Equinox CEO Says She Did These 3 Things When Men Ignored Her in Meetings

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Colleagues in Meeting

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AnnaMarie Houlis
AnnaMarie Houlis
April 22, 2024 at 3:46AM UTC
Equinox CEO Niki Leondakis says men used to ignore her in meetings, even though she was the boss. Rather, they'd avoid eye contact with her and tallk with her male subordinates instead of her.
In a recent intallment of CNBC's interview series Two Questions with Adam Bryant, Leondakis remembers a specific time that a colleague left the room and one of the men in the meeting said, "When your boss comes back in the room, we should discuss this." Another colleague corrected him with: "Dude, don't you realize she's the boss?"
"All of a sudden everything shifted, and they started making eye contact and redirecting the conversation to me," she says. "It just goes to show you that assumptions were made — because I was a woman, and the only one in the room, I was subordinate to the guy sitting next to me."
This wasn't the last time a conversation of this nature happened to Leondakis. She moved into bigger roles over the course of her career, now as the CEO of Equinox, and before as the CEO of Two Roads Hospitality and the president and COO of Kimpton Hotels. And she says, while she's has had fewer moments like that, it still happens all too often.
Here are three pieces of advice she shares that have helped her in meetings since.

1. Set the Tone.

At the start of every important meeting, Leondakis introduces and even places her business card in front of each person at the table so they cannot doubt who she is.

2. Keep Active in the Conversation.

Leondakis says that some men will "mansplain," ignore you and repeat your ideas and take credit for them. Nonetheless, "Don't let it psyche you out," she says. "Don't let the noise that creates in your head stop you from being an active contributor. Make sure that you continue to engage. Lean into the conversation and assert your point of view."

3. Learn the Language.

"Don't lose who you are, but learn to speak the language," she says of meeting men where they're at. "Women tend to be more empathic," she says. "We tend to be more sensitive to how people are feeling and reacting. We are reading people's faces and we're responding to a lot of visual cues around us. Sometimes that causes us to give a lot of information, whereas men more often want to bottom-line it quickly."
AnnaMarie Houlis is a multimedia journalist and an adventure aficionado with a keen cultural curiosity and an affinity for solo travel. She's an editor by day and a travel blogger at HerReport.org by night.

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