How can women learn to find their voices in male-dominated industries? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
This may come as a surprise, since I am the CEO of a company, serve on a public board, and speak at a number of industry events, but I struggled to find my voice for my whole career.
As a woman, especially a minority woman, in the male-dominated technology field, I found that it was really hard to speak up and stand my ground. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel like my voice mattered, but often I found it difficult to speak up because I was interrupted and overlooked so often. It took me a while to get to a place where I felt comfortable in my own skin and comfortable taking up space in the room. It also took allies, both women and men, to help me amplify my voice and learn to speak up.
However, the issue wasn’t just external. I felt like I had to have the answer 100 percent right before I spoke. I dreaded misspeaking. But that’s not really how the workplace works. Part of having productive discussions is getting in there and having a conversation, challenging each other, and engaging with each other. It’s not about being 100 percent right as much as it is about building connections, being part of the discussion, and putting yourself out there. Even if I wasn’t sure, I learned to ask questions, be curious, and posit my point of view. Having a voice was instrumental in becoming part of that dynamic. I had to be comfortable with not always having all the answers, and being willing to speak up and debate the points regardless. This didn’t come naturally to me.
Speaking up and being heard is a skill like any other. You can learn it, even if you are introverted, interrupted, or overlooked. Commit to finding your voice, and you will see benefits in the workplace and beyond.