Artful use of Voice to navigate Male Culture


  • Author Diane Edwards
  • Published May 18, 2024
  • Word count 997

Artful use of Voice in navigating male culture - Women in Leadership

Question: Is using a feminine versus masculine vocal intonation and demeanor a Career Maker or Career Breaker for women leaders?

I have seen a variety of vocal tones and body language that women leaders use to interact with men, whether it be team members, peers, or superiors. The most effective tends to be a less abrasive softer (at times more hushed) tone of voice. Also, a joyful slight bell-like lilt can allay the pressure of the most intense moments of a day filled with resolution of major issues.

You will see women being judgemental of a woman using her femininity in speaking with males in the workplace, rarely will a man complain of this. Why? There is a Power Play daily in corporate America between men and women, despite how modern the times are. Seeming to submit to the authority of men by using a less masculine voice, is effective. As is, asserting a louder more masculine intonation strategically/surprisingly to evoke a jarring emotion and cause speedier resolution when tasks are lagging.

'You get more bees with honey, than with vinegar.' Women can activate a busy bee culture and further, may be the ONLY effective method to successfully manage and collaborate with men. It has certainly proven invaluable in managing upwards.

Despite being highly credentialed and regaled for success, a woman MUST be able to be artful in vocal tone to be adept at navigating corporate america. Laughter also is key. The uniqueness of being a woman leader is that she is a WOMAN. As the greatest artists and musicians relay the depth of emotion that women inspire in men, this truth is felt even more when teams are embattled with long work days and a thankless litany of issue resolutions.

Eye contact also can be used to create a compassionate plea for dedication and commitment. Combined with a softer voice intonation, a woman leader can Gain Consensus and Negotiate hard edged solutions in a short time frame while leaving an indelible impression on those team members, peers, and superiors she interacts with.

Case Study

Director of IT for a major hospitality brand in Long Island [Name withheld due to high profile status]. Brown haired stout woman with playful eyes, age: 51 Management Style: High energy, always volunteering for the toughest assignments. Weapon: Use of a soft voice, compassionate body language, and candy in meetings to cultivate fierce loyalty amongst male workers and direct line to key male superiors, creating a management identity to be reckoned with. Her impassioned plea of 'Call my cell phone please if anything goes bad even at night, my husband and kids won't mind' left you feeling so cared for and Protective of her, you never wanted to be the reason to bother waking her up.

I joined this multimillion dollar project as Project Manager assigned to manage the project tasks teams of employees and consultants numbering in the hundreds for a full system replacement of a major global travel booking website. The first meeting that I attended with her, I immediately felt as if all of my prior experience working for major companies climbing the corporate ladder in Manhattan, was primary school to her post grad. She knew how to change the emotion of a room using her feminine wiles despite no major physical beauty, and was no model-type.

She smiled, looked around to each face with softness in her eyes, and always had a bowl of candy in each meeting. Having been trained to leverage a highly organized agenda and meeting etiquette to gain respect, I was in for a major lesson in social male/female workplace needs. She was everyone's mother/sister/aunt instantly. Unbeknownst to you, she lead each aspect of her teams and directives through social mechanisms of human interaction.

I don't know if she had a background in sociology or psychology or if her skills were innate.

They worked.

Vendor Management

In one meeting as a vendor's technical staff indicated a need to cause a temporary work stoppage to swap out offshore to onshore resources, she modulated her voice into that of a pleading young woman, putting her arms on the conference table while sliding her hands through her hair in near tears. No yelling, no intense confrontation. An emotional plea that left you feeling as if her world was caving in.

The vendor manager, so touched by how deeply felt her plea was, volunteered to be available personally during the time frame to step in and perform coding as needed. He also rallied some offshore resources allocated to other clients to fill in the gap.

I saw firsthand that being a woman leader did not have to mean 'Not a Man, but Good'. It could mean, 'A Woman, so Damn Good'. This women leader did not even TRY to portend the demeanor or attributes of a male leader (other than her suits which tended to be boxy and shapeless, but likely due to lack of fashion sense and weight gain from having her children). She was phenomenal, truly a woman in motion!

Managing Upwards

I also saw how she managed upwards, she treated her male superiors like kings. She hung her head to the left in a compassionate openness when addressing them and projected more concern for their stress than hers. These 2 particular male superiors were renowned for being both extremely tough and no nonsense while the other was warm, yet highly asserted and detail oriented. She relied heavily on me to have the expected detailed information regarding the project, and I felt so much reverence for how she connected with everyone, I was proud to do my part.

I was forever changed in my managerial attributes because of having worked with her. I learned to demonstrate care and concern first treating resources as People FIRST and Workers SECOND. The number one formula for successfully galvanizing a team towards accomplishing a goal.

Diane has managed hundreds of projects for all types of companies including Major Conglomerate Corporations like CBS, Showtime, IBM, Verizon, Avis/Budget, CIGNA Healthcare and many more. Possessing a rare combination of charm and dedication to hard work, teams gravitate towards her leadership style and reputation for getting projects delivered with speed and quality.

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