This App Tracks How Often You're Manterrupted

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/Getty Images.
Oftentimes, men don't mean to speak over women in conversations and meetings — but, it's still something that happens a lot. Such manterruptions and male-dominated discussions often stem from unconscious bias. A new app hopes to shed light on this by offering some empirical data on how frequently men speak over women.

GenderTimer is an iOS, Android, and web app designed to promote gender awareness during workplace meetings and social gatherings. Right now, it's basically a timer: At the start of a meeting, you open the app, and input how many men and women are participating in the discussion. Then, you start and stop the timer when it's a man speaking or a woman speaking. When the session is done, you see a tally of how many minutes women spent talking compared to men. 

As Verna Myers states in her TED Talk about unconscious bias, the first step in fixing the problem is admitting out loud that you have those assumptions. But, if you don't believe you're doing it, data can help reveal the truth one way or another. GenderTimer's founders write:

When people are confronted with GenderTimer's results, they often get startled. Some women are relieved that they now have data on what they have perceived — "Now I can finally raise the issue." And, some men get defensive, which is natural since they don't consciously set out to dominate women... Another conclusion people have made using GenderTimer is that it's often just a few men that take up most of the male airtime, leaving several men silent.

But, while the app is helpful in collecting data on gender equality in conversations — and who's doing most of the talking in general — having to start and stop a timer is tedious. Thus, Sweden-based GenderTimer is currently raising funds on Kickstarter to update their program with voice recognition. With that capability, the app would be able to use a voice detection algorithm to automatically determine, with roughly 90% accuracy, whether a man or a woman is speaking. You would just set it up at the start of a meeting, panel discussion, or study group, and go. 

Hopefully, something like this can help with the backlash that women face when they do try to speak their minds more during meetings. 

This app would have been really handy back in March when Google executive Eric Schmidt repeatedly manterrupted White House CTO Megan Smith at a SXSW panel (although the head of Google's own Unconscious Bias program called him out on it at the time). Unfortunately, I don't think anything could have stopped Kanye from that epic Taylor Swift takeover at the 2009 VMAs. 
Advertisement