Soon after I finished my most recent post, I realized that it would be fairly easy to assess how often men and women are quoted and how often stories are told about men as opposed to women in General Conference. I decided to analyze the most recent conference (April 2013) to get the most up-to-date data. From the April 2013 conference, I randomly selected two talks from Priesthood Session and two talks from the General YW Meeting (and by random, I mean truly random. I assigned each talk a number and used a random number generator to select talks for me). I also randomly selected two talks by men from the main sessions of conference and analyzed the only two talks that were given by women.
So, on to the results. Across the 8 talks I analyzed, men were quoted 53 times and women 19 times. That is an average of 6.6 quotes by men and 2 quotes by women per talk. These results are fairly similar to what I found for my ward (an average of 6 quotes by men and 1 quote by a woman per talk). The way I was thinking about formal vs. informal quotes when I assessed ward talks didn’t really work for assessing quotes from General Conference. For example, I was thinking of informal quotes as something someone said in a casual conversation “I talked to my sister and she said…” While General Conference included a handful of quotes by lay members (and non-members), the speakers were careful about including people’s exact words so they don’t really fit into the definition of informal that I had been using. A better way to code this might be looking at quotes from leaders of the church and historical figures as opposed to lay members of the church (as well as people who are not members). While I didn’t make a careful tally of this, there was more inclusion of female leaders of the church and female historical figures (like Eliza R. Snow in Elder Cook’s talk) in General Conference than in my ward. As I did with the ward data, I looked at whether female conference speakers were more likely to quote women than male conference speakers. There was strong evidence of this trend. Of the quotes men included, 94% of them were from men and 6% were from women. Of the quotes women included, 54% of them were from men, and 46% of them were from women. However, a more careful inspection of the female speakers reveals that the percentages are largely driven by Sister Dibb’s talk to the young women in which she quoted women 13 times! Near the end of her talk she included a list of 9 quotes from 9 young women about places that are holy to them. From the other 3 talks by women, the speakers included 1, 0, and 3 quotes by women. Thus, if you remove the data from Sister Dibb (who is obviously an outlier in the group), then the percentage of women quoted by women drops down to 21%. This percentage is still a lot better than the percentage of quotes from women in the talks by men, but it still shows a strong trend to quote men.
Across the 8 talks, 33 stories about men and 13 stories about women were shared (not including any data from personal stories). That is an average of 4 stories about men and 2 stories about women per speaker. This seems fairly similar to my ward data (2.7 men, 1 women). Are female GC speakers more likely to share stories about women than male GC speakers? Once again, the answer is yes. For the female speakers, 56% of the stories were about men and 44% of the stories were about women. For the male speakers, 82% of the stories were about men, and 18% were about women. What about personal stories? Men seemed about as likely to share personal stories as women (5 personal stories overall by men, and 7 personal stories overall for women). In contrast to the data I collected from my ward, more stories were shared about men than women when the stories about others and personal stories are combined (65% men, 35% women). Similar to what I found in my ward, when all the stories were added together, women share more stories about women (58%) as opposed to stories about men (42%). Men showed the opposite trend, 82% of the stories they shared were about men while 18% of the stories they shared were about women.
Overall Conclusions: The data from General Conference is very similar to the data that I collected in my ward. Overall, men are quoted more often than women and more stories are told about men than women. Also, the difference is greater for quotes than for stories. Additionally, while female speakers tend to share about an equal amount of quotes by and stories about men and women, male speakers tend to share a lot more quotes by and stories about men than women. There are only 5 female speakers as opposed to the 35 male speakers across all sessions of conference. Thus, if I assessed all quotes and stories across all sessions, it is likely that there would be a much higher percentage of quotes by and stories about men than women.
Implications: The similarity in these trends on the ward and general church level could indicate a couple of things. 1-Talks on the ward level are patterned after talks given to the whole church. and/or 2-The percentage of quotes by and stories about men and women on all levels are an indication of broader cultural/doctrineal aspects of the LDS church. See my first post for hypotheses about how these trends may be affecting church members. The General Conference data suggest that since these trends exist on the general church level, they are likely having an effect on the global church.