I work in a male dominated office with some very alpha personalities. I know this is an age old problem but I struggle to be heard and consequently, decisions have been made that I felt have not been in the best interest of the business. What can I do to change the dynamic of my weekly meetings?
We are at such an important time in social evolution for this discussion. It's always an important time. It has been an important time for hundreds, if not thousands of years. How has it come to be that women, who make up 51% of the population, are deemed to be a minority? Blah blah primal hunters, blah blah, patriarchy, blah blah, women wiped from history.
The fact is, despite a hundred year fight for equality, we are still here, underrepresented and undervalued. So, if women's voices are less valued than men's, what practical steps can we take to change that on a day to day basis?
One of the issues is that normal is as normal does. If the default setting is male dominance of meetings, then it is not seen as anything other than, well, normal. One good way to deal with this is to put it on a plate.
Call it out.
But do so in a way that is progressive, constructive and evidence based. What is the common purpose of your decision making team? Presumably to progress the success of your organisation for all stakeholders. It's worth stating that fact and confirming agreement from all present. Once everyone is onboard with that, state that you have made suggestions in the past which could have led to more positive outcomes if they had been implemented. If you have an evidence based example, share it. Tell them that you can add a unique perspective to discussions and decisions.
Say that you are aware that in a mainly male environment, men hear each other more clearly than they hear women, this is fact. However, you would like to help them to hear you by signalling clearly when you have a contribution. Perhaps it would help if you stood up when you spoke? Would they like you to hold a talking stick? Ok, maybe not the talking stick, that might send them over the edge. What is important is what you represent, diversity of thought, a very valuable asset in business. Be prepared, clear and concise and keep to facts, in other words, be as good as you know you are.
According to neuroscientist Gina Rippon in The Gendered Brain, we're not so different men and women, at least not neurologically. Our differences are instead driven by social conditioning. This book is worth a read to assure yourself that we are essentially the same and arm yourself with the facts to prove it. The good news is that we are high in neuroplasticity, are brains can evolve and change depending on our stimuli and environment. Your colleagues have the capacity to see your contributions in a new and more valued way, alpha or not - if they have the will.
If you need some inspiration from extraordinary women who have made their voices heard, a beautiful new book is She Speaks by Labour MP Yvette Cooper. In this perfect little book, the author gives context and content of some rousing recent and historical orations. From Boudica to Malala Yousafzai, there have always been strong women who have fought for their right to be heard and create impact. Nestled among the pantheon of international superstars is Irish woman Joan O'Connell who gave a game changing speech at the 1968 TUC conference in Blackpool fighting for equal pay for women. During the final stages of publication Yvette used Twitter as a call out to see if the bold Ms. O'Connell was still in existence. Her Dublin based great nephew Peter O'Connell confirmed that although in diminished health, Ms. O'Connell was living in a care home in Dublin. A gift of the book was sent via her relative from the author. When it was presented to her, she said five words.
I have not been forgotten.
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