Working women in the UK feel they face a number of challenges to make their voice heard in business environments, according to new research.
A study conducted by RADA in Business, the commercial subsidiary of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art which provides communication skills training for corporate individuals, found that just 8% of women find it easy to make their voice heard at work. In comparison, 15% of men reported being able to express themselves with ease within a work environment.
The research also revealed that women are 68% more likely than men to say they never feel comfortable when expressing themselves in a work environment (3.7% of women compared to 2.2% of men). This gap was widest in specific sectors, most notably IT, professional services (such as law and accountancy), retail and education.
Liz Barber, Client Director at RADA in Business commented on the findings: “The data shows there are still discrepancies between how men and women feel in a business environment. It shows that we have a way to go to ensure that women feel as comfortable and confident in expressing themselves at work as men do. The two key challenges often identified by women in the workplace are sustaining a belief in their own ability and potential, and having the confidence to put themselves forward for senior positions.’’
Situations where women said they felt significantly less comfortable than their male counterparts were when meeting with their manager (33% more likely to feel uncomfortable than men), or an organisation’s board members or senior management (12% more likely).
Typically, women responding to the survey said that they felt more comfortable when communication was a two-way process, for example in one-to-one meetings when they felt the other person was genuinely listening to what they had to say.
Liz Barber added: “Organisations need to take responsibility to ensure that women’s voices are being heard. Effective communication is an interactive, two way process and having the ability to flex different aspects of leadership and to respond differently to meet the needs of everyone in the business is something that RADA in Business specialises in.
“We work with many companies to use techniques inspired by acting training to create confident and effective communication. We have found these courses to be very popular amongst women seeking to make their presence felt at all levels, from those just starting out on their careers up to executive level.
“Small changes to your physicality, breath and voice can make a huge difference in getting your voice heard and improving your impact. Owning your space, using your peripheral vision, and speaking with confidence are just some of the techniques we teach actors, but the same techniques apply when communicating in a business environment.”