After returning from maternity leave with my first child, I rushed into the meeting at my university. Conscious that I had been out of the loop for 3 months I was prepared to listen and ease myself back into the game. When my boss Ted asked me to report on the status of a project, my plan to stay below radar was blown. Fortunately my colleague John stepped in and shared an update.
Then I glanced down at my blouse. A large stain remained from that morning’s breastfeeding session and it had seeped through the fabric. Completing the embarrassing visual was a lovely line of spit up on my right shoulder! As I reached for a jacket to cover the mess, Ted, John and the other men at the table either didn’t (or pretended not) to notice.
I am sure that every working mother can cite stories similar to this one. We moms “dance as fast as we can” to keep up and appear professional. And as I maneuvered through those years of working and mothering, any tips to help with the delicate dance were welcomed.
In the 80’s, before mommy blogs and Facebook groups, magazines like Working Mother served that purpose. They are to be commended for a strong track record of supporting working mothers since 1979. Their annual list of The 100 Best Companies is but one example of their trailblazing efforts.
I was recently asked to contribute some ideas to an article about one aspect of the working mother equation; speaking up at meetings. It is important for women to be seen AND heard in the visible forums of meetings. We can exert influence and manage perceptions of us as key contributors when we know how to speak up. Whether you are finding your footing after maternity leave or have just landed in a room of extroverts, I hope these 7 tips help you manage your quieter self.
Thank you to reporter Maricar Santos for capturing our conversation in “7 Ways Quieter People Can Contribute More at Meetings.”
P.S. If you want to improve your meeting skills I also want to recommend the book Let’s Stop Meeting Like This by Dick and Emily Axelrod. It is well written and full of practical advice.