Humour is a staple part of any boardroom discussion, as viewers of the BBC's The Apprentice will know. But research reveals that, while men benefit from the use of well-judged banter, the brand of humour used by leading businesswomen often leads to awkward silences and could be undermining their careers.
The claim is made by linguistics expert Dr Judith Baxter, who undertook an 18-month study into the speech patterns of men and women at meetings in seven big companies, including two in the FTSE 100. An analysis of the 600,000 words used during 14 meetings, seven led by a woman and seven by a man, found sharp differences between the use of humour by men and women in the boardroom - and how the jokes are received. Baxter discovered that the majority of male humour (80%) in business meetings takes the form of flippant, off-the-cuff witticisms or banter. About 90% of it receives an instant, positive response, usually as laughter.