There are still too many of the same conversations going on, involving strong, rational and successful women. The conversations that start with: “I felt like I was speaking a different language in that meeting”, “There was no point speaking up.” Or “It was as if I wasn’t in the room.”
True, if you’re the only women in a room full of men, irrespective of seniority, it can sometimes feel deflating and it’s difficult to speak up and be heard. But why are women still left feeling like this? There are countless studies and surveys that back up how women are interrupted regularly or judged differently from a male peer if they speak more frequently. That they’re too emotional. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, right?
It’s easy to settle on fundamental differences in style as the problem, or to cite socially ingrained, subconscious and deep-rooted beliefs about women’s entitlement. Although these can be valid points, they might only be a part of the issue, an issue that’s bigger than all of us. We’re talking about the missing link of emotional intelligence.
In her book ‘The Fearless Organisation’, Amy Edmondson talks about the positive impact on growth and innovation when psychological safety is in place. Positive emotions like trust, curiosity and confidence abound, and resilience and motivation are high and form the bedrock of success. It makes it OK to feel and express emotions in an environment where, when you speak up, you will be heard and not judged. A highly emotionally intelligent environment is the bedrock of psychological safety.
But as we stand here today, it’s fair to say that many organisations are pretty repressed when it comes to understanding and expressing emotions and feelings. They don’t want to deal with the difficult stuff, it’s not welcome. But if people don’t know that it’s OK to express themselves, emotional intelligence leading to psychologically safety is out of reach. It’s a fundamental problem that will take a groundswell to change.
As we stand here today, it’s fair to say that many organisations are pretty repressed when it comes to understanding and expressing emotions and feelings.
Until we feel we’re in an environment where we can feel, understand and express emotions – whatever they are – progress will not be made. Repression and false positivity can be some of the most damaging behaviours in the workplace today.
This call for change is for each and every one of us, whatever your gender. As psychologist Susan David says in her brilliant TED Talk, diversity isn’t just people: it’s what’s inside people. So, let’s all take on responsibility for embracing and expressing our emotions, listening and making the time and space to talk about the uncomfortable, undesirable and frustrating stuff. And maybe, eventually, if we’re lucky, much needed change will come.