Quiet women may feel they face a double whammy in the workplace. Not only do they risk losing out through gender bias, but their voices may also be drowned out by louder colleagues. How can quieter women build successful careers whilst remaining true to themselves?
It may be tempting to develop an alter ego, mimicking those who speak at length in meetings or taking on “male” characteristics when dealing with others. However, cracks inevitably appear and can make you seem inconsistent. And introverts constantly launching themselves into noisy social situations become drained rather than energised.
A better way may be to draw upon your quiet strengths. For example, introverts often make very persuasive presenters because they take time to research and prepare. Take Emma Watson, the highest grossing actress of the past decade, who describes herself as “an introverted kind of person”. Her powerful speech to the UN https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-xqeTvD3as and the launch of the #HeforShe campaign exudes authenticity and quiet confidence.
Or if you have a preference for focused conversations rather than chit-chat and are known for being a good listener, you might find that your relationships with clients and staff are deeper and stronger than those of your colleagues. Eleanor Roosevelt’s White House biography notes her shy beginnings and then her “great sensitivity to the underprivileged of all creeds, races and nations…her graciousness, and her sincerity of purpose endeared her personally to many”.
And don’t forget that there are many ways for your voice to be heard. The written word is not just for introverted authors such as JK Rowling. Social media, LinkedIn groups, blogs and the like all allow quieter women to develop and showcase their expertise and build a wide network.
Quiet women have the ability to succeed on their own terms, like Marissa Mayer, the self-confessed introverted Yahoo! President and CEO. On International Women’s Day, let’s celebrate and encourage the many authentic and successful approaches women can take to build great careers.
(Sources include: Elle interview with Susan Cain April 2014; Huffington Post August 2013)
* Katie Driver is an executive coach and an associate of Voice At The Table. Read more about Katie.