Walk the walk and talk the talk, power woman
How body language can help women in the boardroom
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