11/01/2011 0 Comments
The female executive in a male world
A senior executive I was recently working with wanted to gain more gravitas and credibility...
A senior executive I was recently working with wanted to gain more gravitas and credibility in her company. “It’s a male-dominated culture,” she said. “And while people are polite to me, I don’t get the respect that men get. Although I’ve achieved amazing things, no one seems to listen to me. Whereas, if it’s one of the male colleagues suggesting something, they will all listen to him and act on what he says. If I could sort this out, it would make a big difference.”
I asked her to talk about the company while I turned on the video camera. The qualities that came across were typical in many people I see – the voice was flat, she was speaking very fast, there was little expression in the eyes and she kept looking away as she spoke.
Fortunately, all these things are relatively easy to correct. What made the most difference for her was high status – keeping the head more still, keeping the body relaxed, the gestures economical (free of clutter and fidgeting) and a stronger eye contact.
Over the next few hours we worked on a number of techniques, constantly testing them on the video camera. By the end, she saw that it was not totally a gender issue: it was about the way she carried herself, how she looked when she spoke and what she sounded like. As we worked, she started to look more at ease in her skin, and with that she found the gravitas and effortless authority that she was looking for. At her next meeting, the men sat up and listened to her ideas.