I should re-name this blog, How Our Voice Has Been Taken Away. It may come across as a rant. But I want to explain why I think that women finding their voice is so important. Why as a coach helping women find their voice is my top priority, be that in the role of parent, spouse, business owner, employee, manager and citizen. We NEED to feel OK about owning and using our voice both to do ourselves good and to do good for others.
It starts at a young age. We were told that we were doing things that good little girls don’t do. We learned that pink is for girls and blue is for boys, which left those of us whose favourite colour is blue a little confused. When we complained about boys’ being mean to us people said “ah, it must mean he likes you, boys are always mean to girls they like.” Which is a great message to send to both boys and girls about relationships right?
As we get older we may find that our subject choices at school are influenced. Things are changing now, at least in some parts of the world, but when my generation was at school IT, the sciences and Maths weren’t seen as priority learning for the girls. Blanket statements such as “men have better spatial awareness than women” filter through. We know they are generalisations but there are so many, coming at such frequency, that we can’t avoid them.
Perhaps we have been raised by parents who have stuck to traditional roles, the men as breadwinners, the women as caregivers. (Look at those words: winners and givers.)
The media tell us constantly that women are judged by their appearance, or by whether they have children. Men are not, or not as frequently. Women are given higher standards to live up to than men: standards of beauty at every age, standards of behaviour, morals, their ability to be a good mother, their ability to BE a mother.
We are told that we must be careful how much we drink, or of what we wear, in case we “set ourselves up” to be a victim of men who cannot control their violent or sexual urges. We are told that we send mixed messages to men, and that sometimes no means yes.
At work we are often not paid the same as our male counterparts. We may get screwed over when we go on maternity leave. We may be not considered for a job or promotion just in case at some point in the future we need to take maternity leave. Whatever our role in the company when surrounded by men we are expected to play mother, and pour out the coffee at business meetings. Whereas men may be expected to wear a shirt and tie, we are expected to dress smartly and add a layer or two of makeup.
Some or all of this is experienced by women in every sphere. Politicians, actresses, doctors, business women, shop assistants, unemployed people, princesses. Rich or poor, we all feel the impact of this.
Now, I am not blaming all men, or even men in general. I can’t blame a specific media outlet, although some are significantly keener than others on ensuring that we know our place.
However much progress has been made, however many laws have been passed to protect or expand our rights, we are now well into the 21st century and are still finding it difficult to use our voice.
I could give you plenty of examples from my own life. From my clients’ lives. From the wonderful ladies who answered my questionnaires during my research. Times when we have chosen to say nothing, through fear of being told we are being over-sensitive, exaggerating or just not being believed. Times we have chosen to say nothing, in case we are judged. Times we have stopped voicing our dreams, because our dreams is not what our society expects us to pursue. Times we have accepted abusive behaviour in our personal or professional lives, so as not to be seen to make a fuss, or possibly through fear of being alone. Many women who do speak out are subjected to ridicule or abuse.
Finding our voice gives us strength we forget we are capable of. We can use it to set boundaries, command respect, express our feelings, and be authentic to ourselves. We can be amazing. And that is why I think helping clients find their true voice is one of my most important roles.
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