Miss Conduct

Is there a right way for a man to help out women being talked over at the office?

In meetings, I’m really noticing how some men shut down women. I’d like to help put a stop to the problem.

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As a man, I’ve become sensitive to how often we interrupt and shut down women. In professional settings, I try to return to the woman and have her continue, often by adopting a moderator’s tone: “I’d like to hear the rest of Vindra’s point.” But if say, “Sam,” interrupts women consistently, should I say something to him directly?

S.R. / Cambridge

As a rule, yes, please and thank you! We should all work to eliminate bias. Fighting prejudice should not be the sole burden of those discriminated against.

But before you confront Sam, remember, doing so isn’t just about you, it’s also about Vindra. You need to handle the situation in such a way that she doesn’t wind up becoming a chew toy you and Sam are fighting over. I wish I could give you the formula for how to do that, but there are too many variables — the corporate culture, your respective places in the organization, the history among the three of you, personality types, etc.


Even if you don’t speak to Sam directly, you can amplify Vindra’s points in meetings, crediting her by name, and ensuring that her ideas get heard. If you’ve got a lot of Sams on your team, talk to whoever runs the meetings about having a no-interruptions policy. (You can make that rule for meetings you run, even if you’re only boss-of-the-meeting.)

Miss Conduct is Robin Abrahams, a writer with a PhD in psychology.