She who hesitates is lost!
Here we are in the month of August and in South Africa, there is a celebration of Women’s’ Day. Internationally, Women’s’ Day is celebrated in March.
But, why do we need these?
The fact that we have/need them points out that there may still be a level of inequality between men and women in society. When is Men’s Day? Some of you would say it is every day! Which is unfair to the many men who do treat women as their equals, and to the organisations who appreciate the skills and talents that women bring to the workplace. Feminine Leadership was a popular term recently which seems to have faded away, and which some think is a good thing.
The intention was to highlight some of the more nurturing, emotional qualities of women that can enhance the workplace, but it felt like a criticism of men. Increasingly in the world today, there is a greater recognition of the need for, and acceptance of the place of caring, empathy and nurturing in organisations.
Working with many women in corporates, at all levels, we see there is still a challenge to have their voices heard. Many complain that they put forward an idea and it seems to go unnoticed. The same idea repeated by their male colleague is heard, may be applauded, and often then implemented. There is also the frequent experience of being interrupted and talked over.
Who is to blame for this? Simple answer: men and women. There are still more men in senior positions, and the majority of them will probably not have experienced the challenge of not being heard, so may not even consider it.
Organisations today are beginning to see the benefits of diversity and inclusion. Let’s face facts, approximately 50% of the world population is women! Many of our clients and customers are women. So, what women think, how they feel and what they can contribute is important.
There is a theory that women talk more than men. That is generally true in personal relationships, however according to a 2017 Time magazine article by Deborah Tannen, (https://time.com/4837536/do-women-really-talk-more/) this is certainly not the case in organisational settings and meetings. Women tend to talk for less time than men, and often struggle to have their voices heard. They are often concerned with being liked and confuse being liked with being respected.
So how can this situation be addressed?
- Be aware that your voice is naturally stronger and louder.
- Think how you would feel if someone interrupted you.
- Treat all speakers with the respect you would wish to have.
- Invite the women in meetings to put forward their ideas to ensure they get airtime.
- Do not expect the women to take notes/ minutes or make the coffee!
- Pause and take the time to consider what you heard, and the value that it brings.
- Be prepared. Hesitating or not being clear confuses the listeners or makes them feel you are not sure of your. Get to the fact and avoid emotions.
- Put forward ideas confidently. I think’, ‘My suggestion /recommendation is.’, ‘a possible solution is..’
- If interrupted do not stop and do not shout. Just say to interrupter ‘I would be happy to hear your view when I have finished’ and continue.
- If someone repeats your idea don’t argue. Just say ‘thank you for supporting the idea that I have just shared..’ and claim if for your own.
- Avoid getting louder or lifting the pitch of your voice. Strident or loud is a turn off. Quiet, well paced denotes confidence.
- Whether online or face-to-face body language counts. Dress to be comfortable, and appropriate for the meeting. Smile!
If you have team members that struggle with finding their voice, and others that struggle to quieten their voice, get in touch with us and we can help them access their chameleon skills, being able to adapt to what is appropriate and effective to bring out the best in themselves, their teams and the organisation.