As a guest speaker, Dr. Carrie Arnold names and puts a spotlight on the Silencing of Women in the workplace as a forced invisibility. As a human development researcher and master coach, she discusses the implications of feeling muffled, suppressed, and muted in an environment and the impact it has on a woman’s decision to stay and suffer in the workplace, to leave, or to recover, find their voice and heal. This discussion highlights the implications in the lives of women of color and touches on issues of intersectionality, privilege, and, ultimately, the importance of noticing silencing and engaging healing practices.
Imagine an executive leader has hired you as a coach to help her with issues that stem from lacking confidence, managing conflict and being more decisive.
When you do your intake, you learn the following.
She has worked hard to get the corner office, has a Ph.D. and has two decades of industry experience. She is in that mid-50 age range, allowing her to reconsider what she perceives to be necessary and relevant, as well as a genuine acceptance of self. She now has a salary with benefits that permit things impossible in earlier years. This is the time to appreciate that she knows how to manage, compete with men in knowledge and technical abilities, contribute in meaningful ways, and strategically lead. She can now think about transformation and explore vertical development and broader ways of viewing her world. Imagine all this is true, but you discover after several coaching sessions she also feels silenced…
Most executives in healthcare carry hefty loads that are often too heavy to bear alone. Carrie A. L. Arnold, PhD, principal coach and consultant of Denver-based The Willow Group, says it is difficult for many leaders who find themselves in executive roles and still wrestle with basic leadership issues, as it is hard for them to ask for help as there is an assumption they should know things by now.
Although the labor force is more evenly split between men and women, men and women are not equally using their voices. As a female leader, you may have experienced a phenomenon called “silencing.” Dr. Carrie Arnold says feeling silenced as a female leader is a “unique and widespread leadership issue impacting millions of women in the workforce.”
2017 was an interesting year! We saw shifts in the political landscape that introduced new rhetoric and a women’s march. We saw females in Hollywood and politics stepping forward and breaking silence to share their experience with sexual harassment. They made the cover of Time Magazine as person of the year. From Wonder Woman to the first female doctor finally introduced on Doctor Who, we have seen a surge of powerful female moves. It remains to be seen if these acts of power, behavior, and voice are creating a new normal or if they will be looked back on as moments in history when women rose above a pervasive silencing culture.
In her dissertation, Dr. Carrie Arnold discovered that silencing is a common experience among female leaders. When they experience silencing, female leaders notice a shift in their leadership behavior, becoming disengaged with peers and direct reports. Unfortunately, this disengagement can contribute to further silencing of women in the organization. Among the women she interviewed, Dr. Arnold noted that only 25% were able to recover from silencing experiences without making a job change or opting out of leadership. Of those who respond to silencing by making a job change, only half were able to full recover from those experiences. Feeling silenced in the workplace impacts not only leadership behavior but also women's physical, cognitive, emotional, and spiritual health.
The concept of feeling silenced while in a leadership role is a paradox that many women do not discuss. Based on original research conducted in 2016 of the silenced female leader, this white paper highlights the study findings for practitioners conducting leadership development. A short review of the background and summary of the overall results is followed by two primary research findings.
Carrie Arnold, PhD, MCC, BCC
In no particular order: Author | Dog mom to Moose | Speaker| Reader Mom to human offspring Wife | Lover of Learning Leadership coach & consultant, The Willow Group | Fellow, Institute for Social Innovation