When you’re the only woman in a room full of men, sometimes there’s a reluctance to speak up. There can be a kind of insecurity around being the sole female voice. This shouldn’t be the case. If you have an opinion, don’t be afraid to voice it. It’s what we look for in Accenture Strategy, particularly from women in leadership roles — or those who aspire to them.
In my experience, the women I’ve worked with in strategy consulting are well placed to comment — and do so meaningfully and usefully — on a whole range of topics. They’re very analytical in their approach; they know the story behind the material. This gives them a different, and valuable, perspective. Yet, when their time comes to talk, they hold back.
We need to encourage more junior-level women to have faith in themselves — to speak up and say what’s on their minds. It enriches the debate and adds a new dimension. Instead of feeling insecure because they are different, by virtue of being the only women in the room, it’s about seeing the positive. Different is good. Different is powerful. Because, by being different, you can make a difference.
If you have an opinion, voice it. It’s equally as valid as what anyone else has to say. Do it and you’re more likely to be recognized — and from recognition comes respect.
As leaders, we must create an environment where women feel more comfortable to contribute, to speak up. In client situations, they are often the ones presenting the analysis. It’s ironic that clients see the value of women and what they contribute, and don’t think twice about it. This is less true from an internal perspective. We should focus less on gender and more on talent. Does it matter who voices the opinion? Surely, it’s the content and value of the opinion that is voiced that is more pertinent.
My personal view is that women understand their value and what they can make of their potential. They hold back because of their environment. Until we address this, we are wasting — squandering, even — a massive opportunity.