Ivanka Trump often finds herself in situations where she's the only woman, or one of few. This is partially because her father's administration is so heavily male (and white), and partially because most government officials still tend to be men. (Although women, especially women of colour, made historic strides during the 2018 US midterms.)
On Wednesday, Ivanka celebrated the passage of the BUILD Act, aimed at investing in developing countries, and once again found herself at a table surrounded by male members of Congress. We spoke with body language expert Patti Wood, author of Snap: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma, who analysed the part of the conversation where Ivanka talks about how the bill will contribute to global women's empowerment. (See video below.)
"Very few people are really intently listening to her, which is interesting," Wood told Refinery29. "Maybe during a couple of moments, but they're being polite. They're not leaning forward, or aiming their bodies toward her." This might suggest that they don't think she's an expert on the subject, but it could also be a sign of the formality of the situation — Wood said that you could interpret this type of response in more than one way.
"The two men next to her [Sen. Chris Coons from Delaware, a Democrat, and Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Ed Royce, a Republican from California] have their hands folded on their paperwork," Wood continued. "It's a more closed body language posture."
As for Ivanka's behaviour, Wood noted that from a media-coaching point of view, she could be speaking with a lot more confidence, especially given that women's economic empowerment is one of her chief subjects.
"She's making a choice to have hair in her face, which is a feminine, sensual signal, and that's interesting," Wood said. "But hair in your face also means you're not quite fully proud of what you're saying. She could also speak louder and with more confidence, and have memorised what she's saying. Spending time reading takes away some of her strength as a speaker and as a woman."