Men forget to mind their manners when dealing with powerful women | Torsten Bell

Most people probably understand that sexism exists in workplaces, with real consequences for those who experience it today and rise to leadership positions tomorrow. However, proving it – let alone accurately measuring it – can be hard.

Which is why everyone should read a great, if depressing, research paper that investigates sexism among politicians. Why is it great? Well, first of all there’s the simply brilliant title: “Yellin’ at Yellen: Gender Bias in the Federal Reserve Congressional Hearings”. Second, the researchers developed a simple but powerful way of measuring discrimination that you might have guessed given the great title – they compare how specific congressmen behaved towards Janet Yellen (the first female chair of the Fed from 2014 to 2018) and her male predecessors/ successor when they came to give testimony at the US equivalents of our select committees.

The answer is that they interrupted her more and were ruder (using “more aggressive tones”). The scale of the change in behavior from legislators was significant: the same legislator was 14 percentage points more likely to interrupt Yellen in 2014 as they were to interrupt Ben Bernanke (her male predecessor) in 2013 and they were 18 percentage points less likely to interrupt Jay Powell (her male successor) in 2018 than Yellen in 2017.

Another sign that sexism is to blame is that congressmen with daughters were less likely to interrupt Yellen, which matches wider findings that men with daughters are less likely to exhibit sexist behaviour.

The good news is we can be confident none of this could happen in the UK… because we’ve never had a female governor of the Bank of England.

Torsten Bell is chief executive of the Resolution Foundation. Read more at

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