For some employees at ad agencies, Slack is just another channel they use to communicate on a daily basis. But for others, it’s a tool that levels the playing field. Women at agencies, for instance, say they can express themselves on Slack without the pressure to tone down or soften their language, something they often feel pressured to do in real life. Stephanie Mitesser, a senior content strategist at digital agency Huge, has felt the sting of sexism during her career. Three years ago, when she was working as a project manager at an agency outside of New York, she was told she needed to soften her tone and appear warmer when talking to clients about business, something that contrasted with her naturally assertive personality. A conversation like this, she said, would never be had about how anyone communicates over Slack. “People are so informal on Slack,” she said. “I feel much freer to be direct and to the point, without having to worry about coming across as cold.”

Another employee at an agency, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the platform is “a safety net.” “I can express myself in any way I want,” she said, “without worrying about how people will perceive me as a woman.”

According to a 2016 University of Vermont study that analyzed gender and language on Facebook, men tend to pepper their speech with declarative sentences, using phrases like “always,” obviously” and “definitely” and directives like “do this,” while women use more hedge terms like “seems, “maybe” and “kind of.”

Softening one’s language with “maybe” and “if it’s OK” occurs in business meetings, work emails and social media all the time, said Jen Usdan McBride, head of digital and innovation at JWT. She has caught herself doing it when sending work-related emails. Read more here…

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