Interruptions presents the internal conversations that women have when they are interrupted or when they recognize that their ideas are not being given equal consideration as their male counterparts. The vignette was developed based on input from students, postdoctoral scholars, faculty, and staff and was first presented at Caltech’s Graduate Student-Faculty Colloquium on February 23, 2018.

As found in data from the National Science Foundation, the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) continue to be dominated by men at all levels. Research has shown that male-dominated fields have higher levels of sexual harassment. Women in science and engineering also report subtle forms of bias that create a chilly or uncivil environment in which they are not heard.

Women working in STEM fields aren’t the only ones not being heard. A 2017 study examined 15 years of transcripts of oral arguments from the U.S. Supreme Court. Their results showed that judicial interactions are highly gendered with the female justices being interrupted at disproportionate rates by their male colleagues. In a summary article, the authors conclude: “Our research aligns with previous research that has shown that women get talked over much more often than men in all sorts of settings, likely due to unconscious bias. What our findings additionally suggest is that there is no point at which a woman is high-status enough to avoid being interrupted.” As you watch Interruptions, consider the questions below and start a dialogue!

Start a Dialogue

  • When have you observed the types of behavior described in Interruptions? What happened?
  • How have you or someone else responded when you witnessed the behavior?
  • After watching the vignette, how would you change your response to what you have previously observed?
  • If you have had similar experiences to the actors in Interruptions, what can you do to be heard?
  • What can you do to create an environment in which everyone can be heard and recognized for their input?
  • Are there ways to structure a research meeting or create a classroom environment that promotes inclusion?


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Interruptions Team Members

Alison Koontz, graduate student in biology
Kimberley Mac Donald, graduate student in mechanical engineering
Katherine Rinaldi, graduate student in chemistry
Shahrzad Roshankhah, postdoctoral scholar in civil and mechanical engineering
Kavya Sudhir, graduate student in mechanical engineering