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Let Her Speak: A Letter to Male Leadership on Campus

I am sitting at one of our regular e-board meetings, fretting about getting all my assignments done, when my friend, the only other woman on our board, starts speaking. The exchange goes a bit like this:

Her: “We should do X, Y, and Z.”

One of our Presidents: “Mhm. Yes, so I’d just like to add that we should do X, Y, and Z.”

Interesting. She just said that, but it didn’t seem to register with him. Now I’m giving the conversation my full attention.

Turns out this kind of thing happens often. Now, I don’t typically speak out too much in these meetings, but when I do, I have something important to contribute. It’s very annoying then, to either a) have someone interrupt you for several minutes, then not get back to what you were trying to speak on in the first place, b) speak over you so loudly that you cannot be heard, or c) not listen to you at all, then repeat what you’ve just said as if it were their own idea. When we are talking, it is disrespectful to interject your opinion in the middle of our sentences. If one of us pauses for three seconds to gather our thoughts, it is not an invitation for you to interrupt. When you get emotional about what we’re saying, please do not raise your voice and talk over us.

It is not my goal to imply that every male in a leadership position at Davidson is contributing to this problem – that’s not it at all – I’m simply hoping to shed some light on what several women and I have found to be a common issue.

The value of female opinion in our organization started deteriorating last semester during our discussions on possible events we could organize. One event in particular struck quite a negative chord with her and I, and we voiced our concerns. It wasn’t mentioned again, and we thought we’d heard the last of it.

Flash forward to this semester, and the event was brought up again, this time with the full force and bravado of several individuals madly on board with the idea. For a second, and later, a third time, our voices were drowned out. Normally, I don’t let small annoyances like these bother me all that much, but when a lack of respect and acknowledgment goes so far as to create a hostile environment for female voices, I must speak out.

It is not difficult to take five seconds to process a perspective different than your own. If you find that you agree, great. If you don’t agree, that’s absolutely great as well. However, when that crucial pause and reflection is not happening, when our opinions are rendered completely worthless from the get go, there needs to be a change.     

 

 

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