How do women talk too much, but never get heard?
Updated: Apr 18, 2018
Something that stuck with me after reading "Why Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps" was that women use more words per day than men. Some estimates put it at 13,000 more words per day! With a little digging though, I found that the current consensus is that men and women statistically use the same amount of words per day.
While I was still under the spell of believing women were more verbose, I started questioning HOW women use their word quota. History tells us that women are hesitant to tell or record their own stories, and every-other Havard Business Review article tells us women are loathe to give themselves due credit for their own work. If our collective goal is equity in the workplace and society, maybe we should be using our language quota a little more thoughtfully?
A first step is for those that identify as women, or advocates for those that identify as women, to recognize that advertising one's contributions does not always come naturally to someone no matter the gender. Perhaps we can use our word quota to recognize the efforts of those not naturally "tooting their own horn?" An easy place to do this is when introducing a colleague to someone new. Simply, highlight a recent accomplishment of the person you are introducing. This is a good place for the newly introduced to start a conversation, and it shows that you value that individual's work.
Example: Simply say "Hi, Tom, have you met Krisitina? Kristina works for XYZ company, and recently reviewed the entire Fabaceae nomenclature at her organization."
This should be GENUINE. No one gains anything by promoting work that is sub-par, or inaccurate. The goal is equal recognition of contributions, not distorted recognition.
Outside of bringing attention to achievements in the workplace, women are pretty mum about bringing their issues to the forefront. My role in Women in Horticulture allows me to speak with women one-on-one about what is challenging them. In this setting, we are comfortable being open and honest: sexual harassment, pay discrepancies, "man-splaining" running rampant, and lack of respect for women in physically challenging roles all make the list of complaints regularly.
I am thrilled that we now have a group where these problems can be shared in a safe environment. Discussing this with a friend, she explained its value:
"Sometimes putting these problems out loud helps you as the storyteller reflect on the issue, realize that maybe it's not an issue unique to you and instead part of a larger systemic issue, and start coming up with solutions."
Now that we are telling our stories to each other, how do we start telling them publicly, and ultimately "start coming up with solutions?"