SAWIE Mentorship Series: How to Get Your Voice Heard

By – Ms. Rinita Laskar, Director – Human Resources, Emerson Innovation Center

In the average business meeting, women’s participation is under 75% of that of men and chances are that both men and women are more likely to interrupt someone if that someone is a woman. There is no denying the fact that women continue to face significant barriers to equality, especially in those sectors that predominately male-dominated. Workplace cultures are often out of date and not designed to accommodate the needs of women, unconscious bias is pervasive and goes unaddressed, and women don’t receive the same level of sponsorship that often leads to success for their male counterparts.

Additionally, it has consistently been heard from women that they feel less effective in meetings than they do in other business situations. Some say that their voices are ignored or drowned out. Others tell us that they can’t find a way into the conversation; and their male colleagues and managers have witnessed the phenomenon. In fact, several men have also reported seeing a female colleague get rattled or remain silent even when she was the expert at the table.

In 2012, Harvard Business Review decided to take a systematic look at the issue whereby both male and female participants were to provide 360-degree feedback on “1,100 female executives at or above the vice president level.” What researchers found from the 7,000-plus surveys collected was “that men and women generally agreed on the problems but often disagreed on their causes.” Part of the problem is that female executives often find themselves outnumbered by male executives in the boardroom and C-suites, and it doesn’t help that woman, at all levels of the corporate ladder, have few role models and sponsors to encourage and support them during meetings, and especially throughout their careers.

Therefore, with that context, through this session of the SAWIE Mentorship Series, we had an open conversation around what are the factors that stop women to express themselves freely at workplace, and how we can better address those challenges to realise the full potential of the individual while positively contributing to the organisation at large.