Over 70% of communications professionals in the U.S. are women, and as we become more senior in this industry, the percentage of women in leadership positions declines. Women enter the communications business in droves, but wind up slowly trickling out as opportunities become less equitable. This was a key topic at USC’s annual conference on leadership for women in communications, from which I walked away with tons of impactful learnings. The sessions covered everything from diversity and inclusion to gender parity in pay and self-advocacy in career development.

One of the most fascinating sessions addressed how our own language and communication style can serve to unwittingly undermine us. Research was presented around how women can often think through various layers before speaking (what is expected that I say, how do I defend what I think, how do I say it so that it assuages others) and the additional labor that this causes for women in all types of industries. In honor of Women’s History Month, I’m sharing some valuable insights and considerations for my women colleagues to start practicing speaking with confidence right away:

  • Going overboard explaining yourself – unproductive behaviors and language lead to gaps in self-trust later – don’t qualify your words unnecessarily. Context is essential and great, however being concise also reflects decisiveness and confidence in your work and abilities. Don’t explain yourself more than necessary, particularly over email.
  • Even as industry pros who put our clients in the best light, we often use disparaging language about ourselves. Think before you add “does that make sense?” and “is that OK?” to your sentence.  
  • Apologizing for no reason. This is a big one! Apologize when you truly owe someone an apology, not as filler or because you are taking on accountability that isn’t yours.

Cheers to Women’s History Month, and purposeful, confident speech!

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