How to Speak Up For Yourself And Underrepresented Groups on International Women’s Day and Beyond
Originally featured by LinkedIn:
It’s International Women’s Day, and LinkedIn is focused on supporting gender equity in the workplace, and to teach organizations and employees to prioritize access and investment in new opportunities for women. We’re partnering with Jessica Chen, top LinkedIn Learning Instructor, Emmy-Award Winner, and CEO of Soulcast Media, to share how we can all build support for underrepresented groups and help employees build speaking confidence in the workplace.
For those who identify as a minority or a member of an underrepresented group, speaking up in the workplace can feel challenging. Many barriers affect how we show up and how we are perceived, including conflicting cultural and gender norms and stereotypes that hurt our ability to showcase our capabilities. According to a recent survey, over 50% of employees feel uncomfortable speaking up at work. As a minority, this friction can feel even more significant. While considerable work is being done to bring awareness and drive solutions to create a more equitable workplace, more work remains.
Learning how to advocate for ourselves, elevating our communication skills, and creating an inclusive speaking environment are some of the best things we can do to create a more productive workplace for all. My new LinkedIn Learning course, Speaking Up for Yourself and Underrepresented Groups, sheds light on some of the communication friction rarely discussed by underrepresented professionals. This course also offers strategies for what we can all do to be part of the change and build a more inclusive workplace.
Here are three things we can do to speak up for ourselves and underrepresented groups to build a more equitable workplace for all.
1. ADVOCATING FOR OURSELVES
When we think about the things we care about: our family, friends, and community, we advocate for them because we care. However, when it comes to supporting ourselves, it can sometimes feel challenging. For example, if we identify as an underrepresented professional, we can feel an additional layer of cultural, societal or familial pressure that can cause us to feel less confident speaking up. But the truth is, if we want our ideas heard, we have to get comfortable speaking up for ourselves. It’s how we can build visibility for more coveted opportunities. To feel confident advocating for ourselves, here are a few tips:
- World Of Dualities – Identify why it may feel difficult to advocate for ourselves. For example, many of us can see how principles which are anchored in the culture we grew up in can sometimes feel contradicting to the reality we work in. For instance, in many East Asian cultures, there is considerable emphasis on principles such as harmony, humility, respect, and diligence. We’re told not to boast or share our genuine opinions, especially with those older, because we’re afraid of coming off as disrespectful. Or, as women, we were told to be agreeable and to raise our hands for all projects. However, when applied in the working world, what happens is us being assigned office housework. Thinking about some of these dualities is how we can approach work with more strategy.
- Mindset – To advocate for ourselves, we must also shift our thinking. The truth is, no one thinks about our career growth more than we do. Therefore, it is up to us to find the most suitable ways to share our accomplishments. It’s essential to turn our thinking around by seeing how advocating for ourselves is a form of self-care. We are giving ourselves the recognition we deserve, just like we would for those we care about.
2. COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES
Speaking up at work is important for building visibility, which is critical for unlocking more opportunities. However, doing it with tact is important. Here are a few tips to help us speak up for ourselves at work:
- SAW Framework. This is a way to structure our communication and messaging to get others to see what we’re doing and why it matters.
- S – Strong Case – Building a solid case means discussing our accomplishments with others. We have to lead with why others should care. Be sure to tailor this to the audience. Making a strong case isn’t a one size fits all model. If we can answer the question, “what does the other person care about,” we will gain the ear of others and build a strong case.
- A – Align Objectives – The next is to communicate how our work and accomplishments align with the stakeholders’ objectives. For many, money, time, resources, and deliverables are top of mind. However, if we can call out how our work aligns with our teams and our managers, they will see our value much more clearly.
- W – Why You – Advocating for ourselves must include a “you” element. This is where we now loop in why we were able to accomplish the project and why we were so successful. Don’t be afraid of shining a light on yourself. If not you, who else?
3. CREATING INCLUSIVE SPEAKING ENVIRONMENTS
Whether we lead a team or not, it is up to all of us to create an environment where everyone can feel comfortable speaking up. We can all proactively create a safe space to empower our team, including other underrepresented groups, so they have a place to share their thoughts freely. Here are a few things to practice:
- Build Psychological Safety – Psychological safety is a shared belief that when someone on our team expresses an idea or concern, they won’t be rejected, embarrassed, or punished for speaking up. Those who work in a psychologically safe space tend to work in a higher-performing team.
- Opportunity – To create an inclusive speaking environment, we want to ensure everyone has the same chance to share the floor. If we notice either ourselves or others have been speaking up a lot and others haven’t had an opportunity to chime in, we can close our thoughts and open the floor to someone else. Asking a question is a great way to invite dialogue.
- Paving The Way – We may have a colleague who feels uncomfortable speaking up in meetings. If we sense that, we can work with them to build the foundations for speaking up together. An example is to invite them to share their thoughts when in meetings. For example, we can say, “I know Julie has a great idea about how we can fix this problem; Julie, would you like to share what we discussed last week?” Another way is if we’re in a closed meeting, we can shine a light on others even though they’re not there. For example, “Ben has been doing a great job leading this project. I’ve been impressed with how he’s handled it.” Doing this will pave the way for underrepresented colleagues to contribute and get noticed.
Level up your communication skills while championing gender equity in the workplace by learning more from Jessica Chen in her course, Speaking Up for Yourself and Underrepresented Groups.