I was recently invited to speak at an event focused on Women in Science at a session entitled: “Let the Women Speak.” Unfortunately, women don’t speak in public enough.
As I was preparing my remarks, I began to reflect on my own experiences as a female introvert in health and technology who is often one of a handful of woman speakers in a sea of men. Speaking publicly is something that I feel compelled to do more than something that brings me direct enjoyment or satisfaction. I am also acutely aware that more often than not, I have been invited as the token woman to ensure some semblance of female representation. To this, I say, who cares why I was invited. I just say yes. Here are four reasons why.
- First, we need to normalize female leadership and our voice, presence, and perspective in public fora. Every public event should strive to ensure that there is 50/50 male – female balance in representation in their programs. The human sex ratio globally is 1:1. There is approximately one female for every one male in the world. Despite the global sex ratio, women are under-represented in leadership roles and public speaking opportunities in almost every sector and segment of society- in the Arts, Government, Academia, Sports, Entertainment, Business, and in the Sciences and Technology.
- More women need to present and claim their own work as their own. I can’t tell you how many times a male colleague has offered to present on my behalf, taken credit for my work in front of me, or presented something that I had just said and was taken more seriously than I was the first time I mentioned it. We often readily cede credit, power and voice to male colleagues. We have to stop doing this as we are doing ourselves and others a disservice.
- When women speak, things for women change and happen. Just look at Iceland. In January 2018, Iceland became the first country in the world to mandate equal pay for equal work. This came after a series of protests by women, demanding this right. Women need to speak up and demand the change that we want for ourselves and for those who will come after us. We need more countries and employers to follow Iceland’s example. It will only happen when we as women publicly value our work as much as men and speak out against this blatant inequity.
- Younger women need more female leaders to speak so that they have examples to follow and can feel inspired and motivated. I can’t tell you how many younger women have expressed their appreciation to me for speaking and providing something to which they can aspire. In most fields, the number of female professionals coming up the ranks is significantly higher than men, and yet the number of female leaders and role models is lagging behind.
The more public parity there is in women’s voices and perspectives alongside men, the more normal it will be. We will face less blatant sexism and discrimination. We will stop judging the tone of women’s voices and arms. We will no longer be able to count the number of women in an event keynote line up on one hand. If you are a woman reading this, the next time you are invited to speak, please say yes. We need your voice. If you are a man reading this, the next time you are in charge of an event or meeting- please invite your female colleagues to present their ideas and work. It is about time we “Let the Women Speak.”
Follow me on Twitter @PattyMechael and LinkedIn. To learn more about our work at HealthEnabled, visit our website at www.healthenabled.org and follow us on Twitter @HealthEnabled. For more insights on gender, technology and health, download: Addressing Gender and Women’s Empowerment In mHealth for MNCH: An Analytical Framework.