Did you know that female representation drops at each level of advancement of corporate America, with the result that only 22% of C-suite roles are occupied by women? Importantly, the study that produced this finding also found that women and men stay at their companies and ask for promotions at similar rates. This means this disparity can’t be attributed to female workers leaving the company or demonstrating a lack of interest in advancement.
So what can you, as a professional woman do? While there are factors beyond your control, like cultural level gender bias, there are steps you can take to help level the playing field in your own professional situation. Check out these changes you can make to your communication style that can help project leadership and confidence and get you the advancement you deserve.
Stop Over-apologizing: The words you choose play a significant role in how others perceive you. One issue that is frequently seen among women is over-apologizing. While saying “I’m sorry” when you’ve done something wrong is common courtesy, apologizing in situations in which it isn’t warranted can negatively impact your perceived confidence and credibility. For example, “Can I ask you a question?” comes across much more confidently than “I’m sorry, can I ask you a question?” Before inserting an “I’m sorry”, make sure you’re actually doing something that requires an apology.
Cut Out “Just”: Inserting the word “just” in a sentence can undermine the importance of your message. For example, the sentences “I’m just following up on our conversation,” or “I just wanted to ask you a question,” would both sound much more direct and professional by taking out the word “just.”
Don’t Self-Deprecate: Women often feel compelled to “soften” their speech in a way that’s less common for men. While being polite is a great professional attribute, you may unknowingly be using language that’s subtly undermining your credibility. For example, starting a suggestion with “I’m not an expert, but…” or “I’m not sure if this is right, but…” or following it up with “Does that make sense?” convey the sense that you’re unsure of your own idea.
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