If you have ever been in a meeting where women are in the minority you may have experienced, being ignored or not heard, or seen this happening to another woman. Whether this situation is intentional or not, anyone can step in and change the game by modelling different behaviour on how to amplify the female voices around the table.
I recently interviewed Zureida Ebrahim, CEO of client engagement solutions at Momentum, who says that this situation happens more often than you think. Sometimes it’s not intended to be dismissive but it does show a lack of attentiveness.
What I love about Zureida is that while she is an advocate for women, she is not militant. She takes a stand in a powerful and grounded way through her leadership actions, that we can all learn from.
Her strategy for this is situation is something I think that men and women alike can all take on board to amplify the female voices in the room. She says she learnt these lines off by heart so that they simply rolled off her tongue when a situation arose:
“Hang on a second, that was interesting. Noziwe will you say that again please?” or “I didn’t quite get that and it sounded like a good idea. Susan, can you repeat that?”
“It’s a way of stopping the room and helping everyone realise that there are other voices, opinions and ideas that should be heard. The more you do it the easier it becomes,” says Zureida. You can use this strategy at work, in the classroom and at home. It’s not just for promoting women but also the non-talkers in your team, who are full of great ideas, that often don’t get expressed.
How are you creating greater awareness of the quiet or dismissed voices? How are you role modelling inclusivity and good communication? As you can see, from this easy to use strategy, it doesn’t have to be confrontational but it can be done in a subtle but assertive way. We owe it to each other to give airtime to all the voices at the table, and not just the dominant ones.
TAKEAWAYS FOR WINNING AT WORK
- Be aware of the dominant voices in your team, that could be overshadowing other valuable ones.
- Create strategies to enable the quieter, less ‘out there’ voices to be heard.
- Written feedback activities to collate ideas on index cards or post-it notes can be used to achieve this
- Virtual engagement tools such as Jamboard can work wonders for non-talkers or those quieter voices in the room, in fact, I have found that teamwork online can be quite democratic
- One-on-one activities, enable you to ensure every member of the team feels seen, heard and acknowledged, don’t discount them. You can always use your feedback from these sessions to hero someone who wouldn’t normally put their hand up in a group situation, by getting them to share some thoughts and ideas that you found particularly interesting in your one-to-one session with them.
- If you have a group that is top-heavy with men, please watch that the women in the group are not expected to pour the tea or take the minutes. It’s either part of someone’s specific job description or endeavour to have the duties rotated amongst the team
TAKEAWAYS FOR WINNING AT HOME AND LIFE
- Beware of the talker child who speaks on behalf of the non-talker child, you don’t want one child to lose their voice or agency in the family. You will have to manage the talker child so that they don’t take over.
- Implement rituals like the Sweets and Sours game at the dinner table, to ensure that every member of the family to have their moment to share, without interruption.
- Don’t be the conduit of news to the other spouse. If your child tells you some news, tell them they need to tell mum or dad themselves. By the same token, don’t let your spouse speak to your child through you.
- When adult friends, teachers or therapists ask your child a question, please do not answer for them. Let your child use their voice.
- If your child wants something to eat at a friend’s home or a sweet from the doctor’s jar, and they ask you, redirect them to the person they must ask. “These aren’t my sweets, you will have to ask Dr Johnson if you can have one.” If they want something enough they will do it.
- When you are talking to female children, please talk about more than their hair or what they are wearing. We want young women who value their opinions and ideas more than their looks. Validate them for their input and depth before you reference what they look like on the outside.
Whether in families at home or teams at work, it’s important to be mindful of all the voices at the table and to help them to be heard.