Q: As a manager, how can I help the women on my team find opportunities to gain confidence, find their voice and speak up to contribute to my organization?
A: Women are reentering the workforce at significantly higher rates, and of course, are interested in career development. Unfortunately, managers all too often tend not to support women by helping them find their voice within the organization.
At WOMEN Unlimited, we have heard that many women fail to receive the development guidance and support they need to position themselves for promotions and build their careers. When this support is not present in an organization, it limits their contributions – especially as more workplaces are moving to fully remote models. Moreover, with almost a quarter of women feeling overlooked in virtual meetings, it’s clear something needs to change when it comes to empowering women to speak up, add their important voice and contribute to the workplace.
As a manager, it’s your responsibility to think about ways you can support the growth and development of women and other underrepresented people in your organization. This means allowing and encouraging them to have the confidence to share their insights and opinions where it matters most. Here are three ways you can look for opportunities to help women – in any role – share their expertise and points of view in the workplace.
Pull them out of the 1:1
If there’s one thing I’ve heard from managers time and time again, it’s that they hear amazing ideas from the women on their team when meeting with them 1:1, but when they’re in larger group meetings, they tend to be more reticent to share their ideas and perspectives. Often, it’s because they’re waiting for permission to speak instead of jumping into the conversation – but simply encouraging them to “jump in” isn’t enough.
When the women on your team contribute meaningfully during your 1:1 meetings, give them validation that their insights have value in a larger context, and let them know when and where – in larger group settings – they should share that knowledge so more people can learn from them. Incrementally giving them opportunities to share their opinions where it’s valued will go a long way. They will feel empowered because you have let them know you feel they’re capable of conveying their ideas well.
Position their value
When you empower the women on your team to speak up and share their thoughts, you’re not only enabling them to provide their points of view; you are also giving them visibility to key influencers within the organization. Their expertise, perspectives and knowledge are valued resources for the organization, and as a manager, you are uniquely positioned to encourage what your team members have to offer.
As a manager, you can elevate women’s voices by clearing the runway for them to be heard in the right rooms, by the right people and at the right time. It’s about them lending their advice and expertise as much as it is about making sure other members of your organization see and understand the value they bring to the table. By positioning the value the women on your team bring, key stakeholders can see it, and appreciate the ways women can provide insights and diverse opinions that ultimately lead to other positive outcomes. Hopefully, the women on your team will feel empowered to speak up more frequently, knowing they have your backing, and they will be better positioned for future promotions and other career-building opportunities.
Articulate your support
By encouraging women to share their thoughts and putting them in positions to do so in front of key influencers, you are showing you have confidence in their career and interests. As a leader, what you say matters, and telling these women that you’re going to help them to be heard, understood and valued is an important contribute that you can make to both the women and your company.
You have the ability, thanks to your role as a manager, to elevate women’s voices within your organization. If you have a member of your team who consistently contributes great insights, whether in 1:1 meetings or in larger groups, but it appears that those insights either fall on deaf ears or don’t reach the right individuals, don’t just sit back and accept it as “the way it is.” Work to uncover why your team members’ contributions don’t appear to be valued and tell the women on your team that you can and will go to bat for them. And do it.