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Businesses all over the world are attempting to close the gender gap by introducing gender equality statements or initiatives, some of which are now showing quantifiable results like Unilever UK and Ocado. Despite this, it is apparent that many businesswomen still face challenges or feel under confident when it comes to their role in the workplace.
RADA Business recently conducted research into the views and experiences of business people across the UK and the findings emphasised this point and uncovered specific areas of adversity.
The research revealed that women in business face several challenges when trying to communicate as confidently as men – worryingly just 8% of women said they find it easy to make their voice heard at work, compared to 15% of men. In fact, 35% of women said they feel nervous to negotiate a pay rise, compared to 25% of men and 44% of women feel anxious in a job interview, whereas just under a third of men said this made them feel anxious (31%).
So, where are businesses going wrong? Well, firstly there is no point in companies employing these gender equality proposals if they are not providing an outlet for these skills, or an environment where women feel encouraged to communicate their credibility and assurance. Having a gender-balanced workforce and providing initiatives is one step, but it is then essential to equip women at all stages of their career with the skills and techniques to tackle specific challenges and communicate with authority, authenticity and impact in their professional roles.
By applying some of the practices RADA uses to train its actors, businesswomen can make the most of their communication skills and make their desired impact within the company. So how would we recommend communicating with confidence in the workplace, particularly when dealing with potentially dominating and aggressive behaviours?
Our physical responses influence the decisions we make. Therefore, when it comes to body language it is important to take up space and avoid looking down, as this can portray a lower status. Eye contact signifies trust, so it is vital when communicating to connect with others in the room.
Unlocking the power of your voice is key – and so is speaking up. We help women to develop the ability to state their intentions with confidence, and most importantly, to hold their space. After all, what you do with your body will show up in your voice.
Despite the clichés we have all seen about the business world, it isn’t necessary to have the loudest voice in the room. But experimenting with a lower pitch can give you more gravitas and is likely to make whatever is being said land with more impact. We would also advise avoiding raising your voice at the end of a sentence, as this can signal that you are seeking approval and weaken the strength of your point.
It is just as important to pause when speaking to allow time for the message to land effectively, to let others know what is being said is important and needs to be heard by everyone.
It is amazing how small shifts in physicality and voice can positively impact the conversation. These simple yet effective acting techniques can help women to build resilience, be heard and achieve their goals more effectively in the workplace.