‘Pushy, gobby, rude’: why do women get penalised for talking loudly at work

As a female physicist wins an unfair dismissal claim, why some women are viewed as strident or difficult when men aren’t

For quite a loud woman, it’s amazing how hard Judith Howell had to work to get heard. Howell, 49, used to be a government lobbyist, and she noticed a well-known phenomenon: “It’s incredibly male-dominated, and I’d find that if I said something it would get picked up by someone else in the meeting as if they’d said it. So I’d have to push a bit harder, be a bit more strident, literally interrupt and – not shout, but raise my voice. And some people found that very annoying.”

Howell cheerfully admits that she has a loud voice. “I grew up in a family of boys,” she boomed. “And I learned to sing at a young age, so I know how to project.” As a rowing coach, when she gives instructions to her crew from the riverbank, she can be heard from nearly a mile away.

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