This week there were two notable demonstrations of men dismissing what women have to say. The first was a comment by David Bonderman, an Uber Director. The second was Senators McCain and Burr’s stopping Senator Kamala Harris from completing her questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Bonderman’s misstep was responding to Uber Director Arianna Huffington’s comment about adding another woman to the board with an attempted joke about more women meaning more talking. In a different situation, the comment may have passed without notice. But in the context of a Board discussion about Uber’s toxic, sexist corporate culture, it added fuel to an already burning fire.
Regarding the Congressional hearing, Senator Harris- a former prosecutor- was asking Sessions to provide information on his source for claiming executive privilege. It was clear he did not (or could not) do so. When asked a ‘yes/no’ question, Sessions began explaining why something was the way it was. With limited time, Harris wanted to get answers. Sessions complained her speed made him nervous. By the time Burr said her time was up, most of her queries went unanswered. Did the men intentionally do this because she was a woman? Not necessarily. Unconscious bias can play a powerful role here.
On the other hand, Jason Miller’s (former advisor to Trump’s campaign) comments are more questionable. During a CNN analysis that followed the hearings, he described Senator Harris as hysterical. Take a look at the video of the interaction and you decide if she was hysterical.
For a more background on the issue of women being heard in professional settings, check out Susan Chira’s article in the New York Times.