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Today’s question is: As a female in a traditionally male-dominated industry, what strategies can I adopt to succeed?
Bob Serling:This issue still occurs with females in certain industries. It has gotten better, but it still exists. I’ve invited one of the most successful female business owners and marketers I know, Pamela Yellen, to answer this question with me this month.
When Pamela first started out in the insurance industry, it was back in the days of the “good old boy network” and almost all insurance agents were male. There were a lot of stumbling blocks for Pamela at that time, but she was able to overcome them and became a leading sales trainer in the insurance industry.
Pamela, you’re so well positioned to answer this question that I’d like to turn the whole thing over to you now.
Pamela Yellen: As you mentioned, I started in 1990 as a consultant to financial advisors and insurance agents. At that time and still today, it was a male-dominated industry. I was speaking, training and consulting audiences and clients that were 98 percent male. Even today, they’re about 90 to 95 percent male.
When I started out, I began earning praise and accolades quickly, and earned a reputation as a top business consultant. As a result, I discovered these tips to have more credibility speaking to a predominantly male audience.
Tip No. 1. Get voice and/or speech coaching. This would apply to both men and women if they’re out there training, speaking and dealing with clients on the phone. Bob, have you ever talked to a woman whose voice is very high pitched and very soft? If you didn’t see them in person, you would think they sound like they’re in their teens or very early 20s, when they’re actually older than that.
Bob: Yes, absolutely, and as you said, it can happen with males as well. There are males who speak in muted tones and it’s almost as if they are perilously shy, when, in fact, they aren’t. But they haven’t learned how to speak in a way that fully projects their voice.
Pamela: Absolutely, and it is a bit hard to take someone with a voice like that terribly seriously, and all of that happens on a very unconscious level. People don’t intentionally think, “I won’t pay that much attention to that person.” They just don’t feel commanded by that person.
Bob: Where would somebody find this type of voice training?
Pamela: You can get recommendations from professional speakers. Or you could do a Google search for “local voice coach.”
The key is to learn to speak from your diaphragm, which will give you two advantages. The first advantage is that your voice pitch will almost always drop down some, and you’re going to be able to better project your voice, which translates into commanding your listeners and your audience better.
You want to speak also with energy. Like you said, many people sound like they’re shy, when they really aren’t. You want to get that energy into your voice; but if you don’t do it right, you’ll strain your vocal cords, and possibly even damage your vocal cords. That was something that was happening to me, and I didn’t even know it. That’s what prompted me to get voice coaching. You’ll save your vocal cords, and it’s essential to learn how to speak from your diaphragm.
Bob: Great! What’s tip No. 2?
Pamela: Learn how to effectively communicate with a male business audience. It’s true what they say about men being from Mars and women being from Venus. We are very different, and that’s especially true in our communication styles. So I would suggest that you read some books on the topic and that you begin to practice and experiment communicating with your audience in a style that they can relate to better.
I’ll give you a few examples. Women tend to minimize what they offer and their advice. They might preface things by saying, “You might already know this,” or “This might be a stupid question” or “I’m no expert.”
Bob: You mentioned reading books on this. Are there any titles that come to mind that you’d recommend?
Pamela: I like any books by Connie Glaser. She’s an expert at gender communications in the workplace and in business. She has several books out and they’re all excellent.
Along those lines, another thing to consider is using some metaphors about sports or war rather than relying only on anecdotes about home and relationships. You’ll often hear women who focus on those areas and don’t really get into analogies or anecdotes that are from what we consider the more male domain.
You also want to get to the bottom line more quickly. Women have a tendency to beat around the bush, at least that’s how men perceive it, before getting to the point. Try getting to the bottom line more quickly; and above all, do not be tentative. In the words you use and the way you present yourself, you don’t want to sound tentative. You don’t want to end declarative sentences with an uptick in your voice.
You want to finish a declarative sentence with a strong downbeat. Then it comes across with authority. And you should also be making eye contact to connect with people. When you’re face to face with people, try to connect with each person and hold eye contact with them for three to four seconds.
Bob: Great! How about our final tip, No. 3?
Pamela: The first time someone told me they thought I had hit the glass ceiling and could be even more successful if I wasn’t a woman, I was stunned. That thought had never even occurred to me and I refused to believe that it affected me in any way. But let’s take a look at this. Even if I did let that thought into my head, what good could it possibly have done me? None.
Bob: Absolutely. There’s nothing you can take from that to help you move forward. All it can do is make you feel bad and possibly get you to do less because you feel paralyzed by it.
Pamela: You feel paralyzed and you feel like that’s your lot in life. I’m a woman, I have a glass ceiling, so why bother trying harder? I really think that belief in yourself and getting out from under the stereotypical images and the imprinting that our culture and society has put on us is really key.
Bob: Let me ask you an add-on question that occurs to me from what you just said. Once you have established yourself in a male-dominated market, as a female, does that then give you an advantage in a sense, because now you’re viewed as being kind of a champion in that industry?
Pamela: Absolutely. Being different is good. It makes you stand out and it makes you more memorable. Prospects and audiences are not going to forget you. Either they’re going to remember your name or your face, or they might say, “I’m looking for ‘that woman’ who I spoke to in our industry.” But if you were just one of literally hundreds of men who are experts and trainers in the industry, they all kind of start to blend together. So, yes, I have that advantage, and it’s a great advantage to have.
Bob Serling helps business owners and entrepreneurs generate more traffic, make more sales, and do both more often. Get his free e-book of interviews with 30 leading experts, including SUCCESS Publisher Darren Hardy, at www.ProfitAlchemy.com/success.
Pamela Yellenis a best-selling author who shows entrepreneurs how to bypass banks and Wall Street to grow wealth safely and predictably, and have access to capital they need by answering just one question: How much do you want? Download Pamela's free Wealth-Building Guide at www.BankOnYourself.com/report.