For women executives, having your voice heard in the boardroom isn’t always as easy as it sounds. Unfortunately, women in C-Suite positions (or working to get there) always have to work just a little bit harder. In fact, only about 16% of fortune 500 board seats were occupied by women in the year 2012, and that number has only increased by about 2% since then. There have been various surveys and studies that show why it may be harder for a woman’s voice to be truly to be heard in a boardroom.

One of the facts that came out of these surveys was that most women executives often felt as if their opinions weren’t taken as seriously as their male counter parts. The interesting part of this is that their male colleagues were completely unaware of how their C-Suite female colleagues felt. In fact, they felt that everyone was heard equally regardless of their gender.  This can make things a bit harder because it’s hard for a company to improve on something that they’re not aware of or acknowledge. However, there are simple skills that you can add to your personal development that will help your voice be heard loud and clear in boardroom meetings.

Here are five simple ways women in C-suite positions can have their voices heard:

  1. Embracing Certain Stigmas Given To Strong Women

 When women executives show persistence, assert themselves, and stand their ground, she is often labeled as pushy, bossy, stubborn, hardened… BITCH! Instead of snaring when people use these words to describe you, embrace them. If standing up for what you believe in, and do anything you have to do to succeed makes a bitch, that’s a label you need to wear proudly.

Embracing these labels and using them to your advantage takes away the power of the stigma that these labels put on women in C-Suite positions. Learning to embrace words like pushy and bossy will give you the confidence you could be lacking in the boardroom. The next time you are in the boardroom wear the word BITCH like a badge of honor and assert yourself to the top.

If you know people are thinking the word “bitch” while you’re speaking and it makes you feel inadequate, the confidence level in your voice will drop. If you don’t sound confident, no one will take you seriously. However, if you’re able to look everyone dead in their eye and be proud of how “pushy or bossy” you’re being, the confidence in your voice will be strong, and people will want to listen to what you have to say.

  1. Body Language

 Believe it or not, body language does play an important role for your personal development and image in the boardroom. If you’re feeling a bit unsure of yourself on the inside, your body language will show it on the outside. The right type of body language can potentially have the whole room listening intently to what you have to say. Even little things can make a difference like making sure you sit up straight, or resisting the urge to fidget in your seat.

It’s actually a proven fact that people will pay more attention to what someone is saying if they are moving around, rather than staying still throughout a speech. When you are ready to speak, position yourself so that you can move back and forth as you are talking to your colleagues. You don’t have to constantly be moving, that can become too distracting.

If you are nearing an important detail, you can take a couple of steps towards your colleagues, and walk away as the important detail diminishes. This will help draw attention to important points or details that you specifically want heard. Don’t be afraid to talk with your hands a bit either. It shows confidence, and you don’t want to seem too stiff. Don’t get carried away, you don’t want your colleagues to be distracted by overzealous hand gestures.

Your body language and image is the first thing people see. Sylvie Di Giusto is the executive image consultant that will agree you have 7 seconds, make them count.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid To Speak Up

 It is extremely important for women executives to speak up during boardroom meetings. Don’t be afraid to call attention to yourself if you have a question, or something to say that wasn’t scheduled. Your voice should be loud enough to fill the room, and steady enough to ensure confidence. Although it’s important for your voice to be heard loud and clear, as someone in a C-Suite position it’s also important to make sure you’re not yelling.

Does this sound familiar? You’re in a board meeting and have something to say, but you hold back because you have doubt and uncertainty in your response. You don’t want to look weak. Then someone else in the meeting says it… and you say to yourself “That’s what I wanted to say.” But you didn’t!

When you speak up you need to as relaxed as possible so you don’t start stumbling over your words and stuttering. Your goal should be to get your point across quickly and clearly, but don’t rush through what you’re saying. If you start to speak as if you are in a race, no one will remember anything you said long enough for it to make an impression. Practicing this can go a long way for women executives trying to make improvements to their personal development. Making a memorable impression is always a good thing, so don’t be afraid to assert yourself and be the first one to speak up.

  1. Early Bird Gets The Worm

When you have any type of boardroom meeting, you should always make it a point to show up about 10 minutes early, whether you’re a woman or a man in a C-Suite position. You can use that time to set up and take everything in so you are relaxed and on top of your game. And grab that power seat facing the door. It also shows dedication as well as respect, and punctuality is important for the personal development of any woman in a C-Suite position. Taking the initiative to show up a bit earlier will also help you leave an impression. It’s hard to keep forgetting someone that is always the first one to show up.

  1. Use Your Words Wisely

This is something that can help anyone in a C-Suite position. Your choice of wording can often determine whether a person is turned on or off by what you’re saying. People will naturally focus in on certain keywords, and the words they focus in on will determine their impression of what you are saying.

For example, if you were to say, “We always do the same thing, and I just thought this time we could try something completely different.” The word always will compel people to argue the point that they don’t always do the same, repetitive thing, and that’s where their focus will end up. The phrase I just thought, sounds like you’re unsure of the proposal or statement you’re making, which will cause others to be uncertain of you. Last but not least, the term completely different will sometime immediately shut people down to your ideas. They might immediately start thinking, “we can’t just completely change what we’ve been doing and make it totally different because of one person’s opinion.” Once again the point of your statement will be lost.

However, if you change up the wording of your input, people may be a little bit more open to your ideas and opinions as women executive. A statement like that might get a better response if you change it to something like this, “We usually do things like this. However, it may benefit us to go in a different direction this time, and see where it takes us.” The word benefit, will immediately grab the attention of your colleagues because you’ll all want something you can benefit from. The phrase different direction, shows your thinking outside of the box, but doesn’t make others feel as if you want to completely abandon the original way of doing something. When you say something like, “let’s see where it takes us”, it gives others a sense of security because they do not feel as if they have to commit to anything immediately.

Learning how to word things can be a vital part of personal development for women executives, it can allow people to feel more comfortable listening to what you have to say.

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