Walk the walk and talk the talk, power woman

How body lan­guage can help women in the board­room

7 Days in Dubai - - LIFE -

It’s still tough for high-level fe­male ex­ec­u­tives in the male-dom­i­nated busi­ness world. Though huge steps have been made for gen­der equal­ity in busi­ness, there’s still plenty more than can be done.

At a re­cent En­trepreneur Mid­dle East women’s busi­ness event, Huda Al Lawati, a for­mer se­nior ex­ec­u­tive at Abraaj Group, spoke of her ob­ser­va­tions of chal­lenges to women in the work­place.

Huda was in se­nior man­age­ment at the in­vest­ment firm, vastly out­num­bered by men.

It’s hard to be­lieve that to­day some women ex­ec­u­tives aren’t taken se­ri­ously. So how did Huda man­age it? She ex­plains: “Be on top of ev­ery­thing I’m work­ing on - just know­ing things so well that peo­ple are forced to lis­ten, but that isn’t suf­fi­cient - it’s es­sen­tial, but it isn’t suf­fi­cient.” She had to em­ploy other meth­ods to reaf­firm her authority and com­pe­tency.

Huda ex­plained that her at­ti­tude had to in­fil­trate every as­pect of her work­ing life. “So how you show up mat­ters, how you talk mat­ters, how you con­duct your­self mat­ters,” she stresses.

“Most of our per­cep­tion is vis­ual - your in­to­na­tion, your voice, your de­liv­ery.” Huda em­ployed power-pos­ing in the work­place. But this doesn’t mean flex­ing mus­cles. Rather, it is por­tray­ing a con­fi­dent and pow­er­ful im­age of strength, some­thing as sim­ple as stand­ing up straight.

Huda adds: “I found my­self em­ploy­ing these fac­tors - they en­tail tak­ing the space, sit­ting in a very open po­si­tion, not mak­ing your­self smaller or hid­ing your­self away in your chair, speak­ing slowly and clearly - re­lat­ing to peo­ple, mak­ing eye-con­tact - it all helps in in­creas­ing con­fi­dence in your­self.

“It is also found women are al­ways more likely to nod, and to shrink away from their au­di­ence. So for me, these soft skills re­ally helped me through my jour­ney; par­tic­u­larly from a mid­dle to a se­nior level in my ca­reer.

“All these non-ver­bal ex­pres­sions were ex­tremely help­ful, and they are par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant in the MENA re­gion.”

De­vika Singh, psy­chol­o­gist at Dubai Herbal Treat­ment Centre, ex­plains that body lan­guage is an in­te­gral part of com­mu­ni­cat­ing, both in the work­place, and out­side it. It can empower us both ex­ter­nally, and in­ter­nally. Singh says: “Re­search con­ducted decades ago re­vealed that up to 97 per cent of our com­mu­ni­ca­tion is non ver­bal, which in­cludes body lan­guage, pos­ture, fa­cial ex­pres­sions and tone of voice.”

De­vika ex­plains how mat­ter over mind can ac­tu­ally help - our pos­ture and body lan­guage can make us phys­i­cally stronger. “In fact new re­search shows that pos­ture ac­tu­ally has an ef­fect on our neu­ro­log­i­cal state and can in­flu­ence our neu­ro­trans­mit­ters and take us from feel­ing down, fa­tigued and blue to feel­ing strong, pow­er­ful and hope­ful.” So how can we ap­ply that to our­selves? De­vika says: “Any pos­tures that in­volve keeping your spinal cord and the sur­round­ing mus­cles up­right in­duce a more pos­i­tive men­tal state so try to prac­tice these as of­ten as pos­si­ble.”

New re­search shows that pos­ture ac­tu­ally has an ef­fect on our neu­ro­log­i­cal state and can take us from feel­ing down to feel­ing strong. – De­vika Singh, psy­chol­o­gist

ON THE BOARD: Huda Al Lawati used power poses in the work­place

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