Over the course of a week, I have at least six to ten meetings that I attend. Often, I am one of the few women in the room. This is a common experience for women, and many are left frustrated because they feel their voices aren’t heard amidst all the testosterone. The truth is, it’s not all in their heads. Studies show that across the board women are interrupted more often, their ideas are frequently misappropriated, and they are more likely to be asked to take on administrative tasks like booking a conference room or taking notes.
All of this can feel demoralizing, but there are small things you can do to make sure that your contributions are recognized. Here are 3 ways you can stand out in a meeting:
Take a Seat and Pose. Where you park yourself in a meeting could make a big difference in establishing your presence. If you’re always sitting at the far end of the table, you’re easier to miss and less likely to jump into important discussions. While you should always be mindful of your role and place on the totem pole (i.e., don’t sit in the boss’s chair) make sure that you’re sitting in a visible spot, near the centers of influence. You will be more likely to be called upon and you will signal to others that you have things to say and that you deserve to be in the room. Your body language also speaks volumes. Some easy ways to send a powerful message include, sitting up straight, keeping your body open (no crossing your arms or twisting your fingers in knots as you speak), leaning forward toward the audience, and keeping eye contact with those around you.
Stop Apologizing and Qualifying. How many times have you started a thought by saying something like, “I’m sorry, I was just thinking …” or “I’m not sure if this is relevant, but…” Whatever you say next is going to be viewed with slightly more skepticism and far less credibility. Women have a tendency to rely on apologetic opening statements, but this is nothing more than a bad habit. And like all bad habits, it can be broken. Take note of when you use these caveats and qualifiers and make an active effort to eliminate them. When you show that you believe in your ideas, others will feel more confident doing so as well.
Take Credit. Too often, a woman will contribute an idea that gets ignored, only to have it later repeated by her male colleague and proclaimed the best idea ever conceived in the history of the world. It stinks. When this happens, you have two options. You can ignore the situation, or you can take the credit you deserve. One way to do that is to say something like, “Dave, I’m so glad you agree with me on that. As I mentioned a few minutes ago, I really think that…” You can also take a page from the playbook of the women in the Obama administration who used a technique called “amplification.” Using this strategy, whenever a woman makes an important point, her female colleagues will repeat it and give credit to its author, forcing the men to recognize the contribution and denying them the opportunity to take credit for it.
Be sure to let me know some of your strategies for standing out in the comments! Have a great week, everyone!