At our most recent dinner on April 16th, Shari Graydon, founder and catalyst of Informed Opinions, presented “Overcoming anonymous in search of more fully clothed role models.” Shari stressed the importance of the female voice; drawing awareness to the obstacles faced by influential women who speak up. Shari reminded us that we all have informed opinions, knowledge and experiences worth sharing. The unfortunate truth is women are more likely than men to give up the opportunity to voice an opinion when given the opportunity. When Shari polled our attendees if they ever declined the chance to speak because “they weren’t the right person to ask” or because “someone else would be better suited to comment,” more than half of us raised our hands.
Sometimes it seems we are our own worst enemy, allowing self-consciousness and doubt prevent us from expressing our opinions. Statistically speaking, men’s opinions out-number women’s at least four to one in the media. Empowering women to express themselves is not only important for the individual, but also for the collective. Shari spoke from the heart when she said “it’s a sad day when a woman remains silent.” Women experience things differently from men – in regards to sexuality, appearance, safety and maternity – which need to be considered in public discourse.
However, operating in a position of influence and having a strongly informed opinion isn’t a walk in the park. There’s still gender-specific challenges which affect influential and opinionated women today. Shari offered a number of examples of inspirational women who chose to speak up, be powerful in their own right, and influence others. While these “fully clothed role models” are an inspiration, their presence in the media reveals that strong and opinionated women still face gender discrimination – gender-specific criticisms, harassment and cruelty – not typically experienced by male counterparts. Female leaders contend with public focus on their looks and wardrobe, rather than their opinions. Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo! was heavily scrutinized for taking her position during her pregnancy. Hilary Clinton was slammed in the press for her wardrobe choices. Sexism is still prevalent, despite living in these “modern times.”
The good news is, as more women choose to have a public voice, the more these opinions will become the focus of discussion. We all benefit from women in power. When women are included in senior corporate positions, companies perform better and operate with higher ethical practices. In countries where women are educated, the quality of life is raised for everyone.
Shari inspired us to find our voice. As Alice Walker once said, “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” The next time you have the opportunity to speak, be confident that your voice is as strong as those around you. If you have an informed opinion, share it. What if you really are the best person to ask?
If you’d like to purchase Shari’s book I Feel Great About My Hands…And Other Unexpected Joys of Aging, please contact Ashley Armstrong at ashley(at)informedopinions(dot)org.
A special thank-you to our sponsors for their generous door prize donations:
And, congratulations to our door prize winners!
Camille De Baets