Women Speaking Up: Getting and Using Turns in Workplace Meetings

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You share the context, some key data, and are just getting to your recommendations when Steve-from-marketing , interrupts with a comment - and you lose your train of thought. You respond, resume, and build up to your final point.


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He interrupts again, this time taking the floor - while you quietly fume. Been there? Insensitive and rude, right? Well… not so fast.

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It turns out that how we perceive an interruption varies based on a number of factors — and that not all interruptions are created equal. Can we address them, and regain the floor? But first, it helps to understand who interrupts and why.

Interruptions fall into two basic categories. Her study found that speakers fall somewhere between two conversational styles; high and low intensity. High-intensity speakers have low tolerance for silence in conversation, and see overlapping talk as a sign of engagement. Low intensity speakers find interjections rude, and prefer that everyone speaks one at a time. Numerous studies support the oft-cited claim that women are frequently interrupted by men.

Deborah Tannen, a professor of linguistics at Georgetown University in Washington DC, has long studied gender difference in communication. Just as women students speak up more in classes taught by females, female lawyers may be galvanized to speak up more when meetings are run by women.

Why Women Don't Speak Up at Work and High-Level Meetings - WiseStep

This may take some intentional actions because the people in positions of authority within the legal field are disproportionately male. Sandberg and Grant discuss various guidelines that have already been implemented by businesses, including: blind auditions within the entertainment industry; anonymous submissions of suggestions and solutions within companies; and, a no-interruption rule while anyone — male or female — is talking at meetings.

Creating an environment where everyone can be heard means more innovative ideas, more effectiveness, and more worker satisfaction. Listen to all workers with equal seriousness, challenging, correcting or praising when appropriate. A good idea is good based on its merits, not because a male or a female came up with it. The same is true for bad ideas.

Getting and Using Turns in Workplace Meetings

Therefore, by accepting or rejecting ideas based on their merits instead of their creator, the solutions are more likely to be sound. Additionally, by challenging, correcting, or parsing when appropriate, you can avoid gaining a reputation of favoritism or, even worse, of sexism. Assume a position of power. Take the seat at the table you might instinctively reserve for someone more important. Gesture largely.

Power poses make one appear more authoritative, increase your testosterone levels—and your confidence.

All of this may go against the female tendencies to consensus build through speech—but it is not listened to in the workplace. This article is published in collaboration with LinkedIn. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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To stay up-to-date with gender news please subscribe to our weekly email. Image: A share trader checks share prices at the German stock exchange in Frankfurt, December 18, The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum. I accept. How do we build a sustainableworld?

How not to be an 'invisible woman' at work

Submit a video. Most Popular. Greta: the voice of climate activism who says 'don't listen to me' Sean Fleming 23 Sep More on the agenda. Explore context. Explore the latest strategic trends, research and analysis.

Women speak less in school The gender disparity in speaking up starts long before folks hit the workplace. Establish practices directed to the tendency for women to under-participate. Assign the group leader with gender in mind. Implement guidelines to reduce the likelihood of inequalities developing. Featured: Workforce and Employment View all. This company lets you set your own salary Sean Fleming 20 Sep