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Supporting women to find their voices and be heard

Alison Sutherland

Barriers in the workplace still exist for many business women. We recently conducted research into the views and experiences of business people across the UK and discovered revealing insights around how women feel they are perceived compared to their male colleagues: 35 percent of women said they feel nervous to negotiate a pay rise, compared to 25 percent of men, and 44 percent of women feel anxious in a job interview, contrasted to 31 percent of men. Contributor Alison Sutherland, Client Director of the women’s portfolio – RADA Business.

Additionally, only 8 percent of women find it easy to make their voice heard at work in comparison to 15 percent of men – highlighting the need for women to learn the skills and techniques to confidently put themselves forward in the workplace. It’s clear that to overcome these challenges both individuals and businesses can work together. Businesses can begin to close the gender gap by introducing gender equality statements and initiatives and it’s encouraging to see that some gender equality work undertaken in business is now showing quantifiable results, like Unilever UK and Ocado.

However, a commitment to developing leaderships skills in women as they climb the career ladder is crucial too, so that they can maintain the belief and confidence in their own ability to thrive in the most senior positions – and to become mentors and role models for other women, to sustain a pipeline of female leaders.

By applying some of the practices to train actors, business women can enhance their own communication skills and make their desired impact within their company, particularly in male-dominated fields, to build gravitas and authority, help to communicate effectively with different audiences in different environments, and use storytelling to land a strong message.

What we do with our bodies will show up in our voices. When in meetings or giving presentations, take up the space you need. Avoid looking down or contracting to physically minimise your size as this can lower your status in a business environment. You need a strong base to operate from. Holding your space will help you to feel empowered in nerve-wracking situations.

Breathe. Feeling worried about something can have a profound effect on our breathing, making it harder to think clearly and act calmly. Take a moment and slowly breathe out and in to focus yourself.

Eye contact. Communicating is not solely about the words we speak: body language is a strong tool to employ. Eye contact is essential to connect to your colleagues, peers or audience. Look at people directly and maintain eye contact to ensure you are engaging with others, as this signifies trust.

Own your words. Take notice of the habits you have when you’re in high pressured environments. For example, do you ever raise your voice at the end of a sentence when you are not asking a question? This can signal that you are seeking approval. State your intentions and achievements with pride.

Timing is key. Allow time for your message to land. Once you have made a point, leave some space for others to think about it. This can be difficult as nerves make us rush but pausing will let people know that what you have to say is important enough to take a bit of time to consider it.

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