When Women’s Voices are Truly Heard: Chris Karpowitz and “The Silent Sex”

“Culture does not make people. People make culture. If it is true that the full humanity of women is not our culture, then we can and must make it our culture,” wrote Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her book We Should All Be Feminists. BYU Political Science professor Dr. Chris Karpowitz has researched what that “full humanity” looks like currently, in the context of public meetings and politics. In the 2014 book The Silent Sex: Gender, Deliberation, & Institutions, authored by him and Princeton University professor Dr. Tali Mendelberg, they discuss the reasoning behind, methods, results, and implications of a study they conducted on the subject of gender equality in politics. They found, among other things, that only in certain situations are women’s voices truly heard.

Gender Equality – The Study

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Photo courtesy of Goodreads

That study, The Deliberative Justice Experiment, included both male and female participants who were divided into groups and tasked with discussing and making decisions regarding the redistribution of money. They were told that they would be paid based on their group’s decision; the decision had to be by majority or unanimous, depending on which group they were placed in.

This experiment allowed Doctors Mendelberg and Karpowitz to ask important questions, such as:

  • How much do women and men speak?
  • Do men use interruptions to establish their status in the group?
  • Do women use them to create a warmer tone of interaction in the group?
  • Do women express their preferences during discussion?
  • How does what happens in the discussion affect the decision the groups ultimately makes?

The researchers found that those in unanimous decision groups were more inclusive and more vocal in expressing their preferences, and discussed the issue longer. If men were in the numerical minority in such a group, though, they tended to increase their participation and interrupt more. According to Karpowitz, this meant that “unanimous rule is good for women when [they] are in the [numerical] minority…but it is bad for women when they are the majority, …as men—the numerical minority—increase their participation.”

Majority rule groups also demonstrated behaviors that had both benefits and drawbacks for women. “Majority rule signals that the more numerous groups…are entitled to exercise power,” said the authors. When women are in the majority, they participate more and “can benefit from this signal to exercise power.” So, in order to achieve their goals, women must have a large majority. The opposite is true for men: they can get away with having a small majority. Furthermore, when women are in the majority, the men in the group are more resistant to their stances. “Unanimous rule helps women when they are few, while majority rule helps women when they are many.”

Implications for Change

The authors posited that simply holding meetings and increasing the proportion of female municipal leaders were ineffective ways to boost female involvement. Indeed, the question of whether or not more females should get involved in politics because of their gender has tended to be a topic about which people have strong opinions. Margaret Dayton, a BYU alumni who is the longest-serving woman in the Utah state legislature, said in last year’s issue of Connections: “Your gender does not qualify you to serve. Your principles, your willingness to work, your experience that brings you there, those are the kinds of things that qualify people, not gender.” And Karpowitz conducted a study with fellow political science professor Jessica Preece that found that “quotas, which face practical and ideological barriers in the United States, are not the…way to increase women’s representation.”

Rather, Karpowitz and Mendelberg suggest that increasing the number of women in meetings and municipalities where they might be underrepresented or in the minority, and implementing unanimous rule—or measures that lead to total inclusion—might rectify the problem of “the silent sex.” Although unanimity is not without its problems, the process aids women when they are in the minority.

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The authors cite political theorist Alexis de Tocqueville‘s views on class differences: “The humblest individual who is called upon to co-operate in the government of society acquires a certain degree of self-respect; and as he possesses authority, he can command the services of minds much more enlightened than his own.” The same can be said for gender equality. Only by making a concerted effort can we be more inclusive of women in politics and other public forums.

 

Should Americans Care About Foreign Aid?

Anne Frank once said: “No one has ever become poor by giving.” Americans today seem to believe the opposite, viewing foreign aid programs with distrust and resentment. A 2016 Pew poll showed that just 37% of Americans think the U.S. should help other countries.  Political Science professor Darren Hawkins sought to examine these attitudes in a recent Washington Post article detailing an experiment in which he and colleagues tested the elasticity of Americans’ opinions regarding foreign aid. 

What is Foreign Aid and why is it Important?

According to the U.S. government’s foreign assistance website, there are nine categories of foreign aid:

  • Peace & Security
  • Democracy, human rights, & governance
  • Health
  • Education & social services
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Humanitarian assistance
  • Program management
  • Combination of categories

The Borgen Project, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that fights extreme poverty by conducting a national campaign among politicians to make poverty a focus of U.S. foreign policy, said that foreign aid is essential because it can assist in educating people, build infrastructure so that the inhabitants of the recipient nation can “be mobile and have access to basic necessities such as electricity and running water,” cultivate a diplomatic relationship between the two countries, and help nations combat terrorism, among other things.

pexels-photo-520222 Americans and Foreign Aid

“Americans are notoriously uninformed on how much their government actually spends on aid,” according to Hawkins. A 2015 Kaiser Family Foundation poll found that the majority of Americans think the U.S. spends around 26% of the federal budget on foreign aid; in actuality, according to the KFF, the budget is 1% or less.

Why does this misperception exist among Americans? Hawkins lists the reasons people distrust foreign aid as generally falling within these categories:

  • Is expensive
  • Does not work
  • Breeds dependency and conflict
  • Interferes with the free market
  • Loses money to corruption

In an experiment conducted by Hawkins and the co-authors of the Washington Post article, they tested the effects of certain arguments on Americans’ perceptions of foreign aid, and found that those arguments had an effect on those American’s views on foreign aid. These possible counterarguments, along with five facts in support of each counterargument, were provided to the people interviewed in the experiment:

  • Inexpensiveness
  • Effectiveness
  • Chance for a potential positive impact
  • Service to U.S. interests
  • Need

The chart below illustrates the extent to which those interviewees who felt that the U.S. spent too much on foreign aid were influenced by various counterarguments, as opposed to a control group to which no argument was given.

 

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Credit: The Washington Post

The results show that the right argument for or against foreign aid can either increase or decrease support for the program. More importantly, it shows that most Americans can change their attitudes about foreign aid when given the correct information.

 

poverty What’s Next?

It’s important to consider the possible ramifications of Hawkin’s study and Americans’ perceptions of foreign aid as President Trump has recently made significant funding cuts to U.S. foreign aid to other countries in his recently released budget. This cut was instituted to pave the way for “a new foundation that places America first by returning more American dollars home and ensuring foreign aid supports American interests and values.” According to Hawkins, et. al. the president’s proposed budget cuts the funding to the State Department, in charge of USAID, by almost 30%.

For instance, Newsweek reports that African Development Bank president, Akinwumi Adesina, said that if U.S. aid to Africa is cut, the continent could become “a recruiting field for terrorists.” In Central Asia, cuts to foreign aid could also have a potentially large impact. The elimination of two programs—Assistance for Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia (AEECA), and the Development Assistance—could make the region to be susceptible to Communist China’s influence, according to Alyssa Ayres, a Forbes contributor. After analyzing the FY18 Control Levels and Foreign Policy, she concluded that “…these proposed changes could paradoxically undermine the U.S. ability to shape objectives in the region. Moreover, at a time of massive Chinese assistance flooding the region, savings achieved through scrounging comparatively small levels of assistance will leave Washington with a shrunken profile and a shallower footprint.”

Former President George W. Bush’s USAID Administrator, Andrew Natsios spoke to Trump’s cuts: “[Cutting the budget] will end the technical expertise of USAID, and in my view, it will be an unmitigated disaster for the longer term…I predict we will pay the price. We will pay the price for the poorly thought out and ill-considered organization changes that we’re making, and cuts in spending as well.”

poverty 2 Changing Opinions

Americans are refreshingly rational about adjusting their opinions,” said Hawkins. “….On this particular issue…there seems [to be]a clear prescription: If you want to get Americans to support government spending on foreign aid, tell them how little the government currently spends.” After examining the facts, understanding the arguments for and against aid, and studying the issue, Americans can become more informed about aid and the potential damage that can come from a budget reduction.

Should we support foreign aid?

Feature image courtesy of Blue Diamond Gallery.

Harvard Professor to Speak at Durham Lecture

The BYU Political Science Department will be hosting this year’s G. Homer Durham Lecture, with Roger Porter, IBM Professor of Business and Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Professor Porter’s lecture is entitled: “Presidential Leadership in a Challenging Time: How Shall We Measure the President?”

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Cambridge, Massachusets

Roger B. Porter joined the Kennedy School faculty in 1977, and has served for more than a decade in senior economic policy positions in the White House, most recently as Assistant to the President for Economic and Domestic Policy from 1989 to 1993. He served as Director of the White House Office of Policy Development in the Reagan Administration and as Executive Secretary of the President’s Economic Policy Board during the Ford Administration. He is the author of several books on economic policy, including Presidential Decision Making and Efficiency, Equity and Legitimacy: The Multilateral Trading System at the Millennium. An alumnus of Brigham Young University, Porter was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, where he received his BPhil degree. He was a White House Fellow from 1974 to 1975 and received his MA and PhD degrees from Harvard University.

February 4, 2016

11:00 AM

Room 250 SWKT (Spencer W. Kimball Tower)