Wednesday, October 26, 2011

4 ways not speaking up derails women in the workplace

Confidence is critical for any kind of public speaking, and a lack of confidence may be contributing to women's reluctance to speak up for themselves in the workplace. A 2011 study by the Institute of Leadership and Management in Europe reveals that women reported lower career confidence--just 50 percent of the women surveyed reported high or very high levels of confidence, compared to 70 percent of the men responding. And half of the women said they felt self-doubt about their career or performance, compared to just 31 percent of the men.

Women's leadership experts Jill Flynn, Kathryn Heath and Mary Davis Holt, co-authors of Break Your Own Rules: How to Change the Patterns of Thinking that Block Women's Paths to Powerhave pinpointed four ways women's lack of confidence creates stumbling blocks for them in the workplace, and it will be no surprise to readers of this blog that they all involve speaking or speaking up in some way. The four trouble spots include being overly modest, not asking (for raises or advancement), blending in and remaining silent--and the antidote to all four is speaking, or speaking up. Here's just one example they cite:
When Sharon Allen became chairman of Deloitte & Touche USA in 2003, she not only became the highest-ranking woman in the firm's history, she also became the first woman to hold that role at a leading professional services firm. It may seem surprising, then, that even Allen learned this lesson the hard way. As a rising manager in her thirties, she was taken aback when she received a memo announcing the promotion of several close colleagues. She wondered why she didn't make the list. Allen stewed about it for a day or two, and then went in to see her boss. "I was surprised to see my name not included on the promotion list," Sharon said to him. "I have accomplished A, B, C, D and E and I think I deserved that promotion." Her boss replied, "Sharon, I had no idea you had accomplished all of those things. You didn't let me know." When Sharon tells the story today, she laughs and shakes her head. As she told us, "That's the very last time I ever let that happen."
Whether you need to get your point in during a meeting or speak privately to your boss to ask for a raise, workplace speaking is one of the most valuable kinds of public speaking you'll do in the course of your career. Do you experience these stumbling blocks? Share how you are overcoming them in the comments. (Hat tip to speechwriter and reader Allison Wood for pointing me to this article.)


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