As I was sorting through the collection of materials my 9-year-old had scattered over the dining room table, his preferred desk for his Zoom school days, I discovered a note that stopped me in my tracks. Neatly written in marker on a napkin was the message “Please Unmute Me.” My gut reaction was sadness that he felt figuratively and literally silenced, unable to have his voice heard. But I quickly shifted to feeling in awe of his courage and self-advocacy.
The power of diverse voices
Feeling muted is something many leaders experience, especially leaders from underrepresented groups. Many organizations have taken needed steps to diversify their leadership teams. However, research continues to show that the power of diversity in leadership comes not just from the statistical representation of diversity but the contributions of each person. When all voices contribute, the results are greater innovation and higher revenue. A recent study by the BCG showed that companies with greater diversity produced almost double the proportion of revenue from innovation which yielded an even greater overall financial performance.
What can be missed on mute
Yet there are threats to engaging and retaining diverse talent. It’s been widely publicized that nearly 3 million women have left the workforce during the pandemic. The 2020 McKinsey Women in the Workplace report revealed that women felt more pressure at work than their male counterparts – and also reported higher levels of burnout and exhaustion. This same report exposed that women in 2020 are considering a downshift in their career or leaving the workforce altogether at higher rates when compared to men.
So what can we do about this? Well, first we must push to unmute ourselves. It likely won’t be via a scribbled message on a napkin but we need to ask for the floor when we have a contribution to make. Even in our virtual workplace, you can strike your power pose (or postural feedback) and own the seat you’ve earned at the table. We also must be an “upstander” for others – especially those with an underrepresented voice – and make sure they are passed the mic. As leaders, we must remember that all voices and perspectives are needed, including our own. I have my son’s napkin at my desk so that I never forget.
For more information and resources on how to arrive and thrive as a woman leader, click here.