My Most Effective Tip for Being Heard at Work

It is one of the more frustrating things about being female but it’s sadly still very true – people do not hear women’s voices in the same way that they hear a male voice. Women have gone to great lengths to change this, even so far as having lessons to lower their voices to a deeper register. Give me strength! What message is that sending? It means we simply reinforce the idea that male is best, when we all know that is not true. The world needs the contributions of both men and women and it’s a mad employer that doesn’t encourage and listen to women’s contributions.

Dame Mary Beard: We have not yet learned to hear authority in women’s voices.

Mary is, of course, correct. I have a whole course dedicated to this, called Speak Up (wryly subtitled by me: It’s Not You It’s Them) It’s not just men to be fair, it’s women, too. We have all been socialised to accord greater respect and authority to male voices and it’s time to change. It is one of the reasons many of us find it difficult to speak up at work. I have been told countless times when coaching women that they are talked over, not heard in meetings and that still, their ideas are often only taken up when voiced by a man.

One Simple Tip For Being Heard at Work

I’m calling it simple, because in essence it is, but it’s not necessarily easy. As with everything, the more you practise the easier it becomes. This is a classic scenario. We go to a meeting with something to say. Research indicates that women are very good listeners and we tend not to interrupt. Men do, and they are especially comfortable interrupting women. So we listen, waiting for an appropriate moment to make our contribution. Our nerves mount and when we speak it can come out in a rush. Everyone is very quick to rush to judgement on women’s talk and we can be labelled as aggressive, angry, talking too much, lacking in confidence, etc.

So this is what you do. Don’t wait to speak. Speak up as early on in the meeting as you can. It doesn’t have to be something hugely profound (and please don’t make it be an offer to make everyone a cuppa unless it’s your turn and everyone does it). In fact, it’s helpful to start with something easy so maybe acknowledge something someone else has said. Agree or disagree. The point here is to make sure everyone becomes familiar with your voice, including you. This is especially important if most of the meeting is male, which tends to be the case with senior women I coach. There are many other things you can do but this is fundamental. Let them hear and get accustomed to your voice. Your voice. Try it a few times. It works.

P.S  If you’re at a meeting, support the other women there, too. Listen to them and validate what they say. Be aware of your own unconscious bias where women’s voices are concerned.We can change old ways of behaving. Be wonderful!

Changing People licences experienced trainers, coaches and organisations to deliver its International RenewYou programme for women. Read more about it here


Posted on September 21st, 2019 by

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