Business men get laughs while women's gags fall flat: study

Women struggle to laughs in the boardroom, research suggests.
Photo / Thinkstock
Women struggle to laughs in the boardroom, research suggests. Photo / Thinkstock

When a man tells a joke in the boardroom it's likely to be met with laughter, while a woman's gag will probably fall flat, research suggests.

A woman's attempt at humour is often seen as "contrived, defensive or just mean, the paper claimed.

Linguistics expert Judith Baxter undertook an 18-month study into speech patterns at business meetings, including at two companies in the FTSE 100. She found that while 90 per cent of jokes made by businessmen triggered an outburst of laughter, at least 80 per cent made by their female counterparts resulted in silence.

Unsurprisingly, given the findings, men were three times more likely to use humour when leading a meeting.

Part of the problem may well lie in the way women use humour, says Dr Baxter, a senior lecturer at Aston University in Birmingham.

"One type of humour women leaders do use more than men is self-deprecating humour," she said.

"Women would rather laugh at themselves on the whole than laugh at others because it is the safe option.

"But self-deprecation doesn't display authority. And although you are allowed to joke about yourself, others... may well feel uncomfortable laughing at their boss's expense.

"My research has shown that male managers use humour to demonstrate and display their leadership of a team. But it's still not culturally acceptable for women to do the wisecracking. Women are meant to be the support audience rather than the ones doing the entertaining

"It is not that women are less funny: they tend to use humour differently. They are more comfortable with using humour in pairs with a friend and less as a means to manage people. When they do, their humour can appear arch, contrived, defensive or occasionally, just mean."

Dr Baxter said the solution may be to copy men.

"They should learn to develop the running gag or light, teasing banter with male and female colleagues at appropriate moments such as the beginning and ends of meetings, passing in the corridor, or while making a cup of tea."


- Daily Mail

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