Women in Student Leadership: How Group Makeup Changes Communication Style

Student: Katie Kuckelheim
Mentor: Phokeng Dailey (OWU Department of Journalism and Communication)

Genderlect theory (Tannen, 1990) examines the differences in communication style of men and women and suggests motivations for those differences (Tannen, 1990). In addition to internal motivation, research has examined other ways in which communication style may change depending upon the gender makeup of the audience. This study sought to determine if there are differences in preferred communication and leadership styles of female student-group leaders based on gender makeup of those groups. Method: 31 undergraduate leaders from student organizations across Ohio Wesleyan’s Campus were surveyed about their leadership and communication styles as well as information about the gender makeup of the groups. In addition, structured interviews were conducted with eight of the surveyed participants. Results: The findings of this study partially supported genderlect theory. Female student-group leaders preferred rapport style of communication, the female communication style that values connecting with others. The interviews produced findings there were consistent with genderlect theory on why women may change their communication style based on gender makeup of a group including comfortability in all-female organizations, further self-monitoring communication in mixed gender organizations, avoiding behaviors associated with negative female stereotypes in mixed gendered organizations, and restricting joke telling in mixed gendered organizations (Tannen, 1990).

More information about this project in Digital Commons @ OWU

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