Gender Equality in the C-Suite: Here's How to Speak Up
Women face unique and complex challenges when it comes to speaking up and being assertive at work. According to a study by VitalSmarts, women undergo substantial emotional inequality even in top leadership positions. The research found that a woman's perceived competency level drops by 35% when they assert themselves as their male colleagues would. Keep in mind that assertiveness is a critical management and leadership attribute for success. It doesn't help that their perceived worth also decreases by more than $15,000.
It's easy to shudder at the reality of these findings, but the best solution is finding ways to circumvent them. More often than not, women in top positions tend to apologize, add disclaimers, or be overly cautious when speaking up. They also tend to over-explain themselves and apologize even when the situation doesn't warrant explanations or apologies.
With that in mind let us look at several ways how women in C-suite as well as any other career stage can speak up without unnecessarily apologizing or using conversations safety blankets:
- Avoid Justifying Your Point of View
Using Justification to qualify your stance or point of view is a sign of lack of confidence. When you eliminate these justifications, you will soon notice that you command more attention, respect and the responses you get are more satisfactory. Avoid statements such as "I know I'm new here" or "I may not have the professional expertise on this topic" before speaking up. These statements automatically discredit you whether you like it or not.
- Mind Your Body Posture
How you sit and stand conveys uncertainty or reliability. When you assume an upright posture, and sit with your shoulders high as well as maintain natural eye contact, you will automatically inspire confidence and respect.
- Be Prepared to Defend Your Point of View
It may not come easily but to add to your confidence, you need to have a plan. Anticipate challengers, and prepare your responses to communicate that you know exactly what you're talking about. Backing out or going on defensive mode will cause the audience to perceive you as not having confidence in your viewpoints.
Be well-versed about what your idea is so you can defend it with confidence and supporting facts.
Also know and believe in your standout abilities. Everyone has something special to bring to the table and no one can challenge that. Identifying what that is or getting a mentor to help you find your differentiator will definitely give you the upper hand.
- Don't Delay Your Input
Stop waiting for an "opportune time" to relay your opinions. Speak up! Interrupt if you have to. Don't wait for the ideal pause to be heard. Hardly does the moment present itself, and when it does, what you have to say will most likely be irrelevant. Assertive discussions and debates are crucial in any successful and productive organizations. A good leader should regard those qualities in work settings. Don't let fear of being disliked or labeled as rude stall your positive contribution.
As you've seen, all these mentioned points point to speaking up with confidence. Speak with clarity and don't shy away from conveying your ideas. It is advisable to seek mentorship, professional help and read relevant books on the topic to help cement your confidence levels in the workplace.
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