Be Heard and Have a Voice at Work!

Speak up get heard and have a voice at work

Last week I had the privilege to speak to an amazing group of professional women and a few of the key questions they asked at the end of the presentation on communication were about, “How do I get heard and have a voice in meetings?” The answer to this question does not only lie in the responsibility of the individual, but also to the leadership present in the meeting and to the culture of the company which again rests in the hands of leaders.

Women’s leadership is multi-faceted where companies and leadership play a huge role in elevating women to senior and leadership positions; to think that building women’s leadership lies only in the development of the women themselves is to miss a crucial piece of the problem and also the solution!

As the bright young women who first asked the question about how she could be heard amidst a group of senior leaders and men, I knew the entire room of women had felt and knew exactly what she was experiencing. My answer began with, “There are a number of factors that will contribute to you being able to be heard and having a voice at the table and a few of them have to do with the leadership at where you work and also the culture of your company.”

I share this because if you are a company or leader that is saying you support gender equality, but you are not taking actions daily to elevate and be inclusive with the women in your team at all levels of the company, then you are not cultivating an environment of equality. CEO’s, senior management, and yes every man who holds a supervisory or leadership position, is in a role to seek, invite, collaborate, encourage and support a women’s ideas and voice in every project.

And now for the role women play in being heard and making sure their voice is heard at work. Ladies, it does not matter what the culture is, how you have been treated, or what the response will be, the value you bring and the ideas you have are as equally important and we cannot wait for permission or an invitation. If you want a seat at the table, you take it, own it, and fill it firmly with the presence and intelligence you have backed with the courage to boldly speak it for everyone to hear.

I realize and respect there are unique dynamics and cultural experiences especially if you are younger and not only dealing with senior level executives with more years experience, but also the unique differences of communicating to and with men in the work place. It is time we shift our concepts of working with men or working with people in positions of greater clout or power because if your idea adds to the company and its progress, everyone wins. We need to overcome our fear of pleasing, acceptance, judgement, and even perceptual inequality, so we can stand in the contribution our companies need us to have the courage to speak.

Do not think there needs to be an invitation to speak, nor wait to be acknowledged or even provided a space in the meeting. We create our own openings, our own space, and empower ourselves with the necessity to speak what we know can add value and what needs to be heard. Own your ideas, approve your own worth, and don’t just lean in, but speak your presence boldly for the benefit of all.

Even amidst a culture that is not inclusive, that may be old school or male dominated, we have the ability to smash ceilings. Somehow deep within her question was another question and it would sound something like this,

“I don’t feel confident speaking up because I am not sure it will be valuable enough to prove it required the time and attention of everyone in the meeting and I am opening myself up to risk.”

Yes you are always taking a risk and it is up to you to have the discretion of appropriate timing, but you need to know you are enough or you wouldn’t be working there and every idea is worthy for debate. If you feel an idea needs to be addressed as a team member at the table then stand behind it with an assured boldness that builds confidence in others stating it is an important issue that needs to be considered.

There is a second aspect to this deep level question and that is as women, we need to not only have the courage to speak, but the agility and resilience to handle any and all rejection that comes with the territory of having a voice. There will be different opinions, there will be rejection, there will be men that dismiss you, and you won’t always be validated or celebrated. If you can enter and stand and speak knowing all of these options could be an outcome and still hold your head high and speak again, you will be able to have a stronger and more powerful voice and be a part of the evolution of equality in the workplace.


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