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Society of Women Engineers

Speaking Up: A Voice at the Table

Ever offer your input in a meeting, and five minutes later, a male colleague says the exact same thing and gets credit for your brilliant idea?

Published On: May 2017

By Kathleen P. Donnelly, SES, Director, NAVAIR Support Equipment and Aircraft Launch and Recovery Equipment Department Head

“Hey, I said that 5 minutes ago!”

Ever been in a group meeting discussing various issues and recommendations, you offer your input, and it doesn’t get much traction?  Five minutes later, one of your male colleagues says the exact same thing and gets kudos for a brilliant idea. I’ve been there and experienced that periodically over my career. Even though you have a seat at the table, it can sometimes be difficult to be heard.

Acknowledging your Input

My recommendation for when you find yourself in this position is to speak up and call them on it in a diplomatic way. One technique that I use is immediately commenting in a joking manner “Hey, I said that 5 minutes ago! Perhaps it’s due to me growing up as 1 of 5 kids where I needed to make sure I got credit”. I acknowledge my contribution, and keep it somewhat lighthearted to stay away from being too confrontational.  The reaction I get is an acknowledgement that I had in fact said the exact same thing. Everyone gets the point and actually becomes more aware of ensuring voices are heard.

Speaking Up

Have you ever been in a meeting and you want to chime in but you don’t get the chance and then it’s overcome by events and on to the next topic? What should you do? If you are waiting for your ‘turn’ because you don’t want to be rude – don’t wait.  Jump in and make your point. Keep talking – eventually the others will stop talking and listen. And that is not necessarily a male versus female thing. It can also be tied to extroverts versus introverts. Speaking up might take you out of your comfort zone; however, your contribution could make a difference to the discussion and ultimate way forward.

Supporting Your Colleagues

What can you do to help others?  Encourage folks to speak up if their point has been pushed aside and encourage others to pay attention and listen. Making statements like “Let’s hear what Mary has to say as she didn’t get to finish her point” – will help all voices be heard and make others aware to put on their “listening ears” and not be thinking of what they want to say next. You can make a difference in helping others speak up. Diverse thought is what makes the best solution.

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