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.

MM 1990

Me in 1990

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?