In honor of Women's History Month, I thought I'd explore this issue of women speaking powerfully. It's been established that men and women communicate differently. The question is, do women need to speak more powerfully than men to be heard? Whether it's a speech, pitching an idea, or a one-on-one meeting, it appears that women need to work harder to have their ideas heard. According to New York Women in Communications, women make up 3% of CEOs and occupy around 16% of board seats at the nation's Fortune 500 companies, and 15.2% of the directors at the largest companies are women.
A female professor at NYU received a request for a testimonial from a former student. The letter was over the top. So much so, she had to tone it down so it would sound realistic. It was no surprise to her that this communication came from a male. She realized that males tend to exaggerate their abilities, while women downplay their accomplishments and speak with less conviction.
I can corroborate this from my own experience coaching women leaders. Women have a more difficult time taking a strong position, speaking with authority, and promoting their own ideas. While coaching one executive woman, it was apparent that her area was the most profitable in the business, but her influence was a well-kept secret. We immediately got to work increasing her visibility: getting her name in trade publications, networking internally and externally, and booking speaking engagements.
Public speaking levels the playing field for women.
Here are some ways women can speak more powerfully:
- Lower their pitch.
- Put a stake in the ground.
- Use specific, definitive language.
- Negotiate with confidence.
- Work with a coach.
So I ask you, in your experience, do women need to speak more powerfully than men? Can they best learn to speak powerfully from a male or a female role model?