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Image / Editorial

What to do when you’re the only woman in the room


by Colette Sexton
05th Jul 2019

Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady

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Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in Iron Lady

Advice to women: Listen carefully. Know the facts. Tone down your voice. Colette Sexton’s response: Give us a break.


Men still dominate the top positions in business across Ireland. Currently only 16.4% of directors of all Irish publicly listed companies are women, while 15 listed companies still have all-male boards.  

One in nine chief executives of large companies with 250 or more employees in Ireland in 2019 are women, according to the Central Statistics Office.

Related: The Pitch is back. Enter to win up to €100,000 for your business

It also found that women account for only 28% of senior executive roles compared with 72% for men.

FTSE 350

Out of the companies listed on the London Stock Exchange’s FTSE 350, four have no women on their boards at all, while 50 companies have only one woman on the board.

This signals that many believe that “one and done” approach is acceptable.

“Tone down your voices, to do your research and know the facts.”

So what do you do if you are the one? 

If you research the topic, you will find articles telling women in the boardroom to listen carefully, not to dress inappropriately, to tone down their voices, to do their research and know the facts. And, let’s not forget, to adapt their communication style to match the men in the room.

Are they having a laugh? 

Equality form

Standing out as being “other” in a work environment due to your gender, your sexual identity, your race, or any other reason, can be incredibly difficult. You can be seen by some as the “token”, there only to check a box on some HR equality form.

Try not to let yourself start believing the prejudiced views of others. You don’t need to change yourself for them, they need to change their outdated attitudes.

If a woman manages to claw her way into a boardroom or any senior position, she will have done so, the vast majority of the time, because she is excellent at her job.

“Recognise when you are the victim of manterrupting.”

Despite the glass ceiling, the countless studies showing male candidates are favoured over equally or more qualified women, the many barriers she will have had to navigate in order to get to that position, she is then being told that changing her tone of voice will be her key to success. Give me a break. 

Keep doing

If you are the only woman in the room, keep doing what you’re doing.

You’ve clearly worked hard and you’re already on the way to the top. Allow yourself to trust your own instincts and ideas.

Recognise when you are the victim of manterrupting – when a man speaks over you in the room. Do not allow others to take your idea. Say it louder and get the credit for it.

When this happens, women tend to pull back and relinquish all authority over their ideas.

Call it out, and do so while wearing whatever you god damn want. 


Read more: Empowering movies that make you proud to be a woman

Read more: Spotlight on Irish family businesses

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