It is never enough for me to add to the scholarly conversation. Research findings must also encourage and inform the practitioners doing the work. Whether you are an executive coach or a leader, your role may require you to deepen your distinctions regarding the issues women face in the workforce when it comes to voice and silence. Women make up almost half the workforce (47.2%), and yet they continue to hold less than 10% of executive leader roles. There are a number of reasons for this under-representation, and my research adds insight into a particular nuance.
When women feel silenced, they are often unable to stay on their leader trajectories and thus they opt-out of leadership roles. In many cases, they recover and return but that is not always the case, and recovery from a traumatic silencing experience can take years. One of my favorite authors, Cheryl Glenn, says that silence (not the spoken word) is the only phenomenon that is always at an individual’s disposal. Silence is a rhetoric that can imply multiple meanings and when one is silenced (suggesting they feel muted, suppressed, or muffled), their silence communicates something that is often unintended. Given the high stakes of leadership in our world today, we need both men and women who lead with purposeful voice and voice efficacy.
Who or what silences you? How do you show up when you feel silenced?