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Do women talk in meetings?

Many a time we have witnessed a colleague get rattled or remain silent during a meeting, even when he/she is the expert at the table. The reason why most attendees don’t fully participate in meetings is that the group does not operate effectively due to the lack of communication and information sharing tools. Pay close attention and you’ll also observe that more often than not, it’s likely that it’s the women who hesitate to participate. This lack of participation creates a roadblock to meeting productivity.

According to TIME article men tend to talk far more than women do in a formal, business-focused setting like meetings. Women seem to be less vocal during meetings. Author Deborah Tannen observed that – “The longest comment by a woman at all seven gatherings was shorter than the shortest comment by a man”

The women that participate confidently in meetings can be positive role models for other women in the organization. This directly reflects on the future of the organization.

Here are a few concrete actions that meeting leaders and organizations can take to help women and everyone else feel more effective in meetings. These steps will help make your meeting room setup inviting, not intimidating and promote equal participation.

  • To help prevent women feel like their voices are ignored or drowned out, proper rules and processes must be established and followed for controlling interactions, operations and direction during meetings.
  • Organize pre-meeting sessions so that all the participants can have informal advance conversations before the formal meeting. This helps participants to test their ideas and garner support.
  • Encourage your employees to prepare in advance to help them present more confidently during meetings.
  • For perennially quiet women participants, the meeting leader can discuss with the individual in private the importance of everyone’s ideas and encourage them to share those thoughts within the meeting. This can help them find a way into the conversation and break the sound barrier.
  • Some participants, men, and women may be unable or unwilling to participate because often one or two people who are connected to the presentation device have the advantage to take part in the meeting. With Zoapi, anyone in a meeting room can share and switch, instantly. This removes position disadvantage.
  • By using annotations and whiteboarding, you can visually record all the ideas. The meeting facilitator can then emphasize the importance of everyone’s contributions. This helps stimulate participation. It can be less intimidating for women to speak up when their ideas are clarified by writing them down.
  • Having critiquing of the brainstormed ideas until all of them have been listed can also be a powerful motivator for reticent participants.

The success of an organization depends on promoting valuable contributors to leadership positions and it can begin by empowering women in meetings. Although the focus of this post is on women, many of the above points apply to others as well.

With Zoapi, in your meeting rooms, you can design a space that builds up participation for everyone who has an active role to play. Zoapi lets all meeting participants to equally assert themselves in high-level meetings by having properly structured the meetings that encourage engagement.


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