Women are good at shouting. Whether we’re defending that last piece of cake or exercising our control over the remote, we know how to stand up for ourselves – hell, we’ve been known to burn bras. We’re climbing the ladder, storming the boards and smashing through the glass ceiling. SO, why is it, then, that we’re still scared to speak up in front of men?
Perhaps you’re not. Maybe you can proudly say that you couldn’t give a sausage about what men think when you pipe up with your ideas, which is why you’ve never felt so self-conscious you’re stifled into silence in a meeting – but, lady, you’d be in the minority. Because a new study in the American Political Science Review found that, in group situations, ‘the time women spoke was significantly less than their proportional representation – amounting to less than 75 per cent of the time that men spoke.’
They’re talking about that moment when you’re stood poised to make a point in a circle of men, but someone else jumps in first. That little voice that, despite your better judgement, says whatever grand ideas you have, men will probably assume that you have nothing of significance to say anyhoo. The one that you don’t like to tell anyone about, because in probably every other situation you’re a loud and proud feminist. And, let’s face it, this is more fifties house wife than Ryan Gosling (feminist icon, obvs). What’s more, we’re doing it TO OURSELVES.
Suddenly all those 30% Club reports about women’s lack of confidence have a new dazzling clarity. Actually, it’s not men who are repressing our progress in the workplace or elsewhere – in contrast, most modern men don’t want to hold women back at all. So, though sexism has unfortunately not been exiled forever more, taking the view that it’s sexism blocking our road to the top appears all the more outdated. All this time we’ve been blaming pesky men for shouting over us, when we should have been practising our own shouty voices instead.
But we don’t want to be seen as ‘bitchy’. We play nice and let the men do the assertive bad-cop stuff – which is all well and good, until it’s not doing us any good. And it’s not. It’s giving us less time at the top, less of chance to have our say (obviously), and most worryingly, less respect. The more we belittle ourselves in society, the more society will belittle us. Which is exactly what we’re working against in every other respect.
So, what to do? Start practising our shouty voices ladies, and pronto.