Be Heard: Effective Communication Strategies for Women Builders

Be Heard: Effective Communication Strategies for Women Builders

Construction is filled with gender stereotypes: men are better at construction because they are stronger, men are more mechanically inclined than women, and men make better leaders. Gender bias works the other way, too. One of the reasons often touted for hiring more women builders is that women are naturally better communicators.

Are women builders better communicators?
“Effective communication is essential for ensuring that projects run smoothly, and women are often able to communicate more clearly and empathetically than their male counterparts. This can help to prevent misunderstandings, reduce conflicts, and improve overall project outcomes,” according to Hines Homes in a Women in Construction Week post.

Yet, women builders still experience communication challenges. Among the most significant differences in communication styles are that women more frequently apologize, use tentative language, and are too emotional. Men are more likely to interrupt women than a male colleague, too.

Girl, stop apologizing

Apologizing and using tentative language undermine a woman’s authority when communicating. So why do so many women do it? According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, women over apologize for these reasons:

  • To be liked.
  • Because of a false sense of guilt.
  • To express empathy.
  • Because of perfectionism.

Employing tentative language, such as “um,” makes speech seem less abrupt and gives the speaker time to gather their thoughts but it also can appear to others that the speaker is not confident.

HBR adds, “According to research by Deborah Tannen, if you over apologize, you come across as weaker and less confident. Interestingly, you actually seem more blameworthy by apologizing than by not apologizing.”

“Men interrupt women. A lot. There is plenty of research that show men speak up to 75 percent more in meetings, are more likely to interrupt and are almost three times as likely to interrupt women as they are to interrupt other men.” That’s according to Maureen Berkner Boyt of Fairygodboss, a  career community for women. Boyt offers these suggestions to end manterruptions without getting flustered:

  • Keep talking.
  • Restart where you left off.
  • Be a voice for other women.
  • Implement a “no interruptions” policy.

Conflict resolution

Diverse backgrounds as well as differing communication styles can lead to conflict in the workplace. For successful conflict resolutions, women builders can use these tips from Mind Tools, a personal and professional on-demand learning platform:

  • Raise the issue early.
  • Manage emotions.
  • Show empathy.
  • Practice active listening.
  • Acknowledge criticism.

NAWIC helps women in construction be heard
Of course, there are many ways for women builders to boost their communication skills. NAWIC offers professional development for its members, including opportunities to enhance communication skills, from crafting an elevator speech to conflict resolution. Chapters often present communication workshops and NAWIC National and its Regions provide educational opportunities during conferences.

The National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) helps women in construction be heard by advocating for all women in the industry and by providing educational opportunities, leadership training, mentorship, and support. As the leading organization for women in construction, NAWIC has more than 6,100 members in 118 chapters across the US. Contact a chapter near you to learn more.