Thursday, March 19, 2009

Being Ignored

Have you ever been in this situation: you’re sitting in a meeting and make what you think is a great suggestion; you’re ignored. Ten minutes later, someone else makes a similar suggestion and everyone thinks it’s just the greatest idea. Are you invisible? Did you imagine it? Were you really speaking out loud?

How can women deal with being ignored at meetings and/or having their ideas dismissed?  Are there ways to enlist support of colleagues? What if you do not have supportive colleagues? I have read and heard of various strategies:

-Make sure you get an adequate seat at the 'table' (so that you are not hiding in a corner);

-Choose your timing: wait for the 'right opportunity' to jump into the conversation (not always easy);

-Speak slowly; offer more than a quick quip;

-Should you embellish with 'authoritative phrases'?

-Should you remind the group that this was your idea? ("As I suggested earlier...");

-Should you help out other women?  ("As colleague-X suggested..."). 

Are these effective strategies?  What is your experience?  What else can we do?


  1. I just went to an APS Skills Development Workshop over the weekend, and one of the topics that came up was exactly this. These are all great ideas, and I'll add one more: avoid downplaying your remarks. Don't say,
    "I guess" or "this may not be important, but..." or end with "... don't you think?"

  2. I think timing is very important. When I have something important to say at a meeting with a lot of higher-ups, I usually wait for at least 10-15 minutes to let the discussion percolate, then when there is a pause, put in my (usually more than) two cents. That way people are engaged in really listening by the time I say something. I find if I speak up too quickly, everyone is so busy trying to speak that no one is really listening yet. (This is a frequent occurrence in academia.)

    But I am also not afraid to say something like "I am glad that XXX agrees with my previous suggestion..." if another person seconds my previous opinion.