Renee was a young associate for a marketing research company; it was her first job. She was smart but soft-spoken. Renee's manager frequently interrupted and dominated meetings, and wouldn't allow Renee to lead a meeting in her absence...
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?
If employees want to advance in their careers they will need to speak the business language of success. Is Uptalk here to stay? Will it become acceptable in the workplace? Who knows? But for now, if you want to move up, talk down.
In June, I blogged about Michele Bachmann and the double standard for women politicians. It seems that the media continues to display sexism toward women candidates. Whether it's Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, or Michele Bachmann there seems to be an element of sexism even as we approach 2012. First we had to hear the commentary each time Hillary had a new hairstyle. While this may be appropriate for a First Lady, when a woman is running for political office she ought to be taken more seriously. How often do we critique a male candidate's hair? (Donald Trump doesn't count).
During the Republican debates, Michele Bachmann was accused of not knowing her facts - even when she did. In one debate, she bested Newt Gingrich regarding his involvement in Fannie Mae, yet the media did not make much of her win.
The most recent sexist remark was by John McLaughlin of the McLaughlin Group when he said we have a "Gal Candidate". A GAL? A friend asked me if I would find it offensive if his 87 year old father referred to a woman as a gal. I replied, "No. He's a product of his times. But a journalist and moderator knows better. He's on national TV and is subject to professional standards. He didn't refer to 'guy candidates'".
Language is a mirror into how one thinks. It's difficult to be taken seriously as a woman candidate when you're called a "gal". It's amazing that this kind of double standard is going on in the U.S., when other countries have elected a woman president or prime minister.
As a public speaker and debater, Michele Bachmann has handled herself well by sticking to the facts and not showing a lot of emotion. Will gender always be a factor? Is it possible to evaluate the candidates on their merits, without considering gender? Or will it always color our perceptions?
The discussion was facilitated by Mike Barnicle who asked that the clip be played again, but this time we should listen to the tone. After listening for a second time, Barnicle asked the group, "Do you want to listen to that for four years?" While I agree that Palin sounded a little shrill and high pitched, that was not the issue. The issue was the way the question was asked. Barnicle's question was judgmental. Let's ask it a different way. "What do you think of her voice? Do you think she loses credibility? How will that impact her on the campaign trail?"
This is a different kind of question and a valid one at that. The voice is 38% of the message according to a UCLA study. The meta message is in the tone and not the words. Hillary Clinton lost credibility when she gave vent to her anger and passion in the form of an escalating tone. She has since found her voice. Men have an advantage over women in the vocal arena. A deeper or lower pitched voice will be perceived as more authoritative. While using the upper range of her pitch level doesn't serve a woman candidate, it seems that there's a double standard when it comes to men.
Former Mayor Koch of New York City has a nasal sounding voice and uses /um/ after almost every other word. This is how he spoke during his administration and he still uses this speaking style. Yet, we didn't hear comments such as "Could you listen to him for another four years?"
The points made during the discussion regarding tone were valid. What some people don't get is that there is a tone to language. And I heard an element of sexism in Barnicle's comment. What do you think?
Situation: Karen was newly appointed to her position in finance, where she was responsible for managing and keeping the department on budget. Soft-spoken and petite, Karen had a hard time making herself heard during meetings, as her aggressive team shouted over her and challenged her when she questioned their figures. Karen's team was over budget, and she was concerned about her credibility when she had to present her figures to corporate at an up-coming meeting. Recognizing the importance of asserting her authority, Karen sought coaching to increase her confidence and to learn strategies for maintaining control. Solution: We worked on increasing the volume and conviction in Karen's voice. Initially, she wasn't aware of her vocal range and didn't believe she could project. Together, we practiced breathing exercises before the meeting to calm Karen's nerves. With a specially created template, Karen began to organize her ideas so she would not get intimidated and lose her train of thought. Karen also developed strategies for dealing with people who lobbed hostile barbs or tried to interrupt her when she was speaking.
Result: After the big meeting, Karen said she felt prepared, organized, and confident. She was able to hold her ground and support her position. The note-taking system helped her to stay focused and maintain her credibility.
Do you know people who get lost in the crowd? We can help them rise above the noise, find their voice, and communicate with confidence.
It's small business week. Do you know how women entrepreneurs are doing? Diane DiResta, owner and CEO of DiResta Communications, attended the Global Summit of Women May 20-22 at the Marriott City Wall Hotel in Beijing and reports that there are more women entrepreneurs in China than the entire United States population at 300 million. The Global Summit of Women celebrated its 20th year with the theme, "Women at the Forefront of Change." The annual conference, headed by Irene Natividad, is unique in that it brings together government leaders, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), corporations and entrepreneurs who are committed to improving women's economic status worldwide. The conference attracted 1000 women from around the world with Mongolia being the largest group. Presentations were in English and Chinese.
Prior to the summit DiResta was invited to a briefing and reception at the United States Embassy. The panel concurred that the key to doing business with the Chinese is building lasting relationships. Professor Qing qi' Shir stated that despite the extraordinary number of Chinese women entrepreneurs, the number one roadblock for Chinese women business owners is access to capital and the primary source of information and technology is the Internet. She shared that 97% are optimistic about the economic future. China had a 9.8% growth rate during the financial crisis.
Some of the speakers included: The honorable Nguyen Thi Doan, Vice President of Vietnam, First Lady Salma Kikwete of Tanzania, Hon. Maud Olofsson, Deputy Prime Minister, Sweden, and Cheng Hong, Vice Mayor of Beijing. A highlight of the conference was the introduction of the first Saudi woman to become a government representative. Social, economic and political leadership issues were discussed. In Tanzania, for example, getting tested for HIV is a stigma so the First Lady stepped up and got tested in public.
The conference provided an economic opportunity for local women who could set up a booth and sell their jewelry and wares.
Ms. DiResta, who is an International speaker and public speaking strategist, stated "The conference shattered myths and misconceptions we have of each other. I was surprised when two women from Oman sat next to me and invited me to two of their conferences. I didn't realize there were so many women entrepreneurs." One woman changed her opinion about Americans when she met someone from the U.S. who could speak several languages.
Across cultures, a major universal issue still remains: Women are underrepresented on boards, as corporate CEOs, and in getting funded.
Next year's conference will be held in May 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Westport, CT (1/21/2010): Diane DiResta, top speaking strategist and founder and CEO of DiResta Communications, a communication skills consulting company, was invited to be one of four panelists, all successful women entrepreneurs, at the Women in Power networking event on Wednesday at the Westport Woman's Club. DiResta and fellow panel members discussed how to increase passion in the areas that matter most to business - Business Planning, Communications Impact, Financial Strategies, and Networking that works. The theme was "Living on Purpose: The Foundations for Successful Business Building in Today's Market." Halfway through the program, DiResta directed the 200 women in the audience to spend three minutes networking with each other. Soon the hall was abuzz with purposeful conversations and exchanges of business cards. The exercise was so successful that WIP member-moderator Lisa Wexler, an attorney-turned radio personality, was challenged to end it. "Women are excellent networkers," DiResta remarked.
Lisa Wexler, Women In Power member, moderated the session. Other panelists were: Kathy Caprino, Founder and President of Ellia Communications, Anne Evans, District Director, US Department of Commerce, and Kathy McShane, Founder and CEO of The Kendrew Group.
As CEO of DiResta Communications, Inc., Diane DiResta has trained spokespersons in sports and entertainment such as NBA players and Vanna White, as well as physician spokespersons representing pharmaceutical companies who want to communicate with maximum impact — whether face-to-face, in front of a crowd, or from an electronic platform. In addition to her corporate clients, DiResta developed a Confidence Class for seventh grade girls in Staten Island for two years. “I can’t think of a better investment than to invest in communication and we need to start early,