Only 33% of girls want to lead – that’s according to The Girls' Futures Report published on April 2022, by The Girls' Day Trust. As well as being surprising, this stark figure spells bad news for business and society given the incredible economic benefits of having women in leadership. I'm pleased to read the report's multiple references to 'voice' – 11 in fact - but, as often happens, the word is only used metaphorically, meaning point of view: 'amplifying the voices of women and girls' and 'encouraging girls to find their voices', for example. As a business voice consultant, I couldn't agree more. What's missing from the report, however, and what schoolrooms and boardrooms around the world should be discussing, in my view, is how to equip girls and women (indeed anyone who wants others to follow them) with knowledge and skills to use their actual, human voice more confidently, strategically, purposefully and intentionally. Arguably one of our most powerful assets, the human voice is widely overlooked and underrated by organisations and individuals alike, as is the positive effect professional voice coaching can have on business and personal outcomes. More about that in future posts. For now though... Girls, I want you to know six important things:
A lower-pitched voice may improve politicians' electability chances and the success of male CEOs, but may not work as effectively for females(unfortunately for Elizabeth Holmes) so don't waste time wishing you had one, or money trying to get one.
Instead, explore how high and low your speaking voice can go and use that range of sounds to speak confidently and passionately about your thoughts, feelings, ideas and preferences.
You don't have to be 'outspoken', fight for or disrupt things, (words used in the report, but which, I feel, go against the leadership style girls say they aspire to). Instead, speak up, champion and challenge things using a positive, upbeat tone of voice to move hearts and minds (and, maybe, one day, stock markets too).
You can develop your speaking voice skills by observing and learning from female leaders who speak with strength and warmth: Ursula van den Leyen, Julie Sweet, Mellody Hobson, Laura Cha, and Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala come to mind. There are many others (find them on YouTube) and you'll have your own favourites.
Notice how these women are 100% focused on their audience (not themselves). Their pitch (literal and metaphorical) is authentic: they are not trying to force anything up or put others down. They speak from the heart, with compassion, conviction, and concern. You can do that too.
Varying the pace of your speech, pitch, tone, intonation and volume, and warming up your voice (by humming), will make you engaging, inspiring and memorable to listen to and help you avoid the teetering, tremulous tones of the 'Bloody Difficult Woman' and the patronising pauses of the Iron Lady.
What do you think? Is this post useful? If so, and especially if you are a mother, father, aunt, uncle, sister, brother, teacher, carer - anyone raising a girl - please share it with others so that more young people get to learn how to use their actual, human voice.
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