By Elizabeth Lions
Every women may know the feeling over being overlooked or run over in a meeting. No one likes it. Especially executive women.
Harvard Business Review surveyed more than 7,000 people, including female executives at or above the Vice President level. The consistent feedback was: the women feel less acknowledged during meetings.
While men agreed with this opinion, they disagreed with why women didn’t feel powerful.
Apparently, there is this thing called the ‘meeting before the meeting’ and women in executive positions hardly know this goes on. Men do. In fact, men have side bar conversations prior to a large meeting all the time. Doing this allows them to understand their peer’s position and support on an issue that will inevitably be brought up. It’s a political way of saving face, while knowing who your internal competitors are in the office.
Reading the article, I looked into my past moments of my own career and I distinctly remember being invited to one of these private meetings. A manager called me a day before a large staff meeting and asked me directly, “What is your opinion on this issue?” and “Here is what I’m willing to support.” Looking back it was smart on his part because I was clearly waving around a lot of hefty data points that could make him look bad. But I’ve gotta say, the conversation with the manager itself – with its brutal candor – surprised me. It made me feel included more than anything.
When I asked other Vice Presidents and Directors about this male driven practice, they agreed this was common, and the fact that I was invited to such a meeting meant I had certainly earned the right.
When HBR surveyed men, the comments about women in meeting were:
- Women need to be concise and to the point.
- We are afraid of how women will react to criticism.
- Women need to speak informally and off the cuff.
- Women are emotional and defensive when challenged.
On the flip side, women’s comments around meetings were:
- We don’t get feedback when we ask for it.
- We can’t get a word in during the meeting.
- It’s not emotion – it’s passion.
I’m not sure what the answers are for women to feel more powerful at work and to be heard, considering the above findings.
I do think we have some hard work ahead of us if this is the perception.