Editor’s Note: This post is an excerpt from Courtney Stanley’s new column, That’s What She Said, in Meetings + Incentive Travel magazine.
We are often told to accept the things we cannot change, but neglect to exert the courage to change the things we can. And really, how do we know the difference between what is in our control and what is not? If the year 2016 taught our world anything, it was that if we do not take a stand and cast our vote, we have silently agreed to live in a society where unpopular, outdated, and at times, exclusive and offensive perspectives become reality, and in turn, become law.
Between the shock of both the Brexit and United States election outcomes, it is safe to say that most people are ready for a fresh start. In truth, this clean slate we glamourize every January is not a catalyst for change; it is simply a way of sweeping recurring problems under a very dirty rug. Let’s do a bit of spring cleaning, shall we?
2017 is the 100th anniversary of celebrating a woman’s right to vote in the province of Ontario. That means that technically speaking, for the past 100 years, the voice of one woman has been considered equal to the voice of one man—on paper.
Beyond paper, women are still fighting to have their voices heard. Did you know that in co-ed audiences, a woman is three times more likely to be interrupted than a man? Interruptions are often used to display power or dominance. Not only does our industry serve to create environments of collaboration, idea-sharing and discussion, but we are also a community that is significantly dominated by female professionals. Therefore, we have a tremendous opportunity to change what the world considers normal.
With the help one of the industry’s most successful businesswomen, Annette Gregg, vice-president of Corporate West, AlliedPRA, I identified a handful of powerful strategies to create a level playing field and ultimately change the game.
Short Sounds Confident
You have to be able to get your point across in four bits or less. The brain cannot entertain more than four thoughts at one time, so speaking concisely will help with clarity and retention of the information being presented. In addition, an audience loses both attention and confidence when the speaker over-explains an idea or concept.
Get Out of Your Own Head
Seriously, get out. You were hired for a reason. You are sitting at the table with a purpose. Remind yourself that you have value and experience to contribute to the conversation, and that your group will not make as much progress without your input.
The “Amplification” Method
Last year, the Washington Post ran an article about a meeting strategy that female staffers in the U.S. White House use called “amplification.” Reporter Juliet Eilperin explained that “when a woman made a key point, other women would repeat it, giving credit to its author. This forced the men in the room to recognize the contribution—and denied them the chance to claim the idea as their own.” This concept is all about strategic support. We live in a world where women are known to compete with one another, not lend a helping hand. Amplification allows women to advance not only their own agenda, but also foster a culture of teamwork.
Pick Your Boardroom Battles
It is important to have an opinion, but you shouldn’t battle to be heard on every subject. The time to fight is when you are an expert on the topic being discussed. Contribute most to the subjects and issues you have experience with; this is when your team needs your input most.
Data Always Wins
Women tend to indulge in self-sabotage by getting distracted due to a fear of not being liked by everyone. As community-builders, women have a habit of aiming to sustain an environment where everyone gets along. Instead of worrying about sounding “too pushy” or “too opinionated,” leverage data. Do your research before you come to the table, and then convey the facts. Data is power. People like data.
Let’s stop talking and start being heard. The fact of the matter is, our community, inclusive of both men and women, holds a colossal amount of power to change the world. The rug has been lifted and the grime is exposed. This year, we reinvent what is normal.
Are you in?
Courtney Stanley is a marketing and business development strategist. Recognized as one of the meeting industry’s top young leaders, she sits on Meeting Professionals International’s International Board of Directors. @LadyPhenomena