Mad Men, Don Draper

Michael Yarish/AMC

Mad Men is a television show about men explaining things to Peggy Olson

How much productivity is lost by men unnecessarily explaining things to women? 

There’s a phenomenon out there known as mansplaining — which The Atlantic’s Lily Rothman  describes as “explaining without regard to the fact that the explainee knows more than the explainer, often done by a man to a woman.” 

It’s not the only kind of ‘splaining (other popular forms are white-splaining and straight-splaining, concerning race and sexual orientation, respectively), but as a pure numbers game, it’s probably the most prevalent.  

There’s been some pushback on the term. I’ll concede that it’s probably overused, but the fact is that the phenomenon exists (there’s a whole book!).

When it happened to me this week, I started to wonder how much time is wasted by people explaining things to each other because they’re too preoccupied to realize the person they’re talking to is just as well-informed as them.

I estimated mansplaining, because it’s what happens to me most often, but other ‘splains could be substituted.

Let’s do some back-of-the-envelope math!

  • There are 80 million men over the age of 20 (we’ll give the kids a break) in the civilian population in the United States.
  • Let’s say about 60% of them are mansplainers, based on anecdotal evidence.
  • The average mansplainer talks/types/tweets unnecessary things for 5 minutes a day, again based on anecdotal evidence.
  • Let’s give the average worker a productivity of $ 70/hr (that’s a raw GDP/hours worked estimate).
  • These are raw and possibly conservative numbers, but that gives $ 102 billion.
  • We’ll have to double that to $ 204 billion, assuming that there’s both a speaker and a listener in this equation.

That’s over $ 200 billion that the economy loses every year! 

Aren’t you glad I spent this time ‘splaining this to you?

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