Gender Research in Communication, Language and Education


A Guide to Web Resources


By Tenaya Bonnell, Alison Donoho, and Mary Beth Niles

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, EdPsy 313, Spring 2003 (Gary Cziko, instructor)


Communication Differences Between Genders

Quick Summary of Gender Language Differences

This website is very brief. It gives a listing of the types of language females use as opposed to the types of language males use. According to this webpage, female language tends to be:  rapport talk, supportive, tentative, and conversation initiating.  Male language tends to be:  report talk, instrumental, assertive, certain, direct, authoritative, advice giving, and conversation controlling.



Gender Differences in Communication  This is a summary of research prepared by Dr. Beth Vanfossen for ITROW’s Women and Expression Conference.  The contents include brief descriptions of gender differences.  The article answers questions such as:  Who talks the most? Who interrupts most often? What patterns are found in group settings? Are differences related to power?



*The Ladies Room

The styles that men and women use to communicate have been described as "debate vs. relate", "report vs. rapport, or "competitive vs. cooperative". Men often seek straightforward solutions to problems and useful advice whereas women tend to try and establish intimacy by discussing problems and showing concern and empathy in order to reinforce relationships. Women share more about their private lives, while men avoid talking about their private lives. Men focus more on trying to prove themselves to be better than the others in the group. This website gives several links to other webpages on this topic. 


*Language and Gender

This site discusses the different ways in which men and women use language and how that may promote gender division within the society.  The site has some links reflecting issues of communication differences, gender-neutral language and inclusive language in the Bible


Mission Possible:  Communication Between Genders

This article briefly states the differences between how men and women communicate.  Some differences include the subjects men and women like to discuss and how men and women express humor.  Men see the world as a hierarchy whereas women use conversation and communication to build relationships and for cooperation and collaboration.


Cultural Differences

Power vs. Culture in Language Differences

The author of this webpage, Angela Chia wen Peng, believes that culture is the reason for gender differences in language.  She also comments that it is not the power difference between men and women that causes their language to be different, but the way they use language that causes the power difference.  Although people tend to believe that women talk more than men, an experiment in a classroom found that males actually talk more in the classroom environment.  In other languages, such as Japanese, men and women are expected to use different words when referring to identical things.  Japanese women also use more intonation in their language than do men.  The main argument of this webpage is that culture is the main factor in gender differences in language.


Chinese Language Gender Differences

This paper, by Marjorie K.M. Chan, discusses language differences in the Chinese culture.  Pitch and pronunciation differences between men and women are highlighted.  In keeping with studies done in the U. S., significant differences are found in the distribution of amount of talk by gender based on topic. Men talked a greater amount of time than women overall, though although it varied depending on the topic.  Men spoke significantly more on politics and economy. For women it was family and education. However, women participated to a very limited degree on love and marriage. Shen’s study on conversational interaction, cited within the article, suggests the possibility that Chinese women may not be expected to, or be allowed to, talk about highly sensitive topics with people who are not closely related to them.  This study is probably the first of its kind for Chinese.



Expressing Emotions

Gender Differences in the Use of Nonliteral Language

This document describes research done to see if there is a gender difference in literal language used in emotional communication.  In the first experiment, the participants were introduced to film clips and were asked to rate the genuineness, intensity, and characteristics of the emotions. In the second experiment, the participants watched film clips and described the characters’ emotions and how they would feel in the same situation.  In the third experiment, the participants read narratives of the films and described the characters’ emotions and how they would feel in the same situation.  The nonliteral expressions in each participant’s response were identified by two independent judges and then categorized.  The results from experiment one found that people do not use more nonliteral language when describing emotionally intense experiences. The results of experiment two found that males use more nonliteral language in descriptions of negative emotions than in descriptions of positive emotions. There was no difference for females.  The results of experiment three suggested that males used more nonliteral language in describing others’ emotions than their own, while females used more nonliteral language to describe their own emotions.  So, the study did find a difference in the ways in which males and females use literal language.


Interactions at Home

Gender Differences in Language in Very Young Children

Female babies and toddlers are more advanced in language expressiveness than males.  Female infants and toddlers tend to have more intimate language and “conversation” with caregivers than do male infants and toddlers.  This could be, in part, due to the fact that males tend to be more physically active.  They tend to creep away from caregivers, making it more difficult for much “conversation.”  The most important aspect of language development, however, is the child’s ability to decode speech [understand speech].  Therefore, it is not fair to say that girls develop language earlier than boys, it is just that boys do not use expressive language as much as girls do.  It is important for caregivers to use every opportunity to talk to their infants and toddlers so that they can develop a more advanced vocabulary.


Why Dads Don't Talk

This is an article by Deborah Tannen discussing why Dads seem to not talk as much to their children as Mothers.  This article was written last Father’s Day, which may be a day in which Dads are forced to talk to his children.  The family roles are that many fathers seem to feel they should yield the conversational right of way to mothers.  Some of this might be because the father isn’t around as much or it might be because the father has less practice and are less comfortable with conversations that involve strong emotions.

Schooling and Language

Australian Research Council - Project: Gender differences in schools  

This ten-year-long investigation into the impact of coeducation at two Sydney high schools dispels the myth that coeducational schools are "good" for boys and "bad" for girls.  The reluctance of girls to speak up in class does not necessarily mean girls achieve poorly.  The study reports boys asking more trivial questions than girls.


Teacher's Classroom Strategies Should Recognize Language Differences

This article discusses how certain teaching strategies can favor one gender over the other.  Many teachers assume that participating in class discussion is necessary, however, speaking in front of a large group of strangers is more inviting to males than females.  Women like to discuss issues in a non-hostile environment but men like to debate the issues.  The author discusses that in her classes she tried putting the students into specific small groups to observe their communication interactions.  


Gender and the Classroom - UNC Chapel Hill Study 

Chapter 3 of “Teaching for Inclusion” written by the staff of the Center for Teaching and Learning, discusses issues female students face in university classrooms.  This chapter discusses the teachers role in perpetuating gender bias in the classroom.  Teachers are asked to reflect on communication techniques used in their classrooms and whether or not seating, questioning, classroom climate, and group selection impact gender communication in the setting.



Gender Differences in E-mail Communication

This site examines the different ways males and females communicate and if the differences exist through e-mail communication. Although, through e-mail conversations the gender of the contributors is irrelevant and can only be discovered by the voluntary addition of a name, the research revealed that there is undeniably a gender difference in styles in e-mail messages.


*The Biological Basis for Gender Based Differences in Web-Based "Discussions" and Assessment

This abstract, by Ruth S. Burkett, was presented at the Association for the Education of Teachers in Science Annual Conference in 2001.  This article discusses the impact of on-line computer mediated education.  Issues of gender equity, which might seem irrelevant when participants are seated at distant computers away from each other, are shown to be otherwise false.  This abstract discusses that elimination of appearance or voice pitch cues does not automatically create gender equity.  Patterns between genders expressions and communications can indicate whether one is male or female.





Alison Donoho:  In doing this project I learned a great deal about the differences between men and women’s language usage and communication skills.  It seems that many problem between spouses are due to communication problems.  Researching this topic made me more aware of what I say and how husband receives that.  Most of the time what I mean to say is not what he understands.  I also learned that my way of an open discussion teaching might not be the best environment for both genders to communicate.  I will to use different approaches such as debating, and small group discussions.



Tenaya Bonnell:  This assignment allowed me to become more open minded about the differences between men’s and women’s language use.  Before, I found myself thinking that males were just very insensitive in their language use and choice of words.  However, after doing this assignment I have learned that it is not necessarily that men are trying to be insensitive, they just have a different way of using language than females.  The websites about gender neutral language were interesting to me because I never really thought about the fact that there could be a gender neutral language.  As a female, I do feel that gender neutral language could help to empower females by not always making us feel that we are not worthy of mention in the titles and other aspects of language that seem to focus on males only. Not only do I feel that this assignment will help me in my communication with males in the future, but will also help me to be more open minded in my classroom.  I will do my best to always use gender neutral language so that each child in my classroom, regardless of gender, will feel that they hold an important place in our society.


Mary Beth Niles:  When researching for this project, I found it most interesting to consider all of the different strands of gender communication research.  I learned about gender communication with respect to technology, schooling, different cultures, child rearing, and brain research.  I can apply information from each of these areas of study to my classroom teaching.  It is interesting to consider the different ways in which males and females communicate and use language.  I will think about the student in my room who is from a different culture – how might my communication style and language use, as well as those of other students, impact him/her?  Technology, it seems, would not be impacted by gender, yet even in that environment one can think about how gender plays a role in student-to-student, student-to-teacher and teacher-to-parent communication.  In addition, brain research indicates there may be cause for the difference in communication styles of men and women. Issues of gender equity have often been raised in math and science education.  Computer Mediated Communication would appear to be an equalizer.  My favorite site is *The Biological Basis for Gender Based Differences in Web-Based "Discussions" and Assessment:  because it helped me to think about the impact of technology in gender communication.