How much is “too much”?

Julie M. Smith has a thoughtful and measured look at some comments by Elder Ballard (clip or full) that have been garnering some attention. I’m inclined to be forgiving of a man who has consistently spoken out in favor of council-based decision-making that includes women, and I agree with Julie that several interpretations are possible and it is unclear if he was attempting a joke. However, whether a joke or serious, clearly there is some feeling that “too much” is a threshold that could be crossed, or he wouldn’t have said it. So, either way, the interesting question is, how much is too much?

I very much doubt that the following numbers are what Elder Ballard had in mind (I tend to think it was a flubbed joke made while speaking extemporaneously at the end of a very long meeting), but nevertheless it is important that we remember how skewed our baseline perceptions of “too much” can be when it comes to gender balance in participation. This is true in the church, but research also demonstrates perception imbalances in broader society.

  • Church isn’t the only place where women’s voices occupy a disproportionately small share, relative to their numbers. According to research done in collaboration between faculty at BYU and Princeton, when participating in a deliberative body where they are outnumbered, women do a share of the speaking that is only 75% of what their already outnumbered share would be (though the study also includes encouraging approaches for remedying this). Women are also interrupted more often than men when they speak.
  • Is 17% (that is 75% of 23%) “too much”? Is finishing a sentence “too much”?
  • According to this NPR interview, when a group is 17% women, men perceive it as gender balanced, and when women comprise 33%, men perceive women as dominating.
  • Is 33% “too much”? 

It is easy to think that the answer to the question of how much is just right is so obviously half that it is unnecessary to discuss the issue. But the statistics above show that, in and out of the church, we need to be paying better attention. And consider this: on the flip side, apparently >92% of the talking is not “too much” of a share for men, at least according to the example we are shown in General Conference.

How much is “too much”?

Comments

  1. In ward council, too much is anything that makes the meeting go longer than it is supposed to go. This is a rule that should be adhered to equally by both genders.

  2. Amen, Marc!

    I just want to make sure that we are conspicuously looking at our watches/phones, interrupting, and trying to move things along as much when men are speaking as when women are speaking.

  3. I think it was a failed attempt a joke. I think he was just saying there there is too much talking that goes on in those meetings, regardless of you sex.

  4. My feeling is that Elder Ballard was trying to make a joke with that statement with the stereotype of women being too chatty/gossipy as the punch line. It’s problematic that he would attempt such a joke but at the same time, I don’t think that its existence should undermine the broader point that he was trying to make about the need for women to participate fully in ward councils.

  5. Given the laughter in the video and his facial expressions, it seems like he was joking around about the stereotypes of women who like to talk a lot. The admonition to not talk too much seemed equally applicable to everyone to stay on topic during councils. As a member of a ward council, I can attest that people (males and females alike) get off topic all the time.

  6. “I just want to make sure that we are conspicuously looking at our watches/phones, interrupting, and trying to move things along as much when men are speaking as when women are speaking.”

    Agree 100%

  7. Yes, it was a joke. IMO, jokes are more funny when they poke fun at the empowered majority rather than the sensitive, largely-excluded-from-decisionmaking minority. But yes, it was meant in jest, I think/hope.

  8. Though I’ve stated my opinion above that this was his attempt at a joke (which is easily recognized as based on a sexist and unjust stereotype today but which was completely commonplace and not viewed as offensive by most people during Elder Ballard’s formative years), one counterargument would be that in one or two other recent talks (e.g. at Education Week at BYU) he also said that women should “remember their place” in the councils and not talk too much (paraphrased) in a presentation that was clearly not an attempt at a joke.

  9. I guess it’s possible that this was an attempted joke that fell flat. Now, if a male university president had made this ‘joke’ in a room full of female professors, he probably already would have issued an apology by now. I bet you my year’s supply that we never hear a clarification of or an apology for this statement.

    …Now tell me again how it’s “the world” that doesn’t respect women.

  10. I understand, as well as I can being man with a wife and four daughters, the pain things like that comment cause, but I also am prone to give Elder Ballard the benefit of the doubt with this comment – since he has been vocal and positive about so many other issues relating to women in the Church (endowed women having priesthood authority and power in and of themselves, marriage being of equal partners, including all voices in church councils, making Ward Council the primary local council instead of PEC, etc.). I think the joke was tone deaf and misjudged, but I believe it was a joke, nonetheless, and does not reflect how he feels in his heart.

    How much is too much? Anything that is not necessary, irrelevant and takes away from others’ chances to contribute. I also want to make sure men are not allowed to talk too much – and I say that as one who is prone to talk too much.

  11. It’s possibly a joke about stereotypes. My guess is it is more in line with keeping meetings short and on topic. The same message is given at priesthood leadership trainings. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of bloviating in those same meetings.

    Going off topic and speaking too much in meetings, despite repeated instruction to refrain, is something men still have problems with. Kind of like pornography.

  12. “one counterargument would be that in one or two other recent talks (e.g. at Education Week at BYU) he also said that women should “remember their place” in the councils and not talk too much (paraphrased) in a presentation that was clearly not an attempt at a joke.”

    Link?

  13. I think an even more charitable interpretation than “he’s joking about women talking too much” is possible. I took it more as a clumsily-worded compliment: “Now ladies, we all know what a bunch of screwups men are, so please be nice and don’t dwell on it too much.”

    The issue is less the joke than it is the tone-deafness of the statement, and how telling it is that the only way he can elevate women is by denigrating men.

  14. @Marc:

    Now, sisters, while your input is significant and welcome in effective councils, you need to be careful not to assume a role that is not yours. The most successful ward and stake councils are those in which priesthood leaders trust their sister leaders and encourage them to contribute to the discussions and in which sister leaders fully respect and sustain the decisions of the council made under the direction of priesthood leaders who hold keys.

    August Ensign

  15. Marc, this month’s Ensign. https://www.lds.org/ensign/2014/09/men-and-women-and-priesthood-power?lang=eng

    “Now, sisters, while your input is significant and welcome in effective councils, you need to be careful not to assume a role that is not yours. The most successful ward and stake councils are those in which priesthood leaders trust their sister leaders and encourage them to contribute to the discussions and in which sister leaders fully respect and sustain the decisions of the council made under the direction of priesthood leaders who hold keys.”

  16. Jinx. ;-)

  17. (Yes, that’s the link — and much of other portions of the Ensign article, such as the material about “thinking straight,” is from his talk at BYU’s Education Week in 2013.)

  18. Ugh.

  19. Note that in the Ensign article, Ballard uses the term “sister leaders.” That phrase makes my teeth itch. In this church, there are Leaders and there are Sister Leaders. Not the same, but still totally equal, y’guys!

  20. Peter Yates says:

    It would never have been an issue if he would have simply followed his own advice. If you’re feeling fatigued at the end of a long meeting, as some have suggested as his excuse, shut up and sit down, no matter how important you might think you are, but especially if you are one of 15 held up as PSR’s.

  21. I believe Salt Lake should form a new committee to study the length of ward council meetings and that it should ask the leaders of every ward in the church to convene an additional leadership meeting every month to discuss this issue. Oh, and no amount of participation should be discouraged—both sexes should feel free to talk as long as they want.

  22. EFF, I really don’t think that it’s appropriate to make light of this.

  23. Scott Grover says:

    I love how people are missing out the words he said after which were along the lines of “just correct the brethren” implying that without women to keep them inline we brethren would go off track. But hey let’s take it out of context and imply he’s sexist!

  24. it's a series of tubes says:

    EFF, I really don’t think that it’s appropriate to make light of this.

    Cynthia, in fairness, BCC regularly makes light of many, many things. Asserting that some particular topic is inviolate is not credible.

  25. Scott G., how does that added context change the interpretation here, i.e. that women are not to speak too much? Nobody has questioned Elder Ballard’s overall statement that the inputs of women in councils is vital.

  26. Scott G., see John Hatch’s comment at 1:08pm above.

  27. I think the best answer to the original post is that the primary president, relief society president, and yw president should get more time to speak than the men in ward council.

    I am a counselor in a bishopric. The bishop already knows my opinion (I express it in bishopric) and so I normally do not repeat it in ward council. The bishop also likely knows the opinion of the EQ president and HP group leader because he meets with them in PEC.

    Assuming a bishop is not inviting the RS president to PEC (as the handbook suggests), then ward council is the only regular meeting where a bishop can hear the opinions of the sisters. So I think it makes sense that they have more time to speak than the male auxiliary leaders (who likely have already spoken on the topic in PEC).

    To be honest, I really do not know what the purpose of PEC is anymore. It is not nearly as valuable as ward council IMO. I don’t mean to derail this thread anymore than I have already, but PEC seems like a relic to me.

  28. I agree that PEC is a relic. I think that having Ward Council become the place where all the female leaders speak more than the male leaders is a little clunky. We already know that it can be challenging for women to speak in a group like this, adding more pressure for the women to perform is not a good answer IMHO. I especially don’t like not having all the information ahead of time–if the bishop is meeting with men and sharing information with them, but not doing the same for women he’s doing it wrong.

  29. “Too much” is pretty much what we “see” on this blog: A never ending screeching rant on any conceivable problem in the church.

  30. I too am uncomfortable with the idea that women can get more speaking share in ward council because men already talked about it in PEC and thus already know what each other think. That creates a real knowledge wealth gap and risks informally reaching a consensus opinion before the women even hear about the issue or have a chance to speak. Then, no matter how many minutes they are given, what they say doesn’t matter much. This is exacerbated by the model put forward by Ballard in the Ensign, of talk and then stop talking and let the men decide.With PEC in the picture, it’s men talk, maybe don’t consciously try to reach a final decision but likely get some sense of where the common ground consensus is and it gets some time to marinate and imprint, then women talk, then women stop talking, then men decide. That’s a recipe for total disaster when it comes to trying to actually integrate women’s input.

  31. Jack, I invite you to read the post again and consider if you think it constitutes a “screech” or “rant.”

  32. “I think that having Ward Council become the place where all the female leaders speak more than the male leaders is a little clunky.”

    This is probably true. It is a little clunky to assign set times to anyone in meetings though. I think bishopric is valuable. I think the PEC/ward council dichotomy is not the best use of time. There is no real reason the HP group leader, YM president, and EQ president should get the bishop’s ear twice as much as the other auxiliaries. Maybe I just see ward council as the opportunity to correct this inequity.

    I think the best practice (under the current dichotomy) is for the bishop to invite the RS president to PEC along with the EQ president and HP group leader to discuss the sensitive welfare/family problems/discipline type issues. The YM president does not need to be there. Unfortunately, the practice is often to have one all male meeting (PEC) and one male and female meeting (ward council). The result is the meetings overlap and give men more say than women. To be fair, I think the recent handbook changes which suggest inviting the RS president to PEC are an attempt to right this wrong.

  33. Jack apparently thinks that any post about gender balance is “too much.” Thank you for your input, Jack.

  34. “I too am uncomfortable with the idea that women can get more speaking share in ward council because men already talked about it in PEC and thus already know what each other think. That creates a real knowledge wealth gap and risks informally reaching a consensus opinion before the women even hear about the issue or have a chance to speak. Then, no matter how many minutes they are given, what they say doesn’t matter much. This is exacerbated by the model put forward by Ballard in the Ensign, of talk and then stop talking and let the men decide.With PEC in the picture, it’s men talk, maybe don’t consciously try to reach a final decision but likely get some sense of where the common ground consensus is and it gets some time to marinate and imprint, then women talk, then women stop talking, then men decide. That’s a recipe for total disaster when it comes to trying to actually integrate women’s input.”

    To be clear, I agree. My main point in bringing up PEC is that it exacerbates the problem when it simply overlaps with ward council. I think the best solution is to either get rid of PEC or just make it about adult issues, invite the RS president, and not include the YM president. Under the current practice, the net result is that I am much more interested in the RS president, YW president, and primary president’s opinion because I have (often) already heard everyone else’s.

  35. Yep.

  36. “PEC seems like a relic to me.”

    There’s been a real struggle to differentiate PEC from Ward Council. The Handbook has de-emphasized PEC and given much greater emphasis to Ward Council. This has simply resulted in less PEC meetings (which most wards were holding weekly prior to the latest Handbook) and more Ward Council meetings (which were being held monthly). I’m not sure that’s what they had in mind.

    We have PEC once a month, second Sunday, with the RS Pres. included. It is basically a reporting meeting where the RS President, EQ President, and HPGL give their HT/VT reports, we discuss welfare needs (not strategies but needs), and then the WML discusses what the Missionaries have been doing for the past month. It lasts 30 minutes tops.

    Ward Council is also once a month and is where we discuss the individuals and families identified in PEC meeting (though the Ward Council can submit others) and discuss strategies on how to help those in need. We also discuss temple work, missionary work, activities along with the other usual topics. We have a hard stop at the hour mark. Everything else can wait or be handled via email, etc.

  37. Cynthia L. this is brilliant. I have no answer to the question, but this is one of my all-time favorite posts. Thanks. You said a lot with very few words.

  38. Scott Grover says:

    Steve E Anyone can see that comment on women not talking too much was said in jest. The comment I highlighted tells us his real opinion on the counsel on women and emphasises that his previous comment was a joke, and to be perfectly IMO makes the entire subject of this blog mute. Wether or not the joke was in good/bad taste is going to be a subjective opinion.

  39. makes the entire subject of this blog mute.

    SEE! SEE! TRYING TO SILENCE THE WOMEN!!!!!

  40. In light of the following comment in a speech given by E.Ballard in August 2013 and printed in the September 2014 Ensign–I cannot give him the benefit of the doubt that his comment last night was meant in jest.

    “Now, sisters, while your input is significant and welcome in effective councils, you need to be careful not to assume a role that is not yours. The most successful ward and stake councils are those in which priesthood leaders trust their sister leaders and encourage them to contribute to the discussions and in which sister leaders fully respect and sustain the decisions of the council made under the direction of priesthood leaders who hold keys.”

    Ok, I just caught up on the comments and see someone else already mentioned this but I’ll still add my voice.

  41. Scott Grover made three huge errors in as many sentences. I think the real Grover could do better.

    I would also refer him to that sage of sages, Joey Tribbiani:

  42. I think it was a poor attempt at a joke. Without seeing it or hearing it, you wouldn’t know. He also told women not to assume a place that isn’t their’s in ward council. It seems to me another reminder to put women in their place. Telling women not to talk to long was inappropriate

  43. Rigel Hawthorne says:

    I am really happy to be out of the ward council for the first time in almost 8 years. Hooray!!!! The sisters that served on the councils when I did were great and the interactions were exemplary how a council (with the current gender based assignments of the church) should work. I think a lot of jokes fall flat in church. In a moment of life affected by grief, I walked out of a stake conference where the old ‘ordain a crying baby a high priest so he will go to sleep” joke was made. My mental state at the time was already one of low self worth and that joke hitting me at that time seemed like an over-the-pulpit acknowledgement of that worthlessness. So, yes…I think jokes making a statement of stereotype are really best left to the foyer and hallways of the church, if uttered at all.

  44. Scott Grover says:

    Steve E if the only response you have to my comment is to mock my typing skills then this will be the last time I respond to you as it shows you lack the maturity to be able to conduct a proper debate.

  45. Scott, how can the post be moot? Moot means that it doesn’t need to be discussed or decided, because a decision wouldn’t have any affect in the real world. The numbers I cited ARE all too real. They affect women every day. The post opens by acknowledging that the question of whether it was a joke or not is moot. But women not participating enough, while at the same time facing a false perception that they participate more than they actually do, is a one-two punch of a problem and a barrier to solving that problem. It is the opposite of moot. It needs to be discussed.

  46. Cynthia, he didn’t say this subject is moot; he said it’s mute.

    Next time, attach some audio. That should solve the problem.

    Oh, wait, you did. Never mind.

  47. Excellent question, Cynthia. It would be interesting to do some measurement of what percentage of talking in ward council meetings is done by women, and what participants’ perceptions are about whether it’s too much or not. But of course, since that will never happen, I’ll just speculate wildly. Given the numbers you cited, and the fact that Mormonism is so patriarchal, I would guess that male leaders would perceive that women are talking too much when their talking percentage exceeds half of their attendance percentage. In a ward council that’s 23% female, women might be able to get away with doing 11.5% of the talking without incurring the displeasure of their leaders.

  48. Chris Kimball says:

    I like the original post. Asking “how much?” is like calling a bluff. However, the question pretty much answers itself, in that no number is right and a percentage of voices or percentage of time probably isn’t a useful measure, except in the negative (to say that something’s not right with this picture).
    There are two different questions–maybe two additional questions–that I would ask.
    First, are women involved as three-dimensional people, not just as “women”? If you imagine the woman or women in the room saying “let me give you the woman’s point of view” that’s not wrong, we need that contribution to the discussion. But if that’s all the women do, it would strike me as tokenism or role playing. I don’t want artificially limited spokespersons for a point of view. I want women (and men) participating with ALL of each individual’s experience and knowledge and sensitivity.
    Second, are women involved in the real decision-making? Are women present and vocal when there is debate, disagreement, different understandings, misunderstandings? One can spend a lot of time in church meetings of all sorts thinking that everything works by consensus or fiat. It’s not true. I have been in a number of real discussions–sometimes in rather surprising places and not always according to the Handbook–where the conclusion was neither dictated from the top nor known from the beginning, where assumptions were challenged and the outcome was a surprise.

  49. Are men viewed as individual people? Is it just women who are viewed as one big token female voice? I can’t tell from my vantage point. I would think that people should talk more or less, not on the basis of their sex, nor on the role they hold, but on the value of their input.

  50. Loretta Saarimaa says:

    How many female voices in these comments? Has someone counted the percentage?

  51. And what percentage of sisters can have the ultimate, final say as to what happens in the YW/RS/Primary organization? Zero percent.

  52. From my few years in ward councils my husband and I agree: those who are longwinded should listen more; those who listen too much need to speak up.
    -There’s an element of deferring to ph authority and not speaking til spoken too. Often I would leave a meeting without saying more than 5 words. Yet at home, yes I do speak more words than my husband.
    -I concede there are likely women who overstep their bounds or speak too much sometimes, but compared to the pontificating I’ve had to sit through by men; the ratio is much much lower than men being the derailers/out of place.
    -There is a LOT of extrovert/introvert dynamic going on in ward councils that is not addressed. In a culture that values extroversion, I think everyone should read the book “Quiet” in addition to “Counseling with your Councils”.
    -I would be inclined to let this slide if he didn’t just publish an article last month that said “don’t forget your place, womenz!” This is a continuation of that message, in joke form.

  53. I too think the joke interpretation is probably the most likely. Given the overall recent context of the charged discussion of gender and what constitutes acceptable institutional voice for women, it seems to me Elder Ballard simply wasn’t aware of how hurtful a joke like that would be to so many women in the church. I really don’t believe that Elder Ballard would have made such a joke if he knew it would be hurtful to even a minority of the audience. This saddens me almost more than if he had meant it in all seriousness. What more has to be done before even the most outspoken of the 15 on women’s voice understands what is going on at the ground level enough to be sensitive about these issues. Joke or not he just handed a hammer to every Bishop or SP that for whatever reason wants to limit a woman’s voice in their council and he undermined the willingness of faithful women everywhere to speak up. You can’t tell me a good portion of LDS women won’t take to heart “don’t assume a role” and “don’t speak too much”.

    Cynthia, the study you cite is really interesting. It shows that only under a political structure of unanimous consent will a minority of women speak up at rates consistent with their representation. Under majority rule it takes far more. As so many people are wont to remind us, however, “the church is not a democracy”. I would have loved to see an experiment that included a condition of formal authoritarian rule by a single decision maker (who is and will always be male) on the voice share of women who are at a 2 to 1 minority to men. Given the results of the current experiment it is a very reasonable hypothesis to assume that results would be far worse for the voice of women. Add to that an heavily gendered cultured environment and it points to the LDS Ward Council as being the perfect storm for suppressing women’s participation. Over at FMH we have gathered some data on women’s participation in SS across various wards. It is being analyzed right now to see how women’s voice fares in SS. We will see. But I bet if a similar study was done on a random sample of ward councils Elder Ballard would be very disappointed and maybe rethink the wisdom of even jokingly telling sisters not to speak too much.

  54. scott grover says:

    Cynthia L, my reading of the post came across to me that there was postulation that Elder Ballard’s comments were condoning of such attitudes that women should remain silent-ish in the church, and that various comments made also continued in that line, IMO recognising that the comments were made in jest would nullify this stand. If have misunderstood the intent my apologies.

    In regards to a general attitude that women in Ward Council aren’t given the appropriate opportunity then maybe a long hard look should be taken at how women have allowed that to happen. In my experience of WC’s the sisters have been more than willing/capable of making their voices heard and God (And I do not say this in a blasphemous sense) help anyone that tried to shut them up. Any Bishop I know would tell you they rely on their RS president and that all hell would break loose if they upset her. I am currently 1st Counsellor in our EQP and our ward RS President is more than happy to come up and tell me what she needs from me in her relief efforts for the ward, and will energetically chase me up to ensure I have kept my commitments to her. Can you imagine anyone trying to quiet Sherri Dew in a meeting? So instead of posturing and complaining on internet forums about not being heard and what is someone else going to do about it, start opening your mouths in Ward Councils and make your voices heard. Maybe read Sherri Dew’s Women and the Priesthood because she open’s with a story about how as a Stake RS President she successfully changed the attitudes of her High Council.

    It’s like this nonsense “Pants to Church” day, if you want to wear trousers to church on a Sunday then do it and keep doing it there’s no policy that says you can’t just have the gonads to do it.

  55. “In regards to a general attitude that women in Ward Council aren’t given the appropriate opportunity then maybe a long hard look should be taken at how women have allowed that to happen.”

    Did you really mean to say this?

    “I am currently 1st Counsellor in our EQP and our ward RS President is more than happy to come up and tell me what she needs from me in her relief efforts for the ward, and will energetically chase me up to ensure I have kept my commitments to her.”

    Good for her. My guess is she probably outworks you guys. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have to direct and follow-up with the EQP so much.

  56. Scott Grover:

    maybe a long hard look should be taken at how women have allowed that to happen.

    Bro

    It’s like this nonsense “Pants to Church” day, if you want to wear trousers to church on a Sunday then do it and keep doing it there’s no policy that says you can’t just have the gonads to do it.

    Bro

  57. Indeed.

  58. Scott Grover, I feel like it is not possible that you even read the post. Your postulation is directly contradicted. You want to hold individual women responsible for this, ignoring the research’s society-wide statistics. You ignore the entire point of the post, which is that whether Ballard was joking or not and whether he approves or not, his statement and/or joke relies on a perception that women talk too much in meetings when the data clearly shows otherwise. I’m also curious how you think women have “allowed [it] to happen” that they are only 8% of the conference speakers (the first bullet). Is it your understanding that women are in charge of speaker scheduling for conference? Is it your understanding that women are in charge of callings of General Authorities and neglected to call any women as apostles so they would speak more in conference? Similarly, I’m curious how you think women “allowed it to happen” that they are only 3 of 13 members of the ward council (the second bullet). Is it your understanding that women wrote the Handbook of Instructions that says who is on the ward council, and made the callings of the individuals?

  59. scott grover says:

    ““In regards to a general attitude that women in Ward Council aren’t given the appropriate opportunity then maybe a long hard look should be taken at how women have allowed that to happen.”

    Did you really mean to say this?”

    Please take this in the context of the rest of the paragraph re: participation in WCs

    ““I am currently 1st Counsellor in our EQP and our ward RS President is more than happy to come up and tell me what she needs from me in her relief efforts for the ward, and will energetically chase me up to ensure I have kept my commitments to her.”

    Good for her. My guess is she probably outworks you guys. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have to direct and follow-up with the EQP so much.”

    The women of the church usually do, but in seeking out the sick & needy of those within our ward boundaries as per the purpose of the Relief Society yes she particularly excels there.

  60. No Cynthia I didn’t say any of that what I said was that if women’s voices aren’t being heard in Ward Council it’s because women aren’t speaking up in Ward Council. I think one thing people are forgetting is that this IS the Lord’s church and it is organised the way He would have it organised. It is up to us to work within that framework. If you notice my entire paragraph was in reference to speaking in Ward Council, not general conference speakers, not the composition of the ward council, or how the Lord calls His General Authorities.
    As for the general perception that women talk too much in Ward Council, never heard of it until you posted about it. Maybe it’s a perception that doesn’t exist here in the UK.

  61. “If you notice my entire paragraph was in reference to speaking in Ward Council, not general conference speakers, not the composition of the ward council, or how the Lord calls His General Authorities.”

    Well, right. Basically you just ignored what the post was saying and went on an unrelated rant. That’s exactly my point.

  62. Scott Grover says:

    Cynthia: I decided to focus on a particular subject in the post, that is my right as a poster. But as I see any sort of actual discussion on the subject is impossible I will leave you to your hurt and continue on adios

  63. Cynthia L., this post was perfect.

    Scott Grover, how shall I make myself heard in Ward Council? I am not on it. I have never been on it, in spite of being an active, temple-recommend worthy person my whole life who has never turned down a calling. My situation is not unusual, since church policy mandates a 10 men to 3 women ratio in these councils, women are much less likely than men to get that opportunity.

  64. it's a series of tubes says:

    I think one thing people are forgetting is that this IS the Lord’s church and it is organised the way He would have it organised.

    Scott Grover, was it organized that way on June 1, 1978?

  65. Scott Grover’s right, I should totally interrupt my bishop as he’s leading the meeting through an agenda and just railroad everyone to make sure they hear me, dammit. If a man goes on a tangent it’s MY job to interrupt and say, “moving on” so that there’s enough time for my voice to be heard. The leader of said meeting has no responsibility whatsoever to create a climate where all voices are heard – I just need to interrupt or talk over them! I mean it’s really easy to just force yourself into conversations when everyone perceives that as rude and disrespectful and have shown a pattern of not listening and valuing my voice even when I do speak. Phew. Good thing I read this comment online from some random guy who is a counselor in the EQP so he could tell me exactly the situation of all women in all ward councils everywhere and the ability we have our voices to be heard. So glad!

  66. What are some things local leaders (who can’t change the composition of ward council) can do to ensure that sisters participate fully in ward council without coming across as too “clunky” or adding pressure in a forum where women are already outnumbered?

    The cited studies are a little depressing.

  67. If you want to talk about ward councils, though, let’s. Can you brainstorm for me any social-structural impediments that might exist that would prevent women from speaking up equally? For example, are there more men than women on a ward council? How do you think that affects group dynamic? (Hint: I link to research about this in the post). Who is presiding at the meeting? Who will ultimately be making the decisions? Do you think these factors could influence group dynamic? You tell me.

  68. I think Neylan McBaine’s book has some advice. In her book a priesthood leader says he makes sure that the 3 women in ward council don’t all sit next to each other; so it’s not us v them, and they aren’t just token women’s voices… I think he said sitting mixed up helps men see women as equals instead of just for their gender.

  69. Cynthia & Steve,

    My apologies I thought I was at FMH when I made that comment. I really did — I’m not being snarky (not right now, anyway). My feelings for BCC are more love/hate than just, well, you know, hate.

  70. Somebody grab Steve G a shovel!

  71. Lynda Snell says:

    I’ll tell you what’s too much; too much Americans posting on a conference for European sisters.

    Kristine A. “In a culture that values extroversion,”
    Really? What culture is that?

    With respect, you seem to be a group of American LDS who come across as petted and spoilt, arrogant and quick to take offence at every perceived slight and hurt.
    There was a great spirit as we European sisters gathered to listen to the conference. We enjoyed it. We weren’t upset or offended. Why should you be? It wasn’t your conference so keep your nebs out of it.

  72. Kudos, Lynda. Tell me, how many Europeans spoke at the conference for the European sisters?

  73. Is this really turning into a European vs. American thing?

  74. Agree or disagree, I would like to nominate Lynda Snell for Comment of the Week. The last sentence, especially, is perfect for the overall comment itself.

  75. Funny, Lynda, I know some European women you must have missed in your otherwise exhaustive survey of the opinions and reactions of European women, which allows you to speak so officially on all their behalf.

  76. All you Europeans and Californians and people from Sandy, listen up. Next month’s Conference doesn’t concern you. I live in Salt Lake; you don’t. The Conference Center is in my stake; not yours!

  77. Jack:

    My apologies I thought I was at FMH when I made that comment. I really did — I’m not being snarky

    Bro

  78. Scott B.,

    That almost captures it. All it needs is about 100 more pounds around that guy’s waist and it’ll be perfect.

  79. These are excellent questions.

    For folks who think that they understand what is going on in councils, a friendly reminder that recent changes in church structure have caused the nature of councils to change. I first started attending ward council as the chair of the activities committee, then as ward newsletter editor. Now those positions have been eliminated, meaning that fewer women are in attendance at ward council. And even though I was there as newsletter editor, the bishop regularly turned for my opinion as the mom of teens or whatever.

    Also, keep in mind that the agenda is often stacked against women having much if any time to speak. Because missionary work and youth are of prime importance in many wards, time may run out before there is a chance for bottom-listed Primary or RS to say anything about their concerns. Yes, a female ward missionary may be representing the ward mission leader if he is unavailable so it isn’t just a woman being last. And this can be addressed by strategies such as the ward council meeting twice a month rather than once, and promising that those who were missed will top the agenda next time. Which sends a very different message than simply listing women’s stuff last and never getting to it.

  80. Naismith! I think those are astute observations and good advice. There are a number of things the leader of the meeting can do to maximize the diversity that exists in ward council. This is especially important when it is stacked against women numerically. I too have seen agenda setting inadvertantly set primary and RS systematically last. Putting them first on the agenda would probably help make it so they get equal time instead of shorted.

  81. Thanks for sharing the numbers from general conference. Similar to the numbers mentioned from NPR, the book “You Just Don’t Understand,” by sociolinguist Deborah Tannen, offers a lot of insight on how the odds tend to be stacked against women in conversation (and culture at large).

    The author is very even-handed in showing that much dissatisfaction results from men and women having different styles of talking (e.g. “report-talk” vs. “rapport-talk”), but also makes it clear, using research and anecdotes, that “men and women are judged differently even when they talk the same way. This tendency makes mischief in discussions of women, men, and power” (p. 224).

    The book also addresses the myth that women talk too much or interrupt too much. The gist is that it all depends on how you define and categorize interrupting–is it cooperative or uncooperative? In short: “Whereas women’s cooperative overlaps frequently annoy men by seeming to co-opt their topic, men frequently annoy women by usurping or switching the topic” (p. 212).

  82. Lynda Snell says:

    Steve Evans, Mind your own business

    Cynthia L., Miaooowww! Did I hit a nerve?

  83. Lynda, you’re here on our blog- Steve Evans created this space, and collected thoughtful and varies Saints to contribute- so he *is* minding *his* business. If you had taken the time to learn anything about the community (and it is a community) in which you are dropping comment bombs, you would understand this.

    Your inchoate and puerile pass at Cynthia utterly ignores the substantive questions she poses. Yes, we do have European women here at BCC, and you are representative of only yourself- and it’s not a flattering representation.

  84. I’m less interested in “equal time” and more interested in getting the work done. We need to be creative and innovative in conducting meetings.

    And to those who would blame women themselves for being sinfully silent, I do think that Sheri Dew would respect the order of things if she was Primary president and was handed an agenda that said Primary was last. She might quietly take it up with the bishop later, though, as many of us do.

    “My guess is she probably outworks you guys. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have to direct and follow-up with the EQP so much.”

    Ouch. I’m not sure that is fair. Although it may not be obvious unless you work in those callings, the RS president has certain assignments regarding the well-being of ALL members of the ward, both male and female. When it comes to welfare issues, she is like a social service agency executive director, with the bishop as chair of the board. So it is totally appropriate for her to give the EQP an assignment and get reports back, especially regarding households without an adult female.

    And in my years as RS president, I never had anyone from the EQP question my authority in that regard or fail to take the assignments and reporting seriously.

  85. “Ouch. I’m not sure that is fair.”

    You are right. I was harsh.

    I originally read Scott Grover’s comment as a complaint that his RS president assigned and followed up with him about welfare issues. Clearly, from his response and praise of his RS president, I misread his intent. Apologies to Scott Grover.

  86. John Mansfield says:

    It sounds like some of some people’s best friends are European women. It’s about time; when last they were a demographic people were trying to associate themselves with?

  87. Cynthia L. – exactly. It’s not really about more time, it’s about what is being said. There are social advantages to conducting the meeting, having ultimate control over most decisions, and having shared knowledge of ward members. This is simply a by-product of the current structure. This social advantage gives men more latitude in comments, i.e., relating anecdotes, telling jokes, going off-topic, etc. When you are the “other”, there is more pressure to make your voice count.
    How can we improve? The bishop can do better by curtailing those who chronically abuse their time, and make an effort to draw out those whose voices need to be heard. This is where the new curriculum helps in asking the right kind of questions.
    Improve the calling/decision-making process by discreetly following up with those who prayerfully submit names for callings but see that others are ultimately called.
    In one ward we rotated between council members, each giving a brief devotional/testimony at the beginning of ward council. This allowed everyone to speak without any pressure or time constraint.

  88. I was baptized in Germany so I claim some right to having been part of that demographic.

  89. Our ward has been very sensitive to this issue. In part because of Elder Ballard’s previous teachings (now reflected in Handbook 2), we have made an extra effort to ensure that women have a strong and effective voice in our councils (including making the RS president’s invitation to attend PEC a standing invitation).

    Perhaps exacerbated by this sensitivity, we currently have a RS president who dominates the discussion in ward council and is very effective at pushing her agenda. Sadly, most of the rest of the council disagrees with her most of the time, but usually stays silent (in part because she gets offended easily, in part because they fear coming across as one who is silencing a woman’s voice). Could Elder Ballard possibly be warning against such situations, where the pendulum swings too far in the other direction?

    The ideal for a council is for all to come together, give open voice to issues at hand, and then come together in prayer to make a unified, inspired decision. When a person – any person -dominates the discussion, this pattern breaks down. Perhaps Elder Ballard was simply giving a soft warning that his counsel for women to have open inclusion in councils should not be taken as carte blanche to dominate the discussions.

  90. A joke out of the I Love Lucy era is still a dumb, insensitive, counterproductive joke. Haha sexism LOL.

    I see a huge disconnect in style between the counselors in the First Presidency and the Qot12. I can’t picture Eyring or Uchtdorf being so needlessly flippant.

  91. Greatdeep, our stake leadership have asked bishops to consider alternating with the RS pres in conducting the meeting. He still presides but alternate conducting, like how the bishopric does in sac mtg. I think that sounds like a great first step.

  92. Lynda: Hedgehog, a British member in attendance, also blogged about this conference. She didn’t think it was as perfect as you claim all the attendees did, although she had particular praise for Sis Langner’s opening talk as a real highlight. http://www.wheatandtares.org/15063/show-me-dont-tell-me-the-european-sisters-meeting/