and Tali Mendelberg found that females become more likely to participate in a group as their numbers increase. The ratio happens to be a very important thing. The proposed reasoning is that women simply feel more confident when they are not the minority. If this is at all difficult to grasp, imagine being one of very few poll-vaulters in a meeting of mostly javelin throwers. It probably doesn't help if the person in charge is also a javelin thrower. At least that is what social psychologist Thomas Morrison learned from an experiment in 1984. He reports that females were much more involved when represented by females. If we go back to the example of being one of the few poll-vaulters, it seems to hold true that you might feel less reservations if the leader of the group was also a poll-vaulter. This next pie chart shows what happens when the male to female ratio increases in favor of the males, yet the manager still happened to be a

The male to female ratio is much more even in this job. It looks pretty even when you check out the chart. When I did the math, I was surprised to find that the females actually commented at a higher rate than the males. Females made up three sevenths of the group, but they made more than three sevenths of the 123 comments I counted. According to Karpowitz and Mendelberg's experiment, this shouldn't be happening until a huge female majority is recorded. Even then, it cannot necessarily be expected that the males will comment proportionately less. I think that this might be due to the fact that these particular three females have much more experience in publishing scholarly articles than us males. Also, I think my meticulous attempts to gather data may have excluded me from commenting as much as I normally due. Since this was a small group (and since only one meeting was recorded), a change in one person's habits can skew the data. Even if I had commented more, however, there is no denying that female participation increased.

For my third job I work as a desk secretary in a student housing complex. In this neck of the woods, exactly have of the employees are female, and so is the manager. Again, these factors changed the dynamic of male and female participation compared with the sales job. Nearly half of the discussion was dominated by females, not counting the manager. Still, males made more comments than females (82 to 73). Since I had hypothesized that this meeting would have the highest amount of female participation, I was a bit puzzled. I had already totaled my tally before leaving the room and I felt compelled to ask a woman sitting next to me why she never talked much in the meeting. I thought she was going to say that she was generally shy or just had nothing to say. To my surprise, she said, "I don't like to talk much because you guys are so funny." To clarify, when she said "guys" she meant all of the males in the room, who indeed tend to joke more. As I pondered this, I started wondering what it was about males that causes them to dominate these settings. This was partially due to my embarrassment for not ever realizing it beforehand.

A myriad of sociologists attempted to answer this questions by means of an experiment in 2007. Their main goal was to see if the differences in conversational behavior between men and women could be likened unto the differences in conversational behavior between different ethnic backgrounds. This connection is important since it has already been seen that ethnic majorities seem to dominate the conversation to the point of exclusion of the ethnic minority. Yes, they did find that there appear to be similarities, but this may be incomplete. Karpowitz and Mendelberg found that increasing the number of women increases the rate at which women participate, but it does not increase the rate by which men participate. What if men are just over-all less aware of gender, and therefore have less reservations?

The America Psychological Association did this pretty cool experiment in order to analyze some typical gender perceptions. They chose six people to act as data coders (three male and three female) and had them interview sixty different grad students (again, half male and half female). They asked specific questions to each individual in an attempt to predict each person's potential for hostility. They found that the female coders found the potential for hostility to be equal between males and females while the male coders found the female participants to be (on average) more likely to be hostile than men. They interviewed the coders after the fact and asked if they could recall the proportion of male to female interviews that he or she had conducted. The female coders responded with something like, "yeah I think it was half and half," while the male coders responded with something more like, "uh, I don't remember."

Perhaps it is a male's being accustomed to being part of the majority in discursive settings that allows him the luxury of not thinking twice before he speaks up. Certainly, of all the men I have spoken to, we agree that our gender is seldom (if ever) on our mind when we raise our hand in a class. I can only hypothesize that as women become more affluent in these situations and social norms are broken, men will continue to dominate.

Gender Gap in Participation

Stereotypes suggest that women can talk for hours about their feelings, while men share less about their emotions. Though this typecast may be a prevalent societal perception, in reality the opposite may be true, particularly in settings where men and women are publically speaking within a group. Observing different public discourse settings may provide insight into women’s verbal participation, specifically in more formal public situations such as political settings. This may also lead to a better understanding of how women participate in politics. Mendelberg and Karpowitz suggest that women make policy differences only when they have true parity with men. [1] It is essential that women participate; and when women participate less than men, women are by default, less represented.

In order for us to know how to make sure women are better represented, we must first see if women truly do participate less in public settings. I hypothesized that women would participate less frequently than men in classroom, church, and political settings. Research by the UN suggested that women with decision-making authority succeeded in introducing changes to improve the lives of many women. [2] This convinced more women in the general public to participate because they saw that women could make real policy changes. [2] Because of this, I also speculated that when the discussions were led by women, more women would participate.

In addition to how often women and men participated, I wanted to look at the kind of comments they made. Sociologists Schau and Meierding suggested that women use hedging comments more than men, which are comments like “this might be wrong” or “I’m not sure but…” [3] This has even been seen in professional settings, where women use hedging even when dealing with someone who is in a lower power position than herself. [3] Lawless and Fox found that women believe that they know a lot less about policy issues and also believe that they are less qualified [4]. Because of this research, I hypothesized that women would not only participate less, but when they did participate, they would hedge their comments.

Observation Methods
I observed participation in different settings where discourse takes place: two discussion-based classes, Sunday school, BYU College Democrats, and BYU College Republicans. I kept track of the number of times that men spoke and the number of times that women spoke in all of these settings over the course of two meetings.

I originally hypothesized that when the discussion was led by a woman, women in the group would participate more. In order to observe this, I looked at every setting with both a woman leading the discussion and a man leading the discussion. First, I looked at two Journalism classes of similar size that were discussion-based. I also looked at two Sunday school classes with the same lesson content. In both of these cases, I observed one class where a man taught and another where a woman taught. Finally, I also attended a BYU College Democrat’s meeting which was led by two women, and a BYU College Republican’s meeting which was led by two men. Additionally, I took note of the kind of comments that were made in these settings by both men and women. Anytime a man or woman added a hedging comment to their statement, I would write their exact words.

Observation Findings
After I observed these participation based meetings, I found that women spoke less in every single setting. Furthermore, when women did speak, they would often hedge their comments.

In the journalism classes, women participated less than men. Details of this participation is seen in Table 1. Additionally, I heard hedging comments from women in both of these classes. In the journalism class with a woman teacher, four of the women gave hedging comments. Further, these hedging comments took up about half of the time that they spent talking. The men in the class did not use any hedging comments. In the
journalism class with a man teaching, all of the girls who spoke used hedging comments. The men never made hedged comments. 

In Sunday school, I observed similar things as I did in the classrooms. In both cases, women spoke much less than men. The exact observations can be seen in Table 2. I further noticed that there were more hedging comments in the church setting than any other setting. Every woman who spoke added a hedging comment. At church, the woman’s hedging comments were often things like “I understand that I do not know everything because I do not have the priesthood..." In the church setting, women suggested that they knew less than men so they felt they could not fully contribute to the class.

I also attended the BYU College Democrats and BYU College Republicans meetings. Both meetings were about money and politics. In the BYU College Democrats meeting, which was led by two women, we found that women still commented much less than men. Even in a group that you would think would be more open minded and welcoming of all opinions, especially at BYU, women participated less. Women also participated less in the BYU College Republicans meeting. Full findings can be seen in Table 3. 

One thing that I found interesting is that no hedging comments were made from men or women in either of these political settings. One suggestion for this finding may be that people who came to these meetings did so because they were interested in and already had a background knowledge of money and politics, so they felt confident enough in their knowledge that they did not feel the need to excuse themselves before making comments. 

Overall, I found that women participated much less than men. When women did participate, they gave hedging comments to excuse their words. Although these findings may be telling of the gender gap in participation, I found no evidence as to why this may be. I originally suggested that perhaps when women lead the conversation, women are more likely to participate. However, my observations did not support that hypothesis. There has been past research (which I discussed above) which suggests that when there are women leading discussions, women participate more. Since my findings were not consistent with those, limitations in my research that should be noted. I only observed meetings that were filled with BYU students, and BYU students are not likely to be completely representative of the entire public. Mormon culture also tends to create more submissive women, which may be why women participated less. In the BYU College Democrats and BYU College Republican meetings, the topic was about money in politics, which may be inherently more interesting for men, which led them to participate more. If the topic were about a policy issue that women found more interesting, such as the gender wage gap, women may have participated more.

For further research, it might be interesting to look at the ratio between men and women in the group to see if more women in a group means more participation from women in this group. Instead of just observing, I may want to run experiments setting up specific situations, such as having a women leader and man leader. If I run my own experiment, I would be able to hold all other things constant and perhaps receive different results. It might also be telling to do more qualitative research and ask women how they feel in these group settings to perhaps understand more why it is that they participate less and why they feel the need to add hedging comments. 

 [3] Jan Frankel and Nina Meierding. 2007. Negotiating Like a Woman - How Gender Impacts Communication between the Sexes. Print. Journal of Mediating.