A recent NYT article titled Speaking While Female written by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant offers an analysis of the double standard in communication and acknowledgement that women face in the work environment. They point out that women often feel intimidated to be as vocal as their male counterparts. Generally they are not given the same credit for ideas and can at times be negatively assessed by their peers for being more outspoken. Given the many advances women have made in the workplace, findings like these can be disheartening. But now it is not the time to lose faith, in fact it’s time to grab a megaphone and get even louder, not only at work but in our personal lives as well.
Italy is a country that still has a macho culture and every time I travel home I am quickly reminded of it. When I am home, I often hear people saying that women shouldn’t talk about politics and economics. It is sometimes said in jest but there is an underlying of truth. Even my liberal father tries to tell me who I should vote for around election time, and I am the one with the multiple degrees! There is often a bias, even if it not consciously recognized to assume that women are not as astute as men when it comes to certain things. I bring up these personal examples because I believe that Sandberg and others don’t go far enough. They stress the corporate environment but I offer that we need to confront this bias in our personal lives. The front line of the fight is not just in the office. It is in the kitchen, the living room and yes, the bedroom. We have to find our voice and raise them loudly when we’re dealing with our fathers, brothers, uncles, boyfriends, lovers, male friends, and so on and so on. If we find our voice to challenge these biases on the home front it will carry over to our professional lives as well. Will there be fallout? Of course, there will. There will always be those who will seek to diminish or silence female voices. The only way to counteract that is if we get even louder. Forget about speaking up, it’s time to shout if that is what it takes to be heard and appreciated.