Find your voice as a woman in the workplace by Mariem Ayed
Many countries worldwide have made a significant progress towards gender equality by providing education, health and by increasing female participation in the workforce.
However, the number of women in senior management positions and leadership roles is far less than we expected. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t any progress over the years but this small and slow progress is alerting.
The main reason behind this terrifying fact is that women are facing unique challenges when it comes to advancing their careers and earning respect from their coworkers.
As an engineering student, I got involved in several professional activities and I’ve been integrated in some companies as a part of my studies. My biggest number one fear was speaking up. Me along with many other girls when we try to speak up we either;
- Don’t really feel that we’ve been heard or we’ve been taken seriously.
- Get uncomfortable because of lack of confidence.
- Get interrupted before we finish pitching by someone thinking his idea is better or by someone who will appreciate the idea and run with it before you even finish.
These situations really look familiar, but the worst part is that we have to watch people node to a man saying the same thing a woman said few minutes later.
As a result, women choose to be quiet. Therefore, it reduces diversity in the workplace which will also means that the company will be missing on a lot of their employees potential and different perspectives that could enhance the business. And let’s be honest here, having more women in leadership roles will be very beneficial. We don’t only encourage diversity but also women leaders easily collaborate with their coworkers, clients and teams which will lead to more corporations and strategic connections that strengthen the company.
So how can we overcome these obstacles?
Well it’s too simple, women need to find their own voices, embrace it and SPEAK UP.
You may wonder how to do that so I prepared some tips, I hope they could help you;
- Be prepared
One of the main reasons holding women from speaking up is the fear of being wrong and that can be dealt with by simply being prepared. Analyze your idea, make a list of all the questions that you may hear and also a list of the main points you’re going to present in order. This will help you be more confident and your speech will be structured and your thoughts will be organized as well.
- fake it until you make it
This is something I always do after preparing a speech. I call some friends, family members or colleagues and try to pitch in front of them as a form of practice. It gives you the support you need and reduce the stress before your big day.
- Be assertive
The first impression of your audience when you enter the room is very important. First of all you shouldn’t stand in front of them with your eyes saying “please be nice to me” and speaking with shaky voice. You have to speak with confidence, choose your words carefully and STOP apologizing while discussing. It only undermines your authority. Apologizing will make others opinions seem offensive which will create a tension in the room that you really don’t need and also it will prevent you from saying what you want to say and start judging whether what you said is offensive or not. So it’s very important to say what you want to say with confidence and don’t be afraid to defend what you believe in.
- Engage your audience
It’s very challenging keeping the audience listening to you for a long session. So, invite them to be a part of what you’re saying. The more you engage them the more they listen to you. There are many ways to do that; either by asking questions, make them feel engaged in the making of your idea, leave a window for them to build upon your idea and be open for feedbacks. People tend to feel more interested and attentive when they feel that they are contributing.
- Balance your emotions
We all know that the number one motive for women is their passion. It is what make them good at what they are doing but unfortunately it can also undermine their authority by making them too emotional. You can either be too passionate and therefore too emotional which will affect your outcome or you can be detached and you’re coworkers and colleagues will think you don’t care enough. The key here is to learn how to balance your emotions. You can do that by taking your time and rush into actions and also by focusing on what you have to do.
To conclude, we should all know that we are the ones responsible for creating this environment that values the voices of all employees despite their gender, races or beliefs. By doing so, we will all benefit from the diversity of voices and perspectives and break free from all biases and stereotypes.