What Biblical justification is there for gender segregation in prayer/small groups? and has there been any study on the affect which this segregation has on the people involved?
In various churches, I often come across gender segregation in one form or another. This is even in fairly progressive churches, eg ones in university areas with large student populations. (I'm talking about the UK here. I know that progressive needs to be taken differently depending on the location. In particular, there is a significant difference between UK and US approaches to church-life.)
Perhaps the most common one of these, and the one I would like to address in this question, is to do with small groups and prayer. At one local church (the largest in the town, which is really a "university-town"), all the student small groups are completely gender segregated. In another, the small groups are mixed gender, but at the end they separate off, male and female praying separately.
I have heard the argument that "sometimes women want to speak about certain things only with another woman". I am not a woman (in any sense), so I cannot speak personally about this. However, it seems unreasonable to make that argument regarding praying in a group of up to 10 people, many of whom you may not know well. Asking to pray individually with a (fellow) woman is a completely different matter.
So my question boils down to the following.
What Biblical justification is there for such gender segregation?
Gender segregation gets a bad rap outside of churches for well-documented reasons. Further, there has been significant studies on the effects that it has on people. Searching, I was unable to find material specific to the situation I describe -- understandably; it's fairly niche.