“Didn’t I Just Say That?” What Does it Take for Women’s Voices to be Heard at Work?

Have you had this experience? You share an idea during a meeting and there’s no response; the discussion just moves on without anyone taking note. But a few minutes later, one of your male co-workers shares the very same idea and everyone jumps on it and starts discussing the brilliant idea. As you look around the table in confusion and disbelief, you ask yourself, “Didn’t I just say that?” You may even lean over towards the person next to you and whisper the same question. Your co-worker, if male, is likely to just shrug and give you a baffled look. If it’s another woman you’ve asked, she might indicate her awareness of the situation with a nod and look of resignation because it’s highly likely that she’s had the same experience herself. When I ask women who’ve worked in the corporate setting (and other settings as well) if something like this has ever happened to them, they almost invariably say yes. What is going on here? And, why is this such a common experience?

According to Deborah Tannen, a linguist and author of Talking From 9 to 5, How Women’s and Men’s Conversation Styles Affect Who Gets Heard, Who Gets Credit, And What Gets Done at Work, the communication styles of individuals and how they express ideas are at least as influential as the quality of the ideas themselves. Individual personalities, cultural factors, and socialization play an important role in communication styles. And, though not all men and women behave consistently along what we might characterize as gender lines, there are well-researched and documented gender differences in communication styles that can have a big impact on who gets heard, who has influence, and how satisfied people are with their ability to contribute in the workplace. Unfortunately, communication style differences often put women at a disadvantage when interacting with men and results in dissatisfaction and lost opportunities at the personal and organizational level.

The challenges women face in getting their voices heard, making the contributions they’re capable of, and reaping the resulting benefits for themselves and their organizations are not new but they remain current and worth addressing. The Deborah Tannen book referenced above was published 20 years ago and an article entitled Why Women Stay Quiet at Work by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant was published just last month by The New York Times. Let’s keep the discussion going and identify some useful strategies for getting our voices heard at work (and other places where it’s important for women to be heard).

Please join us on February 27th for the first Women’s Leadership Roundtable of the year to discuss our options for creating lives of meaning and purpose and planning for the rest of our lives. It’s never too early or too late to engage in thoughtful and dynamic conversations about the future.

Please note: This is a “brown bag” event, and it is recommended that participants bring their lunch to eat during the roundtable. We’ll also have beverages and snacks to share. The Women’s Leadership Roundtable is a facilitated open forum for women, as leaders of themselves and others, to discuss relevant issues, build community and network, collaborate with, learn from, and support one another. It provides an opportunity for women to share their experiences, engage in thought-provoking discussion, and to generate ideas and growth together. The roundtable is an ongoing event, open to the public, held on the 3rd Friday of the month from January through October in a Denver area location. You are encouraged to attend as frequently as possible and bring your ideas, issues, and interests to the discussion. There is a $10 charge for the roundtable, paid in advance when registering online, and a $12 charge when paid at the door. A discounted rate is available for those wishing to register for an entire year of roundtables. For additional information contact Karen McGee at 303 503-9681.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *