Everything we do and talk about comes back to a central point – helping women show who they really are (so it wasn’t a massive leap to our book title: Show Them Who You Really Are). Because when you transform the way you communicate your value, your contribution, your authenticity, you will transform your results.
The issue of visibility and voice for women isn’t new, by any means. And the broader subject of women breaking glass ceilings, speaking up and speaking out, and taking their place as leaders of our industries and societies has been steadily gaining momentum.
A high-profile clarion call for women finding their voice came recently in a debating session in the UK Parliament. A female opposition MP – herself an experienced NHS doctor – challenged the Health Secretary about his Government’s strategy on Covid-19 testing.
The detail of her question is actually irrelevant, and I don’t wish for one moment to take a political stance in this blog. But what happened next is important for us as champions and advocates for women feeling willing and able to make themselves heard…
The Health Secretary’s response to her question was coupled with an implied criticism of her “tone”. Perhaps unsurprisingly, news and social media alike was set alight by this apparent judgement, and many suggested this happened only because of her gender.
One of the most vocal was beauty guru Caroline Hirons who encouraged her digital audience to “raise their tone”.
For some, that’s easier said than done.
If you look at this example, you can see that the MP knew what she wanted to say, how she wanted to say it, and used the right channel to say it.
And whether you agree with her opinion or not, from a communication perspective she did everything right.
So – and this is what really matters here – if someone with her (perceived) confidence can be shot down so publicly, how brave do others have to be do speak up?
And what’s stopping us?
We might be wrong
At some point in our lives we’ve said something that was factually wrong, or that was right but went against the majority view. And we hold on to that memory with all of our senses. We can remember (and therefore imagine) everything from the precise shade of red our faces turned, to how our stomachs churned and we wished with all of our might that the ground would open and swallow us whole.
What we don’t remember are the many (many) other times that we were right.
That memory gives us a very real sense of what being wrong will feel like, so we avoid it.
And we live in a time where the middle ground and opportunity for debate and discussion is increasingly lost, especially on social media. On every topic now there is only a ‘wrong’ and a ‘right’, and we don’t want to be wrong. So we stay silent.
There are louder voices in the room (or Zoom)
In every professional, social or digital discussion, the chances are that there are louder voices in the room (unless you are the loudest voice in the room, in which case, go you!).
So we have to either wait for our turn or interject. The latter can be terrifying (especially if you have previous experience of trying but not being heard) while the former may never come.
You can know exactly what you want to say, have evidence to support your position, or just feel so passionate (or enraged) about something that you have to speak. But it is easy to be swayed by the position of others. If they genuinely convince you of their view, that’s terrific, but what if you change your view because you are deferring your own opinions to the experience, dominance or senior position of others? How many times have you thought that someone else’s view must be right or that there opinion is more valuable, purely on how loudly they made their case or because of their position?
We think (or overthink) about how we will be perceived
Society has told us that women are more emotional than men and therefore our responses can be perceived as an emotional reaction rather than an intellectual one.
If a man raises his voice, he is authoritative; if we raise our voice, we are emotional.
There are, of course, many other reasons and societal norms that stop women speaking up. Next week we’ll be sharing our tips for how you can raise your tone within your comfort zone, but we’d like to leave you this week with two requests.
Firstly, and most importantly, women have the ability to raise each other up and to pull each other down. Please never judge or criticise another woman for not speaking up – as we have seen happen so much on social media just recently – and ask them how you can help them to step up if that is what they wish to do.
Secondly, to help us make our suggestions as helpful and valuable as possible next week, we’ll be running a series of polls over on our Facebook page to better understand what stops you or holds you back from speaking up. Please join us there and share your views (and help shape the help and support we create for you).
Until next week, take care.
Lucy and Emma x