Timely Gender and Body Language Workshop

The WBAI hosted its second CLE seminar with Advanced Body Language Expert, Alison Henderson, of Moving Image Consulting, on January 21, 2020. In the seminar, Beyond Power Posing-Using Body Language Gender Differences to Women’s Advantage and Career Advancement, Ms. Henderson shared some little-known differences in male and female behavior, ways to mix up behavior to be more persuasive, and how to use body language observation to be heard more regularly in a male dominated field.

Past advice and strategy has been power suits with shoulder pads and “act like a man.” This doesn’t need to be standard operations moving forward. Similar to other male dominated industries, the decorum and expectations of a conservative profession clashing with generational shifts and recent movements like #MeToo have left women struggling with how to own their contributions and advance in the field.

Highlights from the session include:


In the Forbes article, Female Lawyers Face Widespread Gender Bias, According To New Study from October 1, 2018 several plights facing female lawyers were highlighted:

“Although assertiveness and self-promotion are often needed to succeed in the legal field, women often feel that they must walk a tightrope. If they are too assertive, then they are criticized for not behaving in a ladylike fashion. If they are not assertive enough, then they are often seen as lacking the confidence needed to succeed.”                                              

This was affirmed at the workshop by participants, “I was described as abrasive or controlling,” and, “I have heard criticism that I am bossy.”

One way to balance the assertive versus aggressive line is to keep good posture and stand evenly over both feet. Avoid standing with a hip pushed out like many female silhouettes and marketing images portray. This broken-line posture is perceived as challenging and often overly assertive. For more aggressive vs. assertive tips and demonstrations, check out the “Assertive vs. Aggressive” playlist on Moving Image’s YouTube channel.

Use of Space

Another topic from the workshop was making certain you are taking up enough space. From the same Forbes article, “White men don’t realize how much ‘space’ belongs to them or that they unconsciously feel that they own space.” Since men usually take up more space in a room, women need to keep great posture and take up more width with their arms spread out a bit. Spreading out papers to visually take up more table space is another signal that women are not to be intimidated in the “space battle.”

Listening With Your Eyes

By observing the behavior of others, women can have more control in communication without having reactions that escalate confrontations, or the opposite where they are called “passive aggressive” or “weak.” Participants practiced observing each other in conversation to see where the individual moved in space, as well as looking for qualities of movement.

There are six distinguishable movement aspects to witness. By observing, women can use the opposite quality to surprise the other person and stay “in power” during the conversation. For example, if a male (or female) partner is accelerating and using pressure to intimidate, the woman can decelerate and lighten her movements rather than matching the behavior in a “tit for tat” manner. It takes time and practice for this technique, but it is very powerful and something which isn’t taught to women as a strategy.

The session closed with a reminder for women to truly mentor others and reach back and help new women in the profession rather than regard them as competition. An appropriate final word from Corinne Heggie, Partner, Wochner Law Firm LLC and 2019-2020 President, Women’s Bar Association of Illinois: “Women cannot overlook the importance of nonverbal behavior in business relationship.”

About The Author

Alison Henderson is one of 26 Certified Movement Pattern Analysts in the world who uses advanced body language observation to study movement and its impact on business success. Moving Image Consulting provides transformational training to improve body language signals and the verbal content to match it.