Championing Women's Leadership with Business Etiquette

Collaboratively written by Tiffany Adams, CELI President and PSOW alumni, and Pamela Eyring, President of Protocol School of Washington (PSOW).  

Click here for published article on PSOW blog. 

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As extraordinarily successful as women have been in reaching new heights, we still have work to do.  Research shows that females earn 78 cents for every dollar made by male counterparts.  S&P 500 upper echelons are male-dominated with 4.4% being women, according to Catalyst.  Suppressed feelings of frustration and self-doubt are simmering amongst female talent who believe their career potential is not being recognized or rewarded.  If women learn business etiquette strategies that can be fluidly employed at the precise time in a range of business situations, they stand a higher chance of getting noticed for advancement opportunities.  

In a collaborative effort, it is my distinct honor to engage the expertise of the global industry leader in training corporate etiquette consultants, Pamela Eyring, President of the Protocol School of Washington.

 The Impact of Business Etiquette on Women’s Leadership

Business etiquette underscores the importance of self-awareness and self-restraint.  It arms leaders with the business acumen to respond pragmatically and professionally, not emotionally and counterproductively.  It suppresses the ego, in favor of valuing others which strengthens relationship-building.  The sooner women focus on building relationship capital, the sooner they gain power and more importantly, fulfillment, from fostering authentic and genuine relationships.  Eyring explains, “We must build relationships, forge alliances, and network relentlessly to thrive.  Women gain respect through their interactions.”

Mistakes Women Make

First, avoid the temptation to emulate male counterparts.  Stay true to yourself.  Tap into your natural talents.  Women should stop bruising themselves about weaknesses and find work that celebrates their strengths.  Second, her reputation is at stake when image is compromised.  Eyring reveals,A common complaint I hear is a woman’s lack of professional image.  Showing too much skin does not earn respect.  People are visual and first impressions count.”  It’s counterproductive to rely on sex appeal to influence an outcome, but looking up-to-date and approachable is advisable.  Third, articulating messages succinctly will win respect.  Challenge yourself to get to the point quickly.  It’s unnecessary to explain how to design the clock when you are simply being asked what time it is. 

Communication & Interruptions

Eyring declares, “The combination of listening, eye contact and facial expressions is a winning trifecta.  It’s easy to interrupt someone, but a true leader listens with their eyes.  They press “mute” and use facial expressions to reinforce their intended emotion.”  What should a woman do when she cannot get a word in?  While excessively interrupting is viewed as having undeveloped people skills, women should find a balance.  Women have been socialized to politely not interrupt, but sometimes it’s appropriate to interject if you add value to the discussion.  Madeleine Albright, former US Secretary of State, was no verbal mystery declaring, “Women have to be active listeners and interrupters – but when you interrupt, you have to know what you are talking about.”

 Power Body Language

Be large and in charge.  Fifty-five percent of our likeability is due to body language.  Women condense their physical stature to make themselves smaller.  Legs are crossed, elbows are pulled in, shoulders are hunched, and papers are neatly stacked to minimize occupied space.  Spread out and expand into every available space.  Avoid the self-pacifying, nervous gestures like playing with jewelry, hair, or placing hands in the “fig-leaf position.”  Widen your stance.  Use movements that are not overstated but make a statement.

It’s How You Say It

Avoid the “upspeak.”  Interestingly, women have five voice tones, whereas males have three, so women run the risk of sounding emotional.  Women’s voices tend to rise at the end of sentences as if they are asking a question and seeking approval.  Deliver messages with control and project your voice.  Eyring adds, “Speak with meaning and clarity. When I worked for the US Air Force, I learned how to speak to generals and officers.  I used an assertive, but not aggressive, tone.  Due to my predominately male workplace, I kept to the business at hand.  I didn’t want to be seen as a “girly-girl” who could only do limited duties.  What I said mattered as much as how I said it.”  

Ladies, reach your full career potential.  As Audrey Hepburn said, “Nothing is impossible.  The word itself, impossible, says I’m possible.”