Presentations/Soft-spoken women

Megan Brown mbrown at fred
Mon Oct 27 12:56:14 EST 1997

While attending a small (150 people) conference for the last couple of
days, I was struck by a problem that a few women speakers had--they were
too soft-spoken and their presentation could not be heard!

The conference room has a nice acoustic design and I have spoken in it
several times without a microphone with no difficulties. For this
conference,there was indeed a microphone, but unfortunately it broke
temporarily and was unavailable for several hours. During this time there
were a number of 10 minute talks by students and postdocs, both male and
female. All the men were able to sufficiently raise their voices so that
they could be heard throughout the room. But a couple of the women had
problems with this. It was very frustrating for the audience. The women in
question were not first year grad students either. They were postdocs who
by now in their careers must have given numerous talks. How could it be
that they hadn't learned to raise their voices in all these years?
During the first couple of minutes of one woman's talk, she was asked 3
separate times to speak up. She would perhaps raise her voice for about 3
words and then go back to her soft-spoken presentation that no one could
hear. Quite a few in audience got fed up and used this time to excuse
themselves from the hall for a break.

So my suggestion to women (and men, who can also be soft-spoken) for
presentations is to make sure you raise your voice loud enough to be
heard. You can't get your message out if no one can hear you.

I was left wondering if this inability (or unwillingness) of some women to
talk loud enough was physiological or sociological--maybe some women have
been socialized to not talk too loud because it is not ladylike?.



Megan Brown
mbrown at
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Seattle, Washington

More information about the Womenbio mailing list