1.1 Gender Effects in CMC

Gender research has revealed several differences in communication styles between males and females (Barrett & Davidson, 2006). Similarly, communi­cation styles over CMC have been found to differ between males and females (Lind, 1999; Thom­son, 2006a). Males tend to be more aggressive and argumentative in communication compared to females. On the other hand, females tend to be more encouraging and nurturing compared to males. Guiller and Durndell (2007) investigated messages on an online forum and found that male postings were more likely to feature authoritative language and negative socio-emotional content while female postings contained more attenuated language and positive socio-emotional content.

Other research has highlighted that females had more information requests and interactive messages than males, whereas males provided more explanations and had a higher number of messages (Robertson et al., 2003). Research in same gender interaction in small groups has also revealed differences in communication styles. For instance, most female-female interactions were positive while male-male interactions were more often negative than they were positive (Guiller & Durndell, 2007).

Research has theorized two main perspectives for gender differences – task and relationship ori­entation (Hahn & Litwin, 1995) and gender-role socialization and stereotypes (Kray, Galinsky, & Thompson, 2002). In short, the task and relation­ship orientation posits that men are task-oriented and value self-sufficiency as they view relation­ships in terms of status and dominance, while women are relationship-oriented and nurturing and tend to be more sensitive to others’ needs. Other research suggests that gender roles are due to socialization. Men and women learn these roles from young i. e. men are competitive and women are cooperative, as it is socially accept­able. This gender-role socialization reinforces such stereotypes.

The effect ofgender differences in the dynamics and outcomes of virtual teams is also significant. Studies show that males in virtual teams were less satisfied and perceived less cohesion than females (Lind, 1999). Moreover, females believed that the group conflict was readily resolved compared to males. Using instant messengers, Christofides and colleagues (2009) found that men rated male online support staff to be more competent com­pared to females.

Despite the findings on gender differences, some authors downplay the phenomena of differ­ences between gender and communication styles. For example, Robertson et al. (2003) argued that gender differences should not be seen as a problem, as the different styles for each gender are necessary for their individual process ofknowledge construc­tion. Other research suggests that CMC facilitates a gender-neutral communication environment where gender differences are non-salient. Cohen and Ellis (2008) found that response postings in a discussion forum were equally split between responses to the same gender and cross-gender.