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Scottish nationalist leader Nicola Sturgeon took part in several Scottish and UK wide TV election debates in the run up to the 2015 UK general election and according to opinion polls was regarded to have had a successful performance. The following article by Sheelagh McNamara, Senior Tutor, RADA in Business,  reviews the performance of women leaders in the pre-election.

Well, the results are in – so how do they reflect the women’s pre-election performances? With the largest representation yet of senior-level women in the pre-election campaigning, and not without their gaffs (Labour’s pink van-gate anyone?) did the women leaders get heard is the real question. Certainly the increase in female MPS, currently at 190 from a pre-election figure of 147, would indicate so, at least superficially.

In politics, as in business, the media is hung up on female quotas but the fact is that simply being present is not the same as having presence. With the SNP’s resounding and historic result in Scotland, it seems very clear that Nicola Sturgeon was a woman both seen and heard.

The only time we saw all three women leaders on stage together was in the seven-leader TV debate. Standing alongside men who were well-versed in old-school debating skills, if not in performance delivery skills, how did the women present and was this the turning point for Sturgeon?

Nicola Sturgeon
Archetype: The Credible Woman

  • She was comfortable interrupting men, even Cameron the Alpha Male, sure of herself and clearly not intimidated.
  • She elicited applause from the audience when talking about herself eg. ‘As a working class kid…’. She knows how to connect with people on an emotional level.
  • She had clear vocal authority and confidence, and paced what she said to tell her story effectively.
  • She was passionate without being overly emotional.

Natalie Bennett
Archetype: Lackluster Female

  • The pace of speech was slow and her pauses were too long – it made her sound as if she was hunting for something to say.
  • Her dull vocal performance was monotone and insufficiently passionate. The lack of colour in what she was wearing only amplified her lack of vocal presence.

Leanne Woods
Archetype: Wallflower Girl

  • She was vocally tentative, and phrasing like ‘I hope that what you’ve heard tonight…’ made her sound uncertain.
  • She knows what to do – jumping in after Cameron made a point, but lost the floor by asking a question tentatively and was thus ignored by the others.

This article first appeared in https://www.radainbusiness.com,  Nicola Sturgeon: A Woman Seen & Heard


RADA, the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, has been a leading name for over a century in the field of performance. RADA in Business draws on the lessons taught by one of the world’s leading drama schools, delivering tailored communication-based courses to business at all levels from KPMG to Channel 4. Our tutors have coached some of the leading business people to help them connect with their audience.

Sheelagh McNamara, a voice, speech & presentation skills expert, who has worked with everyone from Oscar nominees to politicians to lawyers, is a RADA in Business tutor – taking the dramatic training skills to the business world. She is the course leader on our Executive Presence for Women course.


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