I wondered about this a few weeks ago as I watched a Question and Answer session for perspective students at a large Washington D.C. Law School. The Q&A was about an hour and the admissions speaker was a lively woman who seemed very oriented to students and happy to answer questions about the LSAT, the law school and how to do one’s best in the application process. The future students were eager to ask questions and hands around the room went up quickly. There were around 50 people, about half men, half women in the room. But I noticed that the speaker mainly called on the women students, even if a man had raised his hand first. She even said “I will get to you in a minute” to a male student but then called on a couple of women instead: one woman was even called on three times! I wondered if the speaker even knew she was doing this.
I must admit that part of the problem was the way that the guys in the room were trying to ask questions. Their hand did not go up as aggressively as the girl’s hands nor were their voices as strong or as loud. They were softer and more hesitant than the women’s and I often could not hear them as well. Is this a function of men with softer voices applying to enter law school or were they more timid in this particular setting? Were they picking up that they were the underdogs in this situation and that they were not getting the same attention? If I am observing this behavior in one academic setting, how many more men are being affected by academics and administrators around the country who may be treating them differently?