This talk resonated with me and many women in the room. Some girls shared that they have been told that they are not tall enough, or that their voice isn’t deep enough. Judy shut that down, with wit and practicality. She stressed the importance of having confidence in ourselves and carrying it out in our speech.
One example of a woman with, in my opinion, incredible diction and confidence is Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, who gave an insightful TED talk titled, “We Should All Be Feminists.” While I think that it is beyond doubt worth listening to, there is one excerpt that I found especially relatable. It describes something akin to what Judy Schechtman said she’d experienced before, when she was leading a leadership conference with her male business partner and was automatically introduced as his assistant. Adiche says:
“I have a friend… who took over a managerial position from a man. Her predecessor had been considered a ‘tough go-getter’; he was blunt and hard-charging and was particularly strict about the signing of the time sheets. She took on her new job, and imagined herself equally tough, but perhaps a little kinder than him… Only weeks into her new job, she disciplined an employee about a forgery on a time sheet, just as her predecessor would have done... The employee complained to top management about her style. She was aggressive and difficult to work with, the employee said… It didn’t occur to any of them that she was doing the same thing for which a man had been praised.”
That last phrase describes part of the problem we have with women as leaders. We expect them to bring about a “women’s touch,” which perhaps they are not apt to do. These slights at women leaders are remarkably relatable to most women, and perhaps especially to sorority women. I once had a professor make fun of women in sororities by imitating them using a high-pitched voice and vapid facial expression. He did not make a swipe at fraternity members, while at the same time asking the class which members were in sororities, as if to bring his joke to life. Of course, this isn’t a major injustice. However, these stereotypes against women, leaders and sororities are things that many do deal with.
This assumption that women, or sorority women, may inherently not be good leaders makes one of Judy’s points even more poignant. She said that if given the opportunity, she encourages us to help fellow women climb up in their careers. In other words, she urged us to build each other up. What I thought of first, was that emboldening each other is an important aspect of our sisterhood.
I’m so happy that I can be sisters with ladies that I know will bring me up instead of tearing me down, all the while accepting me for who I am. Our voices are not too high and none of us are too short. We are all leading women.
Here is the link to Adiche’s TED talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg3umXU_qWc