It was the mid 1990’s and I was on the NKY Chamber Executive Committee as the Small Business Chair. Having been in love with business since I was in my 20’s, I was ecstatic to be in this role. I was the young kid in the room and as usual in those days, the only woman.
We were discussing a topic that I had some energy about, and I was actively voicing my opinion when one of the men across the table pointed at me, and in a loud voice said, “Let me tell you why you are wrong!” And proceeded onto a monologue of his truth.
My response was to be quiet. I left the meeting feeling humiliated and I spent months replaying the event in my mind. It never turned out better and I just felt worse about myself with every memory.
If you are a woman, you may see yourself in that story.
Fast forward to 2010. I am in a community-planning meeting. There are many folks there with decidedly different views about what our community should or should not be in the next 20 years.
I am actively voicing my opinion on the topic of this meeting, what change would you like to see in our community in the next 20 years? As I have just started to speak, the man across the table says in a loud voice, “let me tell you why you are wrong!”
He starts talking. I interrupt him, “Sir, this is a community forum. We are invited here to share our opinions. You do not get to tell me why I am wrong. When I am speaking, you need to be quiet. When I am finished, I will be happy to listen to everything you have say.” His response was to be quiet. He let me finish. Then he had his say.
I left that meeting feeling pretty good about myself and remembered the same event so many years earlier. Wow, am I ever glad I found my voice. The one that says, “What I have to say is important and I deserve the respect of others. I give respect to myself and others.”
As a woman is wasn’t easy to rewind all those years of being told it was better to be seen than heard. No one taught me how to stand up for myself. And that is OK. The lessons I have learned in the school of hard knocks are precious to me. They are mine and no one can ever take them from me.
Is your voice waiting for you?