Gender communication expert, Claire Damken Brown, Ph.D. urges women to speak out and get their voices heard to build their credibility as leaders. Claire became interested in gender dynamics while working in the male-dominated technical industry at AT&T in the late-70’s and early-80’s. She earned two degrees in gender communication and co-wrote four books before contributing to Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life.
Claire did her first interview on “Conversations with Smart Amazing Women” to discuss her book, Code Switching: How to Talk So Men Will Listen. This book and conversation examined the different ways men and women speak. Men are very direct, use and expect one-word responses, women want the story behind the answer. Relationship building and collaboration lie behind women’s communication, while men communicate to get the job done. Both men and women must understand their differences and adapt to create a productive workplace.
Women’s Workplace Issues Yesterday and Today
In this conversation, Claire discusses changes she has seen since her early days at AT&T. Largely in those days, the issue was equal pay for equal work. Today, even though the pay discrepancy has moved a bit closer, men still head the larger corporations and the issues are still the same.
One thing that has changed is harassment in the workplace. Claire notes that it is still rampant; we read about a major case being settled every week. Today, however, it’s not just men harassing women; it’s women harassing women and men harassing men. Bullying has become a common term and people are dealing with it at all levels in the workplace. Dr. Nancy points out that when we spend eight hours working together, it becomes a family, and it’s up to the leadership to develop a culture of integrity and the kind of company and product you are proud to add your name to.
“Power Up: Three Ways to Build Credibility and Make Yourself Heard”
Claire’s essay in Leading Women addresses a major issue for women leaders. To be seen as a leader, a woman must speak out and make her voice heard. She relates how she felt when she had an idea stolen in a meeting. She actually thought this was just something talked about in school books, so she was stunned when it happened to her. To address the issue, she shares strategies for recapturing the idea:
- Bring attention back to yourself
- Buddy up with someone in advance and have them bring the attention back to you
- Seek help from the meeting facilitator.
This final point, however, she warns might not work. The facilitator often gets caught up in the meeting and doesn’t control the flow of dialogue. It is most important to speak out for yourself. That’s why she stresses that the only way to be perceived as a leader is to express your idea clearly and make sure your voice is heard.
Dr. Nancy says the point to Leading Women is to create a supportive, collaborative kind of environment: women supporting women and men supporting women. With the book, a collaboration of 20 very accomplished women leaders contributed their expertise freely to help lift up other women. Claire says that she has given the book to several male colleagues, so they can better understand the issues of women in life and the workplace.
To find out more about Dr. Claire Damken Brown’s work in diversity management and gender communication, her books and her company, Damken Brown and Associates, check out her website and link with her on Linked In.