Speaking Up Is a Mix of Skill and Will, for Both Men and Women

Speaking at the Women’s Alliance of Xerox annual meeting

What can help you speak up — for yourself, for your team, and for your ideas?

To “speak up,” you need a combination of skill and will.  This means that you’re clear about wanting to be heard by others, and that you have the basic public speaking skills (you speak loudly enough, your words can be understood, you pace what you’re saying, etc.) to take that leap, and get your message across.

Of course, skill and will can both be developed:

  • Shy people can become more determined.
  • People who are ambivalent about what they’re saying can become more clear.
  • And (this is the easiest challenge to fix) someone who lacks public speaking skills can build them.

Is It Harder for Women to Speak Up?

The skill + will equation applies to both men and women.

But because many women — certainly, women of my generation — were raised to be helpers rather than superstars, we face an additional barrier: the niggling fear that perhaps we shouldn’t speak up at all!

A surprising number of women from every generation and background have that secret self-doubt. And women may have to dig especially deep to find the will to speak up about our professional needs, goals, and accomplishments. That’s true even if we hold just a small bit of the unconscious idea that women shouldn’t have careers in the first place. (To assess your own hidden attitudes about this, take the 5-minute Gender and Careers Implicit Bias test.)

Helping Women at Xerox Speak Up

I explored this point — and shared best practices to help both men and women speak up — at the annual meeting of The Womens Alliance of Xerox last year.  (TWA wisely welcomes men who want to see their talented female colleagues succeed.)

I hope these tips help you speak up with more power and confidence.

And if you’re looking for more help, just contact me!

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