Who’s asking the questions?

How can it be so difficult to ask a question? And why are men almost twice as likely to do it than women?

It’s the end of a research talk. You are easily the second most qualified person in the room after the speaker. A question comes readily to mind. And yet… somehow… your arm remains by your side. Before you know it, six men have asked 'questions' that demonstrate either that they weren’t listening or want to talk about their own, not necessarily relevant, research. Afterwards you berate yourself for yet again not raising your hand. How can it be this hard?

The fear does not necessarily diminish with age or seniority. In April 2014 I decided to go for it at a climate change meeting. As I raised my hand, my heart pounded. I mumbled my question into the microphone, having to restart at least once. To this day I can remember neither the question I asked nor the answer, only the panic and flight-response to the adrenalin surge. I was not an early career researcher. I had been a cli...



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Posted in Growth.

Notable Replies

  1. Avatar for yieng yieng says:

    Hi Ellie, thanks for your heartfelt article; I can identify with the same concerns regarding asking “silly” questions and possibly making a fool out of ourselves. My friend Jessica Yung, who’s a machine learning engineer (and allow me to disclose that she’s several years my junior, so audacity and age aren’t correlated!), has written this wonderful blog post about how she opened herself up to asking questions: https://www.jessicayung.com/how-do-you-learn-to-ask-questions/

  2. Thanks Yieng, that’s a really good article you have linked to. Hopefully with more people talking about it, more people will feel able to ask questions.

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