I am a female engineer who was recently promoted to a managerial role. I work for an engineering organisation owned by a family, and I am the only female on the management team. I was asked to make my strategic presentation for the coming year. During the presentation, I noted that my colleagues were not paying attention to my presentation; many were on their phones or talking to each other. I continued to the end but felt I was not given the audience and respect I deserved. How do I make sure this situation does not happen again?
Hello Cynthia, I am sorry that you had this unpleasant experience. Being part of the management leadership is a demanding responsibility. Given that you are in an industry dominated by males, it is even more challenging. Your first reaction would have likely been to immediately demand that you are given attention while in the meeting. That would have given you the attention; however, would it have brought you respect, which is the more critical issue? Unfortunately, when it comes to leadership, women are unlikely to be playing on a levelled playing field. Management is perceived as the “boys club”, so how you manoeuvre the dynamics requires you to think a little differently. Given that you are newly appointed, and this is all new to you, one of the ways to manage this is to consider identifying a male coach who will help you develop skills and abilities that help you understand how the gender mindset is different, especially in the world of work. I believe having that perspective is essential because it gives you insights that will inform how you manage leadership issues.
Secondly, before you make your next strategic presentation, you may want to speak with your colleagues, asking them for their feedback on the last presentation. This is a subtle way to force them to reflect on their engagement with the production. Hopefully, it will cause them to realise that their disengagement was unprofessional. For future presentations, ensure that your presentation is sent a week before the meeting and follow through with your colleagues to ensure they are conversant with what you are presenting and ask for feedback; you will find that asking for feedback means that you can improve your presentation. This pre-engagement should result in participation in the meeting. While all this pre- meeting work may be tricky, it is necessary. Remember that you are the new person in the team, and you need to make sure that your colleagues recognise that you are now part of the team. In addition, as your present work, ensure you are 100 percent confident that you can deliver. In the word, respect is earned by what you provide.