The Silent Sex: Gender, Deliberation, and Institutions

Publication Year



Scholars and policy-makers have worked for decades to understand and to improve the representation women receive from national and international political organizations. Many of these efforts have focused on increasing the number of women in decision-making bodies. Through ground-breaking experimental research, The Silent Sex argues that these efforts to increase and improve the representation of women will often fall short unless they also address institutional rules that impede women's voices. Unbalanced institutional rules can offset the positive consequences of increasing the number of women in a deliberative body. Group composition and procedures interact to either advance women's authority or hamper it. Similar rules have different impacts depending on the balance between men and women. Men and women enter deliberative settings facing different expectations about their influence and authority. The wrong institutional rules can exacerbate women's deficit of authority; the right rules can elevate women's authority. These rules increase women's participation, establish more cooperative norms of group behavior, and can have important consequences for the descriptive and substantive representation of women and their interests.

Publication Status
In Press
Princeton University Press

Schlozman, Kay L. (2015). Book Review. The Silent Sex: Gender, Deliberation, and Institutions by Karpowitz, Christopher F., and Tali Mendelberg. Journal of Women, Politics & Policy. Taylor & Francis Online. (Nov. 18).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
"This pathbreaking book brings us the latest research on why, in most public situations, women don't speak up as much as men. It's not just confidence--institutions matter, too. Sensitive and compelling, The Silent Sex is a must-read for anyone who cares about gender equality."--Jane Mansbridge, Harvard Kennedy School

"In this groundbreaking book, Karpowitz and Mendelberg show how democratic institutions fundamentally shape women's influence. They isolate institutions and conditions that exacerbate inequalities but also situations that close the gender gap. This book will undoubtedly frame generations of debate and discussion about how to craft democratic bodies to ensure equal input. This is a must-read for anyone interested in democracy, gender, and deliberation."--Jamie Druckman, Northwestern University

"The Silent Sex is a game-changing contribution. A stimulating must-read!"--Susan T. Fiske, Princeton University

"The Silent Sex is a revolutionary book. Women must not only be equally represented in our society; they must be equally heard and responded to. Karpowitz and Mendelberg demonstrate that presence and voice are not the same thing, with critical consequences for our politics and society. Even more important, they show us what to do about it. This book will make a difference."--Anne-Marie Slaughter, President and CEO, New America Foundation, Bert G. Kerstetter '66 University Professor Emerita of Politics and International Affairs, Princeton University

"The Silent Sex explores the gender imbalance in deliberative participation, a pervasive problem in politics and social interaction. Karpowitz and Mendelberg bring together an unusually rich combination of clear theorizing, deep background in several social science disciplines, convincing empirical research, and thought-provoking policy recommendations."--Nannerl O. Keohane, former president of Duke University and Wellesley College

"The Silent Sex offers a powerful and relentless analysis of the silencing of women in decision making. Karpowitz and Mendelberg show over and over--with well-crafted experiments, observational data, and deep analysis--how majority-rule institutions silence all women who find themselves in the minority regardless of expertise and experience."--Nancy Burns, University of Michigan

"The Silent Sex is the best book analyzing social power in deliberative politics to date. Karpowitz and Mendelberg provide overwhelming evidence that women are disadvantaged in the authoritative exercise of voice. But theirs is not a counsel of despair. In a series of studies that are theoretically rich, empirically rigorous, and practically vital, they go on to show how attending to group composition and institutional rules can move us a long way toward restoring equality and diversity."--Michael Neblo, Ohio State University

"Karpowitz and Mendelberg are pioneers in studying the complex interaction of gendered communication, gender composition in groups, and group decision rules. With The Silent Sex, they have made a landmark contribution to political science. There is no other book like this."--John Gastil, coauthor of The Jury and Democracy: How Jury Deliberation Promotes Civic Engagement and Political Participation

"This is the first large-scale study to test how varying group gender composition affects individual behavior and interacts with institutional rules. Unique and noteworthy, The Silent Sex provides a critical contribution to our understanding of how women participate in decision making bodies."--Christopher Larimer, University of Northern Iowa