It’s hard enough to get into the room and when you do get there, it can be even harder to make your voice heard and get the visibility you need to move up. Research has shown that women’s accomplishments at work are often overlooked and that women are punished for violating feminine norms to make themselves more visible.
Many women succumb to a kind of pressure that their male counterparts don’t face. A big part of this is the double standard related to the tone and presentation of female voices vs. male voices. The best way to navigate these double standards is to be yourself authentically and find workplaces that support you. Understandably, women may be reluctant to speak up, but there are several things you can do to have a bigger, more vocal impact in the meeting room. Let’s look at a few of them.
Don’t Be Afraid to Use Your Full Voice
Speak to be heard. Project your voice and make sure everyone in the room can hear you. You’re not being overly loud or demanding—you’re ensuring that everyone hears what you have to say.
Interruptions do happen, but if you’re consistently being talked over at meetings it’s time to say something. You don’t have to cause a scene but simply saying, “I’d love to hear more about that, but I wasn’t quite finished” is a good way to assert yourself professionally.
Pace Your Speech
When you’re nervous or eager, it’s easy to rush, to speak much faster than necessary. By slowing down your speech and ensuring that every word is deliberately delivered in a clear, easy-to-understand manner, you can take control of the conversation and ensure that you have everyone’s undivided attention.
There are several ways to speak with intention. Slowing down how quickly you say each word will have a definite impact. So, too, will adding longer breaks between each sentence and pausing between different ideas to let them sink in. When you speak slowly and command the attention of the room, you’ll be interrupted less often.
Speak with Confidence
Self-doubt can sneak up on anyone; it’s just a matter of how you overcome it. After all, the other people in the room want to hear what you have to say; otherwise, you would not be there. Speak with confidence. Know that what you say has a purpose and is valued by the people with whom you are speaking.
It’s easy to say, “be more confident,” but this doesn’t just happen. You have to practice, but practice can be hard to come by in a stressful work setting. Get out of your comfort zone by attending local networking events, engaging with people at the office in extracurricular activities, and even spending some time practicing by yourself. The more often you engage in conversation with confidence, the better you will perform.
Push for Your Ideas to Be Heard
There are few feelings worse than attempting to contribute only to have your thoughts pushed aside or outright ignored. How do you respond in those situations? If you’re like most people, you shut down, retreat into yourself, and stew.
But this is the exact moment when outward confidence and a clear voice can serve you best. The moment you feel like your thoughts are being pushed aside, step up and advocate for yourself—don’t ask for attention, demand it.
Be polite and respectful, of course, but don’t allow a sea of “maybes” to derail what you feel is a solid contribution. Ask your listeners to present specific reasons why your idea may not work, and talk about how it might integrate with other potential solutions and how the logistics would work.
Be a Proactive Member of the Team
Your position is valuable. There’s a reason you’ve been elevated to a seat at the table and asked to provide insights and input on the big ideas at play in your company.
Don’t let a fear of speaking up and the volume of your colleagues’ contributions get in the way of being heard when it’s your turn. Stand up, speak out, and be ready to go to bat for your ideas when there is pushback. Done right, you’ll be well on your way to the next step in your career.
Speaking Up In a Virtual Setting
Covid-19 has introduced many challenges in the way we interact at work. A large portion of the workforce has shifted to a virtual environment and meetings are now held through channels like Google Meet and Zoom. While there are some benefits to working from home in a virtual model, finding opportunities to add your voice to a conversation can become even more of a challenge.
Even as many companies prepare to go back in person, many teams/contributors will remain remote and we may even begin to see hybrid meetings with both in-person and remote attendees. So learning how to best communicate in these environments is a necessity.
Speaking up can be difficult, especially for more introverted women. But not doing so can have negative consequences for your career development. As with everything else in life, practice makes perfect. The more you speak up, the better you’ll get at it and before you know it, it’ll be second nature.