Faculty of Economics and Business Administration Publications Database

Do women have longer conversations? Telephone evidence of gendered communication strategies

Seabright, Paul
Volume: 32
Number: 3
Pages: 348 - 356
Month: June
ISSN-Print: 0167-4870
Link External Source: Online Version
Year: 2011
Keywords: Gender differences; Communication; Telephones; Discrimination; Social networks
Abstract: We investigate whether there are systematic gender differences in communication behavior by telephone. First, we report a study of anonymized billing records of 3103 subscribers to a large mobile operator in Italy and Greece over 2years from 2006 to 2008. Faced with identical tariffs, women make fewer calls than men, and their calls last 16% longer controlling for other factors. Secondly, we report a study of some 92,000 person-days of calls to call-center employees of a large consumer services company operator at four sites in Germany. Calls randomly allocated to women last 15% longer than those of men controlling for other factors. There is no evidence, however, that this results in the women being any less effective employees than the men; indeed, in operations involving sales where it is possible to measure productivity by this criterion, female employees make slightly more sales per shift than men. It appears instead to reflect systematic gender differences in communication strategies, though it may reflect also an element of preference by both men and women for speaking to women. The findings of both studies are highly statistically significant and are found across all age groups. The magnitude of gender differences is sensitive to the costs of communication. The results have implications for possible explanations of gender clustering in the labor market.