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She Is Not the Only Woman at the Table Anymore

Today, we are experiencing some change in the demographics of the boardroom.

Key points

  • While women had previously been alone in boardrooms, it's not the case to the same extent any longer.
  • I encourage women to talk first in meetings, to establish their seriousness.
  • The corporate world is headed in the right direction, although not as fast as many desire.
 Photo by fauxels from Pexels
Source: Photo by fauxels from Pexels

For thirty-five years, I have served as a consultant to organizations that wish to recruit, retain and increase the number of women at the helm. Many women have shared with me the feeling that they are under a microscope. Women know they are scrutinized, and people are watching every word she says and the moves she makes. She struggles to get the floor and keep it to express her ideas. Today, we are experiencing some change in the demographics of the boardroom. She may not be the only woman at the table.

At the 73rd Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado, Boulder, Microsoft executive Gavriella Schuster gave the opening keynote address. She discussed her experiences with sexism in the workplace and the need for allies. Ms. Gavriella revealed that, even in meetings before the pandemic started, she was sometimes the only woman in a room full of men who did not listen to or acknowledge her ideas. Her plea was to enlist people into "disrupting the system and pursuing gender equity." She went on to say that her experience was "like wearing an invisibility cloak." And it was not like the cloak of invisibility in Harry Potter. It felt the opposite of empowering and magical.

In January, the White House became more diverse when Kamala Harris took office as vice president. There are 141 women in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Many public, corporate entities already comply with what NASDAQ is asking, according to CNN Business. In fact, four out of the five largest companies on the stock exchange, in terms of market value, have boards on which straight white men are in the minority. A NASDAQ spokesperson believes 85 percent of its 3,249 listed companies meet their first criteria of the rule, having either one woman or one underrepresented minority on their boards.

Val Right, a contributing writer to Biz Journal, argues that both women and men can ease the comfort level for women and promote diversity and inclusion. When women feel an organization is sensitive to everyday communication and critical decision-making of who is invited to have a seat at the table, they choose to stay.

For example, both women and men can focus on business when talking to women. It is not essential to talk about fashion, what shoes someone is wearing, or family matters. The talk should revolve around business insights. Think about it. When was the last time you heard a man say to another man, "nice shoes"? Men should engage women in important business such as their competition, the latest products, and the last board meeting directives.

Women can take responsibility for their credibility by communicating concisely and without hesitation. She can speak succinctly, use fewer adjectives and adverbs. I suggest women speak first or second because it demonstrates a take-charge attitude and a sense of self that will not be questioned. Her voice should also be loud enough so everyone at the table can hear her. And, finally, no high pitch little girl voice. Yes, you can talk in a lower octave.

The corporate world is headed in the right direction, although not as fast as many desire. More of the corporate world has recognized the best talent and the most competent person is not always a white male.


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