Good morning fellow Toastmasters and guests,
That’s how immature I was during my College days. Did I think like that, because my mom was a house wife? Or, was it because of how Rajini defined women in movies like Mannan & Baadsha, those days? I don’t know. Melinda Gates, co-founder of the famous Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said “A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult”.
Also read: One step at a time (Get to the Point)
Change in Perspective – First Job
When I started my career I realized that … it is not just searching for a women’s voice … even searching to find a women at office was difficult. My perspective towards women was changed by a lady who I met at work place. She was my mentor. She used to patiently teach me everything and specifically, she reviewed all of my emails and offered suggestions on my English grammar / sentence formation etc., I started becoming better at writing emails because of her. She was the sole bread winner of her family because, she had lost her dad a few years ago. When she finished her M.Sc Mathematics she found it difficult to land in a job. She went ahead and completed a diploma course in Computers and managed to crawl into an IT job. She took care of her family and even made her elder brother to settle in life. This lady changed my beliefs. She not only searched and found her voice, but also made her voice to be heard loud and clear… by male chauvinists like me… through her achievements. That is when my perspective towards women changed.
Recently I read the book titled “Lean In” written by the COO of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg. Sheryl shares an interesting incident in her book from the year 2004, when she was working for Google. She got pregnant with her first child. She was running their online sales and operations groups. She had joined the company a few years back when it had a few hundred employees. As you may know, every pregnant lady goes through a terrible time during their first trimester… often plagued by morning sickness and nausea. Women put on a lot of weight during this period. Sheryl wasn’t an exception. Most days, by the time she reached office in the morning, almost all of the parking lots near the building entrance will be taken up. She normally parks at a distant parking space… and ends up walking to the entrance on the hot sun. She couldn’t tolerate this. She walked straight into Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin’s office and told them “We should have a parking space for pregnant ladies, near the entrance”. They made it happen immediately. Till that time, Sheryl hadn’t realized that a pregnant women needed a reserved parking near to the building. Unlike Sheryl, all of the other pregnant women workers of Google had suffered in silence all along. Malala, the famous women rights activist says “I raise up my voice – not so I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard”. Sheryl became the Malala for the pregnant ladies in Google.
Women & Toastmasters
Let us take Toastmasters for example. Though Toastmasters was started in the year 1924, only in 1973 we started officially admitting women. Helen Blanchard who was the first women Toastmaster, later became the first women International President in 1985. Today, worldwide we’ve 48% women in Toastmasters. But, in India… we’ve only less than 30% women joining Toastmasters. Let us look at our own District. We haven’t had many women playing the top District roles. Even the ones who end up playing the roles like DTM Nina John, DTM Suganthi Periasamy had to go through so much of hardship to get there. Research shows that everyone has a bias… The chances for someone to think of women as “bossy” is twice when compared to men. Is THAT challenging our women Toastmasters from getting into the top roles?
Also read: Mitra - My little one (Get to the Point)
Malala says “We realize the importance of our voice, only when we are silenced”. Fellow Toastmasters and Guests, let us help our women to find their voice by letting them sit at the table, by letting them raise their hands, by listening to their voice and at the least, not stopping their voice from being heard. Women like Sheryl Sandberg, Malala and Suganthi have searched and found their voice. Can we help others too, to search and find their voice?