I get this question a lot from women I work with: In a meeting—especially when it’s a room full of men (virtual or in person), how do you actually get your voice in there?
Women have been taught to be polite. We’ve been taught not to interrupt because it’s rude. We’re taught to “wait our turn” to speak. We’ve learned to wait for cues that it’s ok to speak. But the truth is, we’re often the only ones playing by these rules. And if we wait for someone to ask us to speak, it’s already too late.
If we want to be seen and heard at work—and therefore reap the rewards of being a full participant in our workplace, including being promoted, being asked to lead, literally having a voice at the table, we must learn to speak up.
In a recent interview for Rise & Shine (a new kind of public speaking school we’re building for women), we asked Janine Firpo, seasoned values-aligned investor and social innovator who has held senior positions at HP, The World Bank, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation amongst others, what she has learned about communicating as a woman so people listen and take you seriously. Here’s what Janine had to say about how to “get your voice in there”.
Excerpt from our interview with Janine Firpo:
Rebecca: “So Janine, you’ve had an impressive 37 year career working inside some big organizations. I’ve always been impressed by your speaking style and how you communicate. So the question I have for you is, what have you learned about how to get your voice in the room as a woman—especially when you’re in a room full of men?”
Janine: “The way you get your voice in there is you get your voice in there. Don’t wait for somebody to ask you your opinion. You don’t wait until there’s a lull in the conversation, you frickin interrupt. If you have to interrupt, you have to just say something with enough volume and enough passion or intention or power behind it, that it stops other people from talking. For some women, I know this is really hard to do. But you really often have to insert yourself or you won’t get the opportunity to speak. And if it’s uncomfortable, practice, practice outside of that situation first, and you will get better at it.
The way you get your voice in there is you get your voice in there.
“When it comes to being taken seriously, once I’m talking—particularly in a room of men—I’ve learned to use data and facts. Data and facts catch attention because they make stronger statements. Statements that have facts connected to them are stronger. By using data like this, it suggests that I know something about what I’m talking about because I am giving you data. So using facts, using data, sprinkling your conversation with that kind of information, helps you be heard and helps people begin to see you as an authority figure or an expert on something.”
When it comes to being taken seriously once I’m talking—particularly in a room of men, I’ve learned to use data and facts.
So what is the takeaway here? The takeaway is that we MUST speak up, whether that means interrupting or not. It may feel uncomfortable, but if we want to participate, sometimes this is the only option. And when we do speak, especially to men, use data to back up our points. Using data makes for stronger communication, and it makes others—especially men—listen.
You can watch the full interview with Janine here (scroll to the bottom). Our conversation covers not only communication style and how to be heard, but also speaks to how women can use their money to make the world a better place. Janine literally wrote the book on values-aligned investing. It’s called Activate Your Money: How To Grow Your Wealth and Build a Better World, and it is officially out on May 11. Preorder your copy here today.
If you’re looking for ways to improve your communication skills in the workplace so you can be seen, be heard, and be more visible as a leader, I encourage you to check out Rise & Shine. We’re a new kind of public speaking school for women ready to raise their voice for what they believe in. Think Toastmasters, but sexy and fun—and we build our speaking skills in community by talking about what matters to us.
If you’re curious if the Rise & Shine Circle is the right place for you, learn more and sign up for free.