5 Ways Successful Women Make Their Voices Heard at Work, According to a Speaking Expert

two women talking at work

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Megan Hamilton729
Speaking, Visibility and Confidence Expert
April 16, 2024 at 12:42AM UTC

I’m not going to lie to you, when I was asked to write a piece based on this article, “Male CEOs get paid more when they have deep, “manly” voices”, I couldn’t wait to dig in (after the initial desire to chuck my laptop out the window and scream “Smash the patriarchy!” subsided a little).

This is my jam. And at the same time, it’s infuriating, an uphill battle and an endless source of material.

When clients come to me and tell me “my voice is too high pitched, I need to lower it,” I always ask the question: “For who?”

I believe, fiercely, that your voice is your voice, and society’s reaction to your voice is not your problem.

What even is a “strong voice”?

But on the other side, I also know that learning how to speak using your Optimum Pitch (or at the very least, learning how to speak using your body supportively), almost always naturally lowers the pitch of your voice, gives you the vocal power to be commanding and can also give others the impression that you are confident. 

As the article says, speaking in a lower voice doesn’t change your formant dispersion, i.e. the perception of your physical strength, but it does often, especially for women, allow you to speak with more volume and resonance, which can affect both you and your audience. 

You know when you hear your voice go up in pitch when you’re nervous? And that makes you nervous? The same can be true for listening to your voice in its more natural, resonant element. You sound confident, you feel confident.

You can’t change the patriarchy in a day.

We know that for thousands of years, women’s voices have been ostracized. We’ve been kept back from bigger roles in a society that has been conditioned to believe that men’s voices sound more authoritative. And we know that it’s a stereotype, and not based on reality. (In fact, the conditioning of voices is fascinating, but is a huge topic for another post.)

Where sometimes articles like this can feel like we’re swimming up only to be met with brick walls, it’s important to remember that we might not be able to fight societal perception, but we can be the amazing, incredible and powerful people it is our birthright to be and earn our positions of authority. Here’s how.

1. Use your physicality to hold space for yourself. 

Stand with your feet shoulder or hip-width apart, shoulders relaxed, head toward the ceiling, taking deep breaths. Being in your body and taking up space gives both you and your audience the perception of strength. It also creates the best framework for using a strong voice by keeping you open so that your voice can resonate.

2. Create clear boundaries for how you will be treated, and stick to them.

Perpetual interrupter knocking you off balance during presentations? Call them out: “Hey X, you keep interrupting me and I’d like to be able to focus on my presentation. I’ll be taking questions and comments when I’m done.” Got somebody who frequently stops by your desk to chat? Let them know what works for you: “When I’m at my desk, I’m focused on getting my work done. Want to schedule a coffee chat in the break room later on?” Try to be direct and not use language to “soften the blow.” That comes off as passive-aggressive (unintentionally), and really doesn’t solve the problem.

3. Use that voice of yours.

Speak up! Do you see injustice at work? Call it out. Got an opinion on something? Say it. See an error somewhere? Correct it. For some of us, speaking plainly and clearly can feel like we may as well be yelling in ALL CAPS, but truthfully, it’s effective and increases your visibility at work if you speak up.

4. Say yes to presentations and conference talks.

If you’re not used to giving speeches, it can feel like a daunting task, but the more comfortable you feel talking in front of groups, the more your confidence will build. And if you feel like you need help, hire a speaking coach to guide you into feeling presentation-ready.

5. Ask for what you deserve.

This holds true for your financial compensation, but also extends to things like how much overtime is expected, whether you’re asked to do work outside of your portfolio, whether or not you have family obligations you’re asked to work over. You have to be willing to accept that there might be a standoff, but if you don’t carve out your path, somebody else will do that for you.

As I always say in my workshops, you’re not going to dismantle patriarchy while presenting your quarterly figures. But you can change how you present yourself, where your boundaries lie and your expectations for what you deserve. More often than not, others will believe about you what you yourself believe.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for speaking up at work? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

This article was written by a Fairygodboss contributor.

Megan Hamilton is a speaking, visibility and confidence expert in Kingston, Ontario. She’s a classically trained actor as well as a professional musician with 5 recordings, having toured across Canada and into the US. You can learn more at www.ubuskills.com.

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