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How Women Can Be Heard in a Male-Dominated Field


group of men and women in business, be heard

Do you struggle to be heard at work? What’s the secret to making yourself heard in male-dominated industries?

Here is What I Did

I learned early on that I needed to know the technology inside and out. Not as good as my male counterparts but often better, so that I would be taken seriously at the conference table. In fact, I graduated with a communication systems management degree which was essentially a computer science degree with a focus on telecom in the early nineties. I took my first job designing LANs/WANs for a big 6 consulting firm. I quickly realized that I needed more in-depth technical knowledge so, after 3.5 years, I took a job with a computer training company that taught EE at the major telcos how to become Computer Engineers. 

I did this for two reasons:

  1. I wanted to deeply understand all the components of the OSI model
  2. I wanted to get comfortable public speaking

I did both and after I mastered Token Ring, ATMs, LAN Design and IP Addressing I left for the next endeavor. The story goes on with many twists and turns but at each milestone, I was sure to do 3 things well:

  • Understand the technology at-hand so I could effectively contribute
  • Built effective relationships that created win-win situations that often lead to my next position
  • Leveraged my voice to make an impact and contribution to the company goals

There is No Silver Bullet to Be Heard

Looking back I can’t say there is one secret, it really is more about a desire to be an impact player and working to make an impact with each project and position

. Women are interrupted twice as often as men in meetings.

Every team needs effective people and if you work hard, contribute often and ask for the steps to get promoted people seem to make that path a reality. If it does, I have been very comfortable parting-ways for opportunities and positions that provided an opportunity for me to make the impact I was prepared to make.

I find that change is good and being committed at a level that works for you and your career goals is an individual choice. You have the ability to exercise this choice as you see fit to align with your goals. 

Before You Make a Change – Try This

However, if you like the company you work for and feel challenged with your role but just wish you could be heard, try a few tips first. Eleanor Beaton offers Here Are 7 Tips to Have Your Voice Heard, and these three are easy ways to start:

  1. Sit in the power seat. One of the most powerful seats around any boardroom table is the middle spot on the long side, facing the door. Choose this seat when you can; you position yourself in the center of conversation making it easier for your voice to be heard.
  2. Get feedback on your meeting style. If you’re consistently being talked over, or are failing to effectively communicate your ideas in meetings, getting feedback from someone you trust is an asset. Choose one or two people who have seen you in action in meetings, and ask them to give you their blunt comments.
  3. Make direct eye contact and lean in. When you’re making a point, lean into the table, establish direct eye contact – and hold it for one or two seconds with your colleagues. People are less likely to interrupt when you directly engage them as you speak.
It is important to feel that your opinions are valued and that you are an active participant in the success of the department or company. Rather than go home at the end of the day, disappointed that someone else took credit for your work or you were ignored in a meeting; take a deep breath and speak up! You and the company will be better for it!

How Successful Women Network for Professional Growth 3 - http://bit.ly/TSWNetworking3

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