Speak Up in Meetings—and Become More Influential at Work
I am going to take a wild guess here and say you have been in a meeting when you were one of a few women. I am also going to assume that you have also had the experience, no matter how talkative you may be normally, of clamming up in meetings where you are in the minority.
It turns out that that experience is pretty universal. According to a study published in the American Political Science Review in collaborative group settings, “the time that women spoke was significantly less than their proportional representation— amounting to less than 75 percent of the time that men spoke.”
Here’s the problem: We are then viewed as less influential. According to Dr. Chris Karpowitz, one of the authors of the study, “Whether or not others see a person as influential is closely tied to their speaking time. Those who speak up more tend to be seen as influential. Thus, when women speak less, they are also seen as less influential.” This is the tie in to self promotion. If you do not speak enough in meetings to show your influence then you may be facing an upward battle when it comes time for a promotion, raise or high profile assignment.
What to do? The authors of the study found that if a paradigm shift was made by the meeting organizers from majority rule to unanimous consent, “this gap nearly disappears.” So ideally you, your manager, your company would begin a shift in protocol from majority rule to unanimous consent in meetings.
What else? Here are some guidelines I give to clients that I developed with the help of Dr. Cecilia Ford, Professor at University of Wisconsin, Madison and her book, Women Speaking Up: Getting and Using Turns in Workplace Meetings:
- Prepare: Consider the meeting agenda and your opinions. Practice articulating your thoughts in advance so you will feel more fluent in the moment.
- Align: Coordinate with others in the meeting who may have similar opinions or concerns so you can back each other up. It looks like this“Jackie and I were talking prior to the meeting and she had a few good points around this topic I would like her to share…”
- Signal: Signal that you are ready to speak. Here you may consider leaning in, making eye contact with the speaker or meeting organizer or calling them by name.
- Speak: Get in there girl! Here are a few options:
- Piggy backing: “I agree with what Sam said but I would add..”
- Clarifying/Rephrasing: “ If I understand you correctly you are saying… if so we need to look close at ..
- Questioning: “Did you review the interview data? Because my conclusion after reading through that was very different.” Here the question is basically rhetorical in order to direct conversation back to yourself.
However you choose to do it, up your speaking time and up your influence!