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Revolutionize your workplace dynamics with these three proven strategies for unleashing the full potential of women’s voices in meetings, and watch your team thrive.

In the average business meeting, 75 percent of the talking is done by men. This would be shocking in 1990, but in 2024, it’s doubly so. And this isn’t an isolated study. Research shows that women are interrupted in meetings about 50 percent of the time, and that in a room full of men, about 75 percent of women feel uncomfortable speaking up.

In most organizations, it’s agreed that we are striving for gender parity, but what we’re doing isn’t working. At this rate, we won’t achieve gender parity at work for another 151 years. I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to wait that long.

Ensuring that women’s voices are represented in your organization is a major step toward closing the gender gap, and creating a more equitable playing field has numerous benefits. Not only will your team be able to work with less frustration, but you’ll also see increased performance.

Fortune 500 firms with the best record of promoting women into high positions are 18–69 percent more profitable than the median firms in their industries.

If you want to see that kind of progress, everyone needs to be on board. Here are a few ways that women, men and leaders of all gender identities can create a culture where women’s voices are heard at work.

Preparation is Key

If you’re a woman who isn’t used to speaking up in meetings, a little preparation can go a long way in making you feel more confident. If you know what the meeting will be about in advance, prepare your ideas and go over your talking points with a trusted colleague or mentor.

Share your idea in full with someone else who will be in the meeting to solicit feedback, boost your confidence and gain ground-level support. This is a great way for women to help one another, but it can also be an opportunity for men to amplify women’s voices.

If you’re a woman who isn’t used to speaking up in meetings, a little preparation can go a long way in making you feel more confident.

Consider what you want to achieve and what points you want to make, and outline those goals for yourself using a crib sheet. Identify one specific point you’d like to make or idea you’d like to share, and write it on a Post-It note so that it’s top of mind throughout the meeting. That way, you’ll be calm and prepared to speak up or share your thoughts when called upon.

Even where you sit can make a difference in your success. Men tend to sit front and center during meetings, so don’t get relegated to the sidelines. Arrive early, pick your seat and prepare to blow them away.

Take Space and Make Space

During the meeting, there are actions women can take to combat the risk of being interrupted, talked over or dismissed. To combat this, carve out space for yourself. If introductions are being made, make sure to add how much you are looking forward to contributing to the meeting.

If it’s a virtual meeting where a chat is available, leverage that to demonstrate your engagement. These small acts can establish you as more of a known entity to others in the meeting, so that when you do speak up, they’re more likely to show you respect.

When you decide it’s the right time to speak, don’t wait. In a meeting, most speakers will pause for a few seconds to switch points, and that’s when you should strike. Don’t wait until later to call back to an earlier point, simply jump in during that pause with something like, “I’m going to quickly jump in here…” before continuing with your idea.

These simple acts of advocacy can make the difference between a successful meeting and a frustrating one for your women colleagues.

If you’re not getting the space to speak, consider interjecting with, “I hear your point, and want to add something to that…” or “If we don’t have time today, I would like to put this on the agenda for the next meeting…” In the event that someone does interrupt you, remain calm, but don’t take it lying down either. Consider explaining, “I haven’t finished what I was saying…” before continuing.

Moments like these are also opportunities for men on the team and leaders of all genders to amplify women’s voices. There are some who, consciously or unconsciously, will only respect the voices of men (or of someone in a higher position in the organization). If you’re in this ‘respected’ position, this is your time to act.

Often the best way for men to amplify women’s voices is to make space for them to speak. Interjecting to say, “I don’t think Amal was finished speaking” or “Michelle has a great idea about this, why don’t you jump in?” can help to bring the attention back to your female coworker.

These simple acts of advocacy can make the difference between a successful meeting and a frustrating one for your women colleagues.

Don’t Stay Silent

Not all women hesitate to speak up because they’re worried about being interrupted or spoken over. Many women feel uncomfortable because they fear how they will be perceived if they do speak up. And that hesitancy isn’t unfounded; we’ve all seen the double standard in action.

When men make assertive points, they’re confident. When women do it, they’re viewed as aggressive. This can especially be a challenge for women of color. This concept of how men and women ‘should’ behave has generations of reinforcement behind it, and all genders can fall prey to these stereotypes.

Unlearning this kind of programming takes time and consistent practice, but it is essential to creating an environment where women feel comfortable speaking freely. The practice starts internally, by challenging your own preconceived notions about what is and isn’t appropriate for women to say.

This is important work for leaders of all genders – women have internalized these messages as much as men have. Be mindful of your thought patterns and consider where your feelings are coming from. How would you feel if a man said the same thing? You can gain clarity by focusing on the content of the conversation, not who’s delivering the message.

If you feel like speaking up about discrimination and bias is too difficult, motivate yourself by thinking about how difficult it is to experience it.

As you do your own inner work, make sure to challenge others when you see them making the same mistakes. As we discussed before, this can especially be powerful when it comes from one man to another. It isn’t easy, but in studies women have said that speaking up is the ally behavior that resonates most with them.

Challenge other men to be better, to be advocates for women, people of color, marginalized identities and LGBTQ+ folks.

If you feel like speaking up about discrimination and bias is too difficult, motivate yourself by thinking about how difficult it is to experience it.

But speaking up isn’t only about calling out bad behavior, it’s also about lifting women up. Thirty-seven percent of female leaders have had a coworker get credit for their idea, and female leaders are twice as likely as male leaders to be mistaken for someone more junior.

Men, regardless of whether they are in leadership positions, can help correct this imbalance by making it a point to publicly acknowledge the accomplishments of women, especially in public settings like meetings.

Lifting up the work and ideas of female colleagues, mentioning them in front of leadership, and correcting colleagues who misattribute credit isn’t giving special treatment to women – it’s treating them with fairness.

Kathryn Landis

Contributor Collective Member

Kathryn Landis is an executive and team coach, keynote speaker and go-to-market strategy advisor to senior executives. She’s an award-winning leader of Fortune 500 companies including American Express, Automatic Data Processing and News Corporation. Kathryn holds an MBA from Northwestern University, a Certificate in Executive and Organizational Coaching from Columbia University, a Certificate in Diversity and Inclusion from Cornell University and a Bachelor of Science from Indiana University. She is also an Associate Certified Coach by the International Coaching Federation, a National Diversity Council Certified Diversity Professional and a faculty member of New York University’s Integrated Marketing master’s program. Find out more at https://www.kathrynlandisconsulting.com/

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