Gender and Leadership Talk in Business Meetings’ was an ESRC funded project which examined the linguistic strategies used to enact leadership effectively in senior management meetings and the issues of gender and equality in leadership within that context. The project ran from January 2010 until May 2011. Its findings were publicised widely in the international media.
One key area we examined was why female leaders continue to be significantly under-represented in the workplace. A 2013 survey commissioned by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) shows that only 15% of FTSE 250 directors in the UK are women (The FTSE Board Report 2013). While there are many reasons why this occurs – legal, economic and sociological – we contend that one possible reason for the lack of female leaders in the business world is socio-linguistic. That is, women may simply have a harder job than men to be effective through their talk: to be listened to, included in key decisions, taken seriously, and to influence the views of others effectively.
The project has heightened awareness and changed practices in management meetings so that both senior men and women know how to use really effective leadership language that inspires, motivates and supports their colleagues.