You are more powerful than you may think you are. Your voice matters, even when you speak it softly. Let me give you an example. I was recently at a conference with 1200 people in the audience. The speaker, a man, was noting that the audience was almost split 50/50 between women and men. He then went on to ask the women in the audience if it was OK with us if he referred to everyone in the room as “guys.” You know, as in, “You guys are getting it!” or “You guys need to be back here in 20 minutes for the next session. Well, I was a little stunned at the question and I paused. There was a collective low moan from the women; some women spoke up and said, “OK” or “Sure!” But there were other women who quietly said, “No, it’s not OK.” I heard the responses and then shouted out, “No!” I realized I was ready to speak out on behalf of the 50% women in the room. Mind you, I got a couple of dirty looks from women sitting close to me. Other women, emboldened by the responses, chimed in, “no!” Pretty soon the speaker stood on the stage a bit perplexed and asked us how he should refer to the crowd if he we didn’t want him to call us “guys.” That led to a spirited discussion that lasted for about 5 minutes. The closest he got to a comfortable answer for himself was Y’all, but he didn’t really like that he said because he’s not from the south. He was clearly uncomfortable and acted surprised that we didn’t want to be called guys. It was interesting to watch and to participate. The speaker finally went on with his program and tried different ways of addressing us. I could tell he was trying hard. He slipped back to calling the group “guys” a couple of times but mostly he did OK.
I noticed later, when a young millennial male was on stage, the millennial had no trouble calling the audience “Y’all.” He never once referred to us as guys. He had been listening and paying attention. And this gave me such hope. The women spoke up. We made a difference. And other men in the room were paying attention.
I hope when you have a chance you will speak up too. It can be uncomfortable. You are likely to get some disgruntled looks and responses. Do it anyway!
Leave a comment below and tell us of a time you spoke up on behalf of the 50% of the population (women). Where were you? What was going on? How was your message received?