How to run a meeting (when you’re the only woman in it)

We all know that feeling. You walk into a meeting and you’re the only female in a room full of suits and receding hairlines. With only 5% of Fortune 500 CEOs being women, and the tech sector dominated by men, this is a scenario women will be encountering for a few more years. Here are three winning strategies.

1/ Don’t be one of the guys In a boardroom dominated by men, it’s easy to fall into the trap of manning-up. But, steeling yourself against any potential gender-bias criticism by locking down your usual lady-like mannerisms is a mistake. You’re here because you’re the best. Be authentic.

2/ Use body language effectively A study from Princeton and Brigham Young universities found that men tend to monopolize 75 percent of the conversation in meetings. All the more reason to make yourself heard— and seen. Age and experience might lend you a little sit-up-and-take-notice in a meeting, but ultimately it’s how you carry yourself that matters most.

Here are a few simple ways to use body language to project confidence and authority: Don’t shy away from expansive gestures—they’ll help you own the room. Ditch your script and refer to your notes sparingly, to give more credibility to what you’re saying and project your voice when you speak.

3/ Learn to stickhandle mansplaining Whether it’s one of the guys taking it upon himself to explain something to you that you already know, or a case of “bropropriation” (the term for a man taking credit for a woman’s idea), it’s not unusual to encounter alpha male office culture, even when a woman is leading the meeting. Instead of sitting politely and smiling, there are a few ways you can push back: You can cut him short with a quick and confident, “Let me continue and if there’s a question at the end we can address it then.” You can also counter with a quip like, “Bob, you know I’m not going to give up the floor just yet…” or if it feels appropriate, call him out. After all, it’s your meeting.

Verityverity