We have all walked out of meetings thinking, ‘I should have said something’ or if you did speak, having the feeling that your ideas and opinions aren’t being taken seriously by your colleagues and managers. Speaking up at work can be even more challenging when you are a woman, but what steps can you take to overcome this challenge?
Fia Collins of Vasa Consulting is a diversity and inclusion specialist who has worked in many private and public sector spaces and acted as a mentor for younger women. Fia explains that there is more that can be done than just talking.
“For years, I thought the only way to be heard at work was to talk. I now know that there are multiple ways to have your voice heard, so there isn’t just one way to participate. As a former netball player and coach, there is a lot of work happening ‘off the ball.’ This idea includes timing, positional play and observing player movement. The same idea applies to the workplace, including how we engage in one-on-one conversations when walking over to someone’s desk, email communications and catch-ups over coffee. Being heard happens at different times, and as women, we’re the experts at navigating this space because we’re good at building relationships.”
It is important to make yourself heard at work regardless of gender, but studies have shown that men speak more often and for longer in formal business-focussed settings than women. Fia gives some tips and action points below on what women can do to get their voice heard at work.
Subscribe to a Purpose, Not a Position
Having a clear idea of why you commit to a job, role, or vocation can ignite and fuel your activities in the workplace. We’ve heard many times before that people do things in professional or voluntary capacities because they want to make a difference. When driven by a cause, we accept that our diverse skills, passions, and competencies contribute to an organisations vision. When that vision connects us to a deeply meaningful place, we find motivation beyond a job title.
Stop Trying to Compete With Men in the Office
Over the years, I have found myself reflecting on why it always seems like the men in the office feel a greater sense of comfort in the workplace, especially in team meetings. As I’ve got to know people and understand their drivers, it’s helped me to recognise that many aren’t trying to compete for attention but are accustomed to the way the game is played. Drawing from people’s motivations creates safer and more trusting environments, which reduces feelings of competition for airtime. My value is in my person – the processes, experiences, and maturity that I bring to the office – and not what others believe my place to be, real or perceived.
Seek a Mentor and Be a Mentor
There is something very special about having someone to shadow and learn from who is trusted and respected in their field. In being mentored by someone, I understand that their journey in the workplace has been challenging, fraught and rewarding. A female mentor offers insights and reflections that show how one can stand sure in their worth, offer genuine ideas on how to be heard in the team and identify blind spots in your professional journey.
Mentoring gives us the assurance that we’re continuing to learn, grow and develop in our roles which is great for our confidence. When these learnings are coupled with our desire to mentor others, the wealth of opportunity is shared. I have had the privilege of mentoring young women in tertiary education and senior management positions, which has taught me so much through their professionalism and work ethic.
The above tips can help you get your voice heard at work, but if you continue to be ignored or discriminated against by your colleagues, it’s important to know your worth and know when to leave a bad workplace. Today, there is a strong focus from companies to provide more inclusive and diverse work environments in order to attract and retain top talent. If your workplace isn’t meeting the standard, there are many other companies out there that would value your contributions.