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Women Don't Speak Up, and Why We All Need to Change

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on May 28, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Last week, I read yet another post about women, and yet another thing they aren't doing as well as the boys in the corporate setting: speaking up at high level meetings. Researchers have confirmed that women "feel less effective" or that "their voices are ignored or drowned out," reports the Harvard Business Review.

I'll admit it, I'm guilty of this. Yes, I'm still kicking myself for not speaking up at my freshman orientation seminar at U. Penn. So, if you want to avoid the regret of not speaking up, let's see what we can all do to change.

The Typical Advice

Some of the advice gleaned from the study was that women should "master the pre-meeting" that is, they should linger before and after meetings to build alliances. Or there's the "mascularize your language" -- you know, talk like a guy. And then there's the favorite, leave your emotions at home, that is, try talking more like a robot. The problem with all this advice, is that it requires women to change their behaviors to be more like men.

No, "They" Need to Change

The Harvard Business Review article quotes on CEO who said "Women are often either quiet and tentative, or they pipe up at the wrong moment, and it sounds more like noise to some of us."

Really? Because no man has ever spoken "at the wrong moment?" When women speaking at meetings is tantamount to "noise," I don't think there's anything women can do to change -- besides not be present. Sorry, but I have to agree with commenters on a Fast Company article on the same topic, that maybe it's the other folks that need to change. A good place to start? Not equating women expressing their thoughts as "noise."

Now What?

You know what I would tell my 17-year old self sitting in the freshman orientation? I would borrow some language from Nike, and tell my younger self "Just Do It." Just speak up. Don't worry about sounding like a woman, or anything besides just a human. Just get in the game, and make no apologies for your thoughts, or opinions. People will disagree, but your opinions are never noise.

The hardest part about speaking up is the initial fear of speaking. But if you force yourself to speak up, then each time it will get easier. It's better to be disagreed with, than not heard at all.

What has your organization done to be more inclusive in meetings? Let us know on Facebook for FindLaw for Legal Professionals.

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