‘I JUST WANTED to follow up on…’, I’m sorry if this is going to come across as…’, ‘Am I making sense?’ I’m guilty of using all of these in conversations, emails, meetings and trying to rally a team. Hedge words and submissive language to avoid being seen as bitchy or bossy – or so says former Google and Apple exec Ellen Petry Leanse in a post she published on LinkedIn. These ‘permission words’ – particularly the word ‘just’ – she says, puts the conversation partner in control.
I didn’t think we were still policing the way women talk. I don’t entirely disagree but I’m tired of being told how to behave to be taken seriously. There’s always something we’re doing wrong. Vocal fry, stalling careers to raise children, not leaning in enough. Instead of feeling as if successful women like Ellen, Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer are my cheerleaders, I feel as if there’s another brand of feminism – one that’s only open to women on top of the corporate tower. Who’ve broken the glass ceiling but leave the rest of us to watch for the falling shards of verbal disapproval.
‘I have chosen to no longer be apologetic form my femininity. And I want to be respected in all my femaleness. Because I deserve to be. I like politics and history and am happiest when having a good argument about ideas. I am happily girly. I like high heels and trying on lipsticks,’ says Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi in We Should All Be Feminists. This fixation with critiquing all the things women say, do and wear undermines our authority and is holding us back from closing the gender gap in the workplace. How nice would it be to be judged on just the merits of our accomplishments.