Le’ts Hear From an Expert: Alan Alda, The Women in Business Project
I find it amazing and stupefying that women still get interrupted in meetings (way more than men, and even on the Supreme Court), they still get things explained to them that they already know, they still see their ideas appropriated by someone else, right under their noses, and — that old standby — they still get harassed. This is stupefying because studies show that the more that women rise in a company, the better the company does with its bottom line. Even if people never heard of these studies, don’t they notice that ignoring and even blocking the strengths of women is not all that profitable?
How do you work with women to address these issues?
In our Women in Business workshops, participants get to go through a set of exercises based on improvisation (which sounds scary but is completely comfortable and fun). Then they go through role playing exercises, where they relive and succeed at those difficult moments they tend to experience in the workplace. Each step in the day’s work leads to the next.
The end result is that participants leave with more confidence in their own strength. They often tell us they feel transformed. Partly this is because they haven’t been lectured to, or given some tips and a pep talk, but, instead, they’ve had experiences that change them. And it doesn’t end there. They leave the workshop with techniques to practice on that reinforce the experience they’ve gone through, and they’re encouraged to keep up contact with at least one person in the group so they can mentor each other, providing support and encouragement.
What advice do you have for women in the workplace who feel their voice is marginalized?
If it’s not possible to get into one of our workshops, I‘d say write down the obstacles that are being put in your way, then get a friend to play out those moments with you over and over until you know you can handle them easily. And keep encouraging each other, especially before a crucial event, like asking for a raise.
What resources do you recommend on this topic?
Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead is terrific, as is Deborah Tannen’s Talking from 9 to 5: Women and Men at Work. And it might be helpful to read my book on communicating and relating, If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?.
Connect with Alan Alda:
If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating
Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learned
Alan Alda has earned international recognition as an actor, writer, and director. He has won seven Emmy Awards, received three Tony nominations, is an inductee of the Television Hall of Fame, and was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Aviator. Alda played Hawkeye Pierce on the classic television series M*A*S*H, and his films include Crimes and Misdemeanors, Everyone Says I Love You, Manhattan Murder Mystery, Bridge of Spies, and many more. Alda is an active member of the science community, having hosted the award-winning series Scientific American Frontiers for eleven years and founded the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. Alda is the author of two bestselling books, Never Have Your Dog Stuffed: And Other Things I’ve Learnedand Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself.