Women in the US earned 36.8% of MBAs in 2010-2011. And, yet, women earned less than men in 99% of all occupations. So while we as women have been encouraged to further our education, we realize that this is only one component to achieving true career success with commensurate pay as men do. One reason for this pay discrepancy between men and women researchers assert is the fact that women are more likely to correlate job success with finding their job meaningful whereas men focus more on compensation. However, I would argue that women definitely appreciate fair compensation just as much as men. As a result, I believe that there is something else that is holding women back on climbing up the higher pay scale ladder. Namely, they’re not exercising their vocal cords consistently and persistently.
What I see in corporate meetings is women not speaking up even though they are highly qualified to be contributing to the meeting topic. A case in point is a recent meeting for an action team I’m working with as an executive coach. The action team is 50% women and 50% men. As we were discussing the team’s implementation plan priorities, the men were readily sharing their ideas. The women were silent. Then finally one of the women decided to participate by raising her hand. I called on her since her male team members didn’t register her raised hand. I should note that I can easily vouch for these men. They’re definitely not sexist, but totally enthusiastic about the organization they work for and making things happen.
This team meeting wasn’t just a one off. I’ve seen women at plenty of other meetings raise their hand before they speak, just as they were taught in school. The school approach just doesn’t work anymore in the corporate world. Women have an opportunity to change the corporate game if they speak up – without raising their hand. Studies show that because men speak up more in the workplace, they’re more likely to have opportunities to promote themselves and their accomplishments, which can lead to better raises and positions. I would also assert that speaking up will help women find even more meaning and satisfaction in their job.
The important question then is – how do you break the habit of always raising your hand before speaking? Well, short of tying your hands together, here are two simple steps:
I would love to hear your thoughts on the above or let me know what your tips are for helping women to learn to speak up for themselves.