By Samantha McKenzie
An old colleague of mine told me that she attended a meeting during her first weeks on the job and sat quietly through a high-level discussion. She was new, so she listened intently, observed all of the players and took notes. When she returned to her office, her manager said, “Let me give you one piece of advice. Either you appear or you disappear in these meetings. Make sure you add your input next time.”She was smart. She was confident. She was full of solutions. It would be the last time she held back during a meeting, and it was the one lesson that helped her quickly move up in the organization. Lesson learned.
I grew up in the short moments it took her to tell that story. It pushed me to speak up more during work meetings and share my ideas. It helped me understand that not all of my advice was going to be accepted, but that I had an obligation to offer it anyway. It allowed me both the space and the privilege to know what it takes to become part of a team and understand that everyone has value at the table. Everyone does.
But this behavior that women often display isn’t unusual. Study after study has shown that women are interrupted more than men during meetings; that men account for 75% of the conversations; that even when women speak less they are perceived to have spoken more; and that male execs who talk more than their peers are viewed to be more competent, while female execs are viewed as less competent. One study noted that women talk more in less structured, more cooperative environments and when there is less fear of being perceived as overbearing, women find their voice.
Either you appear or you disappear. This doesn’t mean you should blurt out random, nonsensical statements at your next staff meeting. It simply means that if you have ideas and solutions for a project, then you should not hesitate to share them. You are there to be a contributor, so contribute.
This goes for social settings as well. It’s okay to speak up and add something to a conversation, even when it may be controversial. You’d be surprised how your experiences can make a difference in someone else’s life. Families, friendships and businesses grow because of diverse thought. Having a difference in opinion is a healthy component to advancement. Interjecting your perspective is just another way of being innovative and thinking outside of the box. So it’s highly encouraged. What are you waiting for? It’s time we all appear more in our respective circles: Our families, our businesses, our country truly need us.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world…
by Marianne Williamson