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  • Writer's pictureDr. Susan Doering

Are Zoom meetings worse for women than men?

Both anecdotal and first-hand evidence suggest that Zoom meetings have serious negative side-effects, from a lack of focus (people doing their emails or preparing their children’s lunch) to a “zoomed-out” effect akin to burn-out, where people experience fatigue and a sense of disorientation. We miss the in-between chat and the casual asides which sometimes lead down interesting paths because we are forced to have an even stricter “raise your hand” format than previously, or risk the irritating interruptions and speaking over one another that are a feature of online meetings (on some platforms worse than on others).

But new research from Stanford University published last week ( has presented data that underlines a difference in the way that online meetings are having a negative effect weighted against women.

1 in 7 women (13.8%) compared with 1 in 20 men (5.5%) reported feeling “very” to “extremely” fatigued after Zoom calls. The Stanford researchers attribute this to several causes:

1) The “mirror” effect – or the fact that one can see oneself in the self-view which can produce negative emotions called “mirror anxiety”.

2) At the same time, one has the feeling that everyone is staring at you, which can be very intimidating.

3) Women often felt it was harder for them to, literally, get a word in edgewise in traditional meetings and now online it is harder still. It is impossible to catch the chair’s eye, and the chair doesn’t always notice a raised hand

4) Interestingly, women reported having longer Zoom meetings than men, which of course also contributed to exhaustion.

Some tips for reducing Zoom fatigue:

Ø Implement “no video meeting days”: once a week there are no video meetings

Ø Switch videos on only at the beginning of a meeting, in breakout sessions and at the end of the meeting

Ø Rotate the chair in meetings

Ø Submit questions in writing and use the chat function democratically

Ø Put a time limit on meetings – and stick to it!

You can take part in the ongoing Stanford research about your experience while attending video conferences.

It would be great to hear your experience of Zoom meetings: are they better or worse for you than traditional in-person meetings and why? What can we do to make them better (because they’re here to stay!)

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