As a woman or a member of a minority group, you may still face significant challenges in making your voice heard in the workplace. Despite organisational efforts towards greater diversity and inclusion, leadership roles remain underrepresented in these groups. This, combined with systemic biases and discrimination, can create barriers that limit your full participation and professional advancement.
It is not uncommon for your perspective, ideas and concerns to be dismissed, which can stifle your career growth and impact your overall sense of belonging and wellbeing at work. If you are a woman, a person of colour, an LGBTQ+ individual, or have a disability, you may find it especially difficult to have your voice heard in professional settings.
In fact, research shows that as a woman, you are likely to speak less in meetings compared to your male colleagues, but not by choice. This has been amplified by hybrid and remote working environments where virtual meetings are prevalent, with studies showing that women tend to get interrupted more often and are less likely to receive credit for their contributions in meetings. As a result, you may find it more difficult to contribute your ideas and opinions, and feel less empowered to do so.
The fear of facing pushback or backlash when you do speak up can contribute to a sense of self-doubt and imposter syndrome, which further reinforces the divide between men and women at work. As a woman or a member of a minority group, you may feel like you have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously, and the fear of not being heard or valued can be overwhelming. So, if you find yourself asking: “How do I find my voice in the workplace?”, you’ve come to the right place!
Finding your voice in the corporate world involves understanding the challenges you face, the key skills required to be heard and how to improve your influence at work. Let’s discover how to find your voice in the workplace…
What’s in this article?
- What challenges do minority groups face when voicing their opinions at work?
- What skills are essential to finding your voice in the workplace?
- 6 Ways to improve your influence at work
- How can FDM support you?
- It’s time to find your voice!
What challenges do minority groups face when voicing their opinions at work?
Societal prejudices against gender, race and other characteristics can seep into the workplace and lead to women and minority groups being left out of the conversation. Even though there are laws and policies in place to prevent discrimination in the working environment, you may sometimes find yourself excluded from certain situations. It’s important to recognise when this is happening and to advocate for yourself, as well as raise awareness and encourage others to be more inclusive.
Here are some of the challenges that, as a woman or a member of a minority group, you may face when voicing your opinions at work:
- Lack of representation: You may find yourself underrepresented at work, which can make it more difficult for your voice to be heard. This can be especially challenging when there are few or no minority individuals in positions of authority to whom you can relate and advocate for your experiences. The lack of representation can lead to feelings of isolation and exclusion, which can ultimately impact your ability to fully participate and contribute to the organisation.
- Discrimination and bias: When you express your opinions, you may face some level of discrimination, especially if your opinions go against the majority or challenge the status quo. This can manifest in many ways, ranging from subtle microaggressions to outright discrimination and harassment. Unfortunately, this type of treatment can create a hostile work environment, which can make it even more difficult for you to speak up and share your ideas. Learn how businesses can address racial bias and discrimination in the workplace.
- Fear of retribution: Fearing retribution if you speak out is common, especially if you believe that your opinions could jeopardise your job security or development opportunities. However, it’s important to remember that your opinions are valuable and deserve to be heard. Organisations have policies and procedures in place to protect employees from retaliation for speaking up, such as anonymous reporting systems and non-retaliation policies.
- Jeopardising mental wellbeing: You may feel as though your mental wellbeing is at risk if you believe that social pressures make minority groups unable to speak up and make their voices heard. As a minority individual, you may also feel that your mental wellbeing is compromised if your opinions are not valued. It’s important to recognise the impact that these situations can have on your mental health and you should seek support from your manager or HR if needed.
- Cultural differences: Cultural differences can also play a role in how comfortable you feel voicing your opinions. For instance, in some cultures, it may be viewed as disrespectful or inappropriate to challenge authority or speak out against the majority. Awareness of these cultural nuances can help you find ways to navigate them while still expressing your thoughts and ideas. Understanding and respecting cultural differences can help foster more open and inclusive communication.
What skills are essential to finding your voice in the workplace?
There are several skills you can develop that are essential to finding your voice at work. When you apply these skills consistently in your day-to-day interactions, you can build the confidence to speak up and contribute to more conversations going forward. This will have a positive impact on both your career development and the growth of the organisation.
7 essential skills to help you find your voice at work
- Self-awareness – Understanding your values, beliefs and motivations is crucial to finding your voice. Self-awareness helps you identify what matters to you and what you want to achieve, which can guide your communication and decision-making.
- Communication – Effective communication is essential to being able to express your thoughts and ideas clearly and confidently. It will also improve your active listening skills and enable you to engage in more productive conversations.
- Assertiveness – Being assertive means standing up for yourself and expressing your opinions and needs clearly and confidently. This can be challenging, especially if you are dealing with difficult or confrontational situations, but it is an important skill for finding your voice at work. Assertiveness can also be an effective tool if you struggle with a tendency to people please, as it enables you to express your needs and boundaries respectfully.
- Emotional intelligence – This involves being aware of your own emotions and other people’s, which can help you to navigate complex workplace dynamics. It can also help you to build stronger relationships with your colleagues and improve how you deal with conflict in the workplace.
- Critical thinking – Critical thinking involves analysing information and making informed decisions based on evidence and logic. This skill is essential for finding your voice because it helps you evaluate ideas and arguments, and make thoughtful contributions to discussions.
- Adaptability – Being adaptable means being able to adjust to changing circumstances and respond to new challenges. Adaptability can help you navigate different situations and communicate effectively with a variety of people. It can also help you communicate with stakeholders from different levels of seniority.
- Confidence – Having the confidence to express your opinions and ideas without hesitation or fear is essential when finding your voice at work. Confidence is not something you are born with, instead, it is a skill you must learn over time. When you are confident, you are more likely to speak up during meetings, share your thoughts and suggestions, and take on challenging tasks that may stretch your skills and abilities.
6 Ways to improve your influence at work
In today’s fast-paced work environments, being able to influence and persuade others is critical to your success. Whether you’re seeking to advance your career, launch a new initiative, or simply build stronger relationships with your colleagues, improving your influence at work can help you make a more meaningful impact. However, becoming more influential requires more than just charisma or charm.
Here are six things you can do when you don’t feel heard at work.
- Build strong relationships
- Develop your expertise
- Communicate effectively
- Be proactive
- Create alliances with stakeholders
- Lead by example
1. Build strong relationships
Relationships are key to improving how you are viewed by your colleagues. Building and nurturing positive relationships with your colleagues can help you earn trust, credibility and respect, which are essential ingredients for effective influence. By taking the time to understand others’ perspectives, needs and goals, you can tailor your communication to resonate with your team. Get to know your colleagues, be responsive to their needs and demonstrate your willingness to collaborate. You can also leverage your relationships to gain support, resources, and allies to help realise your ideas and initiatives, creating a shared sense of purpose.
2. Develop your expertise
Developing expertise in your field can help you establish yourself as a thought leader and improve your perception at work. This involves staying up to date with the latest industry trends and best practices, seeking out opportunities for professional development, and sharing your knowledge with others. Furthering your expertise can also boost your confidence and improve your problem-solving skills. As you gain more knowledge and experience, you become better equipped to handle challenging situations and make informed decisions.
Being recognised as an expert in your field can open up new opportunities to further your career. You could be invited to speak at industry conferences or participate in high-profile projects, which can increase your visibility and expand your professional network. A win-win all around!
3. Communicate effectively
Effective communication is essential for building influence in the working world. This includes being clear and concise in your messaging, actively listening to others, and adapting your communication style to different audiences. It also involves understanding and managing your own emotions, as well as those of others. Being able to express your own feelings in a constructive way while also being able to empathise with your colleagues is key.
Mastering the art of effective communication also requires you to give and receive feedback in a way that is both constructive and actionable. Provide clear and specific feedback that focuses on behaviours and outcomes, rather than personal characteristics and traits. However, it also means being open to receiving feedback from your colleagues and using it as an opportunity for growth and development.
4. Be proactive
Part of finding your voice involves taking initiative and being proactive, as this demonstrates your value to the organisation and helps you stand out from your colleagues. One way to take initiative is to look for opportunities to take on new projects. This not only shows that you are willing to take on more responsibility, but it also helps you to develop new skills. Make sure you communicate your interest in these projects to your manager or team leader.
Be proactive in your everyday activities and suggest improvements for existing processes, which could be anything from implementing new technology to streamlining workflows. In doing so, you will demonstrate your critical thinking skills and show that you are constantly looking for new ways to improve the organisation’s internal operations. Going above and beyond like this can set you apart from your peers and show your dedication to the business.
5. Create alliances with stakeholders
By building alliances with stakeholders, you can gain valuable insights into the organisation and the industry. It will also help you gain access to resources and networks that can be helpful in advancing your career. Effective stakeholder management requires strong communication skills, the ability to build trust and rapport, and a willingness to be adaptable in your approach to working with others. Forming positive relationships with your stakeholders will enable you to improve your credibility and reputation within the organisation, as well as increase your visibility and perception amongst your peers.
6. Lead by example
Leading by example can inspire and motivate your colleagues to follow your lead, which can create a positive ripple effect throughout the organisation. When you consistently demonstrate the attitudes, behaviours and values that are important to you and the organisation, you build respect, trust, and credibility with your colleagues and stakeholders.
Effective leadership also involves creating a supportive and inclusive work environment, where everyone feels valued and empowered to contribute their best work. This means actively listening to the perspectives and concerns of others, recognising and celebrating the achievements of your colleagues, and providing opportunities for professional growth. By encouraging a culture of collaboration and accountability, you can strengthen your team’s performance and create a more engaged and motivated workforce.
How can FDM support you?
At FDM, we believe that everyone should feel comfortable voicing their ideas and opinions in a professional environment, regardless of their gender, race or sexual orientation. Our diversity and inclusion initiatives help to create a more welcoming and supportive workplace culture, where individuals feel valued and respected for their unique perspectives.
Through promoting diversity and inclusion, FDM creates a workplace where everyone feels empowered to speak up, share their ideas and collaborate with others. These initiatives help break down the barriers that may be preventing women and minority groups from advancing in their careers.
Our mentorship programmes also help women and minority individuals navigate the workplace and advance their careers by pairing them with experienced professionals who can provide advice and support. Networking opportunities can help you build relationships with your colleagues and industry experts, which can expand your professional network and open you up to exciting development opportunities.
It’s time to find your voice!
When you don’t feel heard at work it’s easy to feel like giving up, but it’s important to remember that your voice and perspective matter. Although you may feel frustrated, giving up is not the solution! Instead, try to find ways that you’re comfortable with to help make your voice heard, whether it’s speaking up in meetings or sharing your ideas with colleagues.
If you feel you need additional guidance and support, it may be helpful to seek out a mentor or connect with other women in your industry through networking groups. By taking proactive steps to assert your voice and build your influence, you can make a meaningful impact on both your career and your organisation. At FDM, we create an equitable and supportive environment for all to help everyone reach their full potential.
Remember, your contributions are valuable and you have the power to make a difference!