Episode No. 133
  •  February 29, 2024

Silence Isn’t Always Golden

Why Women Don't Speak Up at Work

There are good reasons why women don’t speak up at work, but that silence is not serving us. When we communicate publicly, assertively and honestly for the rights and needs of ourselves and others, we’re shifting the power dynamics that have held us all back.


First, we know that women are more likely to speak up for others than they are for themselves.  We also know from the research that women are far more likely to be interrupted and talked over.  A 2014 study by Harvard Business Review found that while men and women see this as a problem, men tend to attribute this to a woman’s failure to make their point in a strong, clear way – or getting rattled and allowing themself to be interrupted.  Women tend to attribute this to feeling isolated and not liking conflict.

Our hosts delve deeper into what the research says about why and here is what they found:

  1. Insinuation anxiety, which is the fear of insinuating distrust or disapproval of someone else.
  2. Fear of embarrassment, need we say more?
  3. Pluralistic ignorance, which is when we tend to sit around thinking someone else in the group will speak up – also known as the bystander effect.

When we do not speak up , we end up less of all the good things – physical and emotional well-being and more of what we do not want, stress and unhappiness.

There are some key times to speak up: when our boundaries are violated, when we notice someone is upset, when something goes against the rules, when we recognize danger and when no else does.

Dr. Sunita Sah at Cornell University suggests preparing to speak up can be helpful and asking for more time if you need it.  Crina and Kirsten add, being clear, avoiding over-explaining, being compassionate and honoring your preferences.

The benefits of voicing your thoughts are high – more authenticity and more satisfaction.  It is also critical that each of our very special and unique voices are heard.


Speak Up at Thanksgiving. Your Health Demands It

The Unavoidable Trap of Politeness: Why Is It So Hard to Just Say “No”? ‹ Literary Hub

Opinion: Why you find it so hard to resist taking bad advice – Los Angeles Times

Women, Find Your Voice (hbr.org) 

Speaking Up for Yourself Is Important — 11 Steps to Get It Right

Why Is It So Hard to Speak Up at Work? – The New York Times

The Effect of Gender on Interruptions at Congressional Hearings | American Political Science Review | Cambridge Core