While progress has been made towards gender equality in departments, with the latest stats showing that 47.9% of senior civil servants are women, there can still be unique challenges for women occupying positions of power. One essential skill that can help women break barriers and glass ceilings is the ability to project their voices with confidence.
Here we set out some insights from Cath Baxter, a professional voice coach and regular speaker at the Women into Leadership and the Professional Women conference series run by CSW's sister company Dods Diversity & Inclusion.
Overcoming gender stereotypes
Society has long perpetuated the notion that leadership qualities are inherently masculine. Baxter has emphasises the importance of challenging these stereotypes by projecting female voices with confidence.
"Women can practice exercises such as deep diaphragmatic breathing to cultivate breath support, allowing them to speak with a full and resonant voice," she said at a recent Women into Leadership conference, noting that vocal warm-up exercises, such as humming or lip trills, help relax the vocal muscles and promote vocal clarity.
By incorporating these exercises into their routine, Baxter said, women can develop a powerful and authoritative voice, which helps dispel any unjustified doubts about their capabilities.
Leadership is not solely about knowledge and expertise; it also requires the ability to engage and inspire others, hence the importance of captivating an audience and commanding attention with your voice.
Baxter said women can practice exercises that focus on articulation, such as tongue twisters or enunciation drills, to enhance clarity and precision in their speech.
She also suggested varying the pitch and tone of voice during exercises like reading aloud or storytelling, as that helps women develop vocal expressiveness and emotional resonance. Baxter also showed delegates some exercises that enable women to communicate their ideas with impact, inspire others, and rally support.
Building credibility and trust
Credibility and trust are crucial aspects of effective leadership. "A confident voice plays a pivotal role in establishing credibility," Baxter said, noting women can practice exercises that focus on developing vocal presence, such as standing in front of a mirror and speaking with conviction.
Baxter believes that by becoming aware of their vocal strengths and body language, women can refine the delivery of their messages, find authenticity in their voice, and connect with their audience genuinely. Ultimately, these authentic connections foster trust, as others perceive the leader as trustworthy.
Overcoming self-doubt and impostor syndrome
Women often struggle with self-doubt and impostor syndrome, feeling undeserving or inadequate in leadership roles. However, by learning to project their voice with confidence women can combat these internal barriers.
Baxter explained how women can practice exercises that focus on breath control, such as inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly while maintaining a steady voice. The exercise helps them develop a sense of grounding and stability, enhancing their confidence. Other visualisation exercises can help overcome self-doubt.
Inspiring future generations
Mastering the skill of projecting your voice with confidence is crucial not only to creating a positive impact on your own career but also to inspiring future generations of female leaders.
At the Women into Leadership, you will hear Cath Baxter and other speakers explain how authenticity and self-expression enable women to embrace their unique voices and leadership styles.
Over the past few years, leadership has focused on crisis management, and now current and future leaders are looking to build themselves to be their best. The new agenda of the conference series Women into Leadership has been designed to provide women with the skills and inspiration to achieve that.
To see all the upcoming events and register, visit the event website