• gender gap;
  • academia;
  • discussion behaviour;
  • visibility;
  • stereotypes

Making a verbal contribution is an efficient means to increase one's visibility in the academic job market. Therefore, we examine the duration and word density of spoken contributions made in debates at sociology conferences held in Germany, thus enriching the discussion on the gender gap in scientific careers. We differentiate between the contributors' age and gender, and the social context of the conferences. Hidden observation of 392 verbal contributions on 64 topics at five different conferences using hierarchical linear models shows that with increasing age, women speak more slowly and for longer, while the duration of verbal contributions of men rises up to the age of 53 and then decreases again. Contrary to our hypothesis, the duration of spoken contributions of men is not longer than that of women; in fact if there is a majority of female associate or full professors in the audience, contributions by women become significantly longer. This finding underlines the importance of social context for gender-related features of communication. In addition, we find that word density depends on the age and gender of the speaker.