Speak Up, Speak Out

I had a guest speaker in one of my classes, recently, who was a recruiter for a business journal. When she asked my class for questions, one female student spoke up and asked, “I feel weird talking about myself. Do you have any advice for people who don’t want to talk about themselves too much during an interview?” The recruiter then turned to a small group of men and asked them, “Do you have this issue? No? That’s what I thought.”

This incident made me realize that women are raised to be silent throughout our lives. As children, we’re silenced if we have issues, mentally or physically (most dads really don’t know about periods). As teenagers, we’re taught to focus on others to be polite. And by adulthood, we’re so afraid to talk about ourselves or our problems that we’re unable to discuss even our accomplishments with a recruiter.

In contrast, men (typically cis, white) are celebrated for speaking up when there is an issue. They have no problem speaking about themselves because they’re taught from an early age to be loud and proud of their achievements.

We tend to think that gender roles are slowly deteriorating with new movements like the #MeToo movement and the third (fourth?) wave of feminism, but the fact is we’re still afraid to be as confident as our male counterparts. We will be in their shadow until we learn otherwise.

Although a quick solution would be ideal, the problem seems generational. We were taught by our grandparents and parents to stand aside and quietly watch while our male counterparts take the stage and assert themselves.

In order to create a wave of confident, assertive women, we have to teach young girls that it’s OK to talk about themselves and their issues. We need to validate their feelings and their worth, so they can learn how to communicate healthily. Through feminist movements like the Women’s March, we can show young girls that women have a powerful voice, and that voice can result is important changes.

One day, hopefully soon, women will feel confident in communicating their needs and wants without issue, leading to better pay, self-worth and healthier relationships.