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You Have a Seat at the Table, Now Get Your Voice Heard

In light of Women's History Month, we are releasing a series of posts from women throughout Procore who are talking about their experience in tech, lessons learned and offering up some valuable advice.

As an executive coach of many leaders over the years, I have found a few common topics and challenges that my female leader clients face in their day-to-day leadership. A few of the comments I hear most often include:

  • “I finally have a seat at the table, but what can I do to get my voice heard?”
  • “I’m often overlooked in meetings when we are asked to contribute our thoughts, and can’t find an opening to jump in.”

Often times, women aren’t heard once they get that seat at the leadership table because there seems to be no space to contribute. Repeatedly, there can be dominating voices at this table, voices that are loud and talk incessantly. One suggestion, is to formulate a question about what you are hearing (versus trying to share your prepared speaking points). This may give you a boost in your confidence to jump in with what is being said and you can feel more ‘included’ with real-time relevance (dominating voices tend to be more open to you contributing when you can riff on what THEY are saying). Also, by popping in with a question, you invite a space for others to respond to you, creating an exchange that has you now in the conversation.

Additionally, I have found that having an ally in the room, someone whom you trust to help create that space for you, is very helpful. Let this advocate know in advance that you would like to have an opportunity to speak in the meeting, and if they see you struggling to find an opening to speak, they can verbally pause the conversation flow and ask if you have anything you would like to add. If this happens, be prepared to contribute!

Another common piece of feedback I’ve heard over the years with my female leader clients is:

“I’ve been told by some peers and leaders that I am too emotional.”

Let’s face it – the person making that claim is expressing that with emotion! All of us are always in some state of emotion. There are many different kinds of emotions; many different degrees of intensity with emotion. When someone tells you you’re too emotional, what they are really saying is, “I don’t like how I feel in reaction to what you just said and how you said it.” Calling you ‘too emotional’ often gets them off the hook of having to deal with how they feel.

One of my mentors once told me that complaints can be hidden requests – usually a sign that there is an investment or commitment. So, instead of being triggered by the statement “you’re too emotional,” I would invite you to consider a different mindset – one that allows you to consider that their complaint to you could actually be a request for your wisdom, your insights, your compassion.

I’ll close with a quote from one of my heroines, Eleanor Roosevelt:

“To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.”