The Female Elephant in the Room

Elephant isolatedHello everybody! I am back into blogging and feeling a bit clumsy. Like an elephant in a china shop…Some links are broken, some pages are invaded by weeds. It’s a real jungle. But I am writing again. Finding my own voice, even if it’s shaking.
This blog is like Sleeping Beauty and a special event, I’m going to tell you about, drove me to wake it up.
 What happened?
During  the latest Presentation Zen Studio, our European Master Class with Garr Reynolds, in Paris, with 22 attendees, 16 men and 6 women, something a little embarrassing happened. When Phil Waknell  announced who the speakers were, we realized that only men were presenting. It was absolutely up to us, anyone could have presented, there was no rules, no special requirements.
Men. Only men.
No women? Not even one?!!!
I felt a pang of guilt in my chest.
I was part of the organization of this event. I was also part of the potential speakers.
So why didn’t I present? Why didn’t any woman present? Was it pure chance? Could there be something else?
I decided to speak out and speak up. I also wanted to investigate among other women attendees.
More on the Presentation Zen Studio day on Ideas on Stage’s blog and on The Mobile Presenter’s blog.
Here is the open letter I sent to all the female participants. Next I will publish a post with a synthesis of their answers.
It’s a long letter. If you’d rather read only the conclusion, just  skip to the end of this post. Remember, I’m back into blogging after a two year stop, I need practice to write short post again.
Dear all wonderful Ladies,
I’ve been quite silent since Sunday although I had many things I wanted to share with you.
I was waiting for a quiet time to be able to put them in order.
For that I would need your help and I hope you will each of you agree to share your thoughts with me.
My intention is first to write a blog post about this presentation studio experience without a single female voice.
As some of you already know, my purpose is to develop a workshop called “Women on Stage” and make it happen around Europe in 2015. Actually, I’ve been working on this workshop for many years now.
I’ve made a TED Talk about it (thanks to Dirk who invited me to speak at TEDx Stuttgart)
I’ve talked about the challenge of speaking up in a male dominated world for executive women at Sanofi, in Lyon and in Paris.
I’ve talked about it in front of an impressive international audience of senior executives from Becton Dickinson in the Netherlands, then in Grenoble, at their HQ, then in Heidelberg (where there were mostly senior white males).
I’ve joined several women in business international networking groups. I’ve spoken many many times during the monthly meetings we’ve had. I’ve joined their boards and became vice president, then President of BPW in Lyon.
I’ve even taken a master’s degree in anthropology, sociology to study the impact of women’s voices in the field of work and why gender balanced has not been achieved yet, in spite of 30 years of active feminism and the rise of women at executive levels.
Sorry for this list of I only achievements, but I need to tell you all of this not to brag about it, but actually to tell you I’ve been postponing the big thing, the elephant in the room…
And I need your help, your support, your inputs.
 
UDAP chocolat madeleines
On Sunday, I could have spoken but I did not speak.
I could have presented but I chose to gently sit back and listen politely, smiling and sipping my bubbly Champagne, rich Raspberry smoothie and then hot creamy chocolate. Eating one exquisite plump madeleine each time one guy was speaking. (I know, That makes a lot!)
 Of course, I had some good reasons for it.
Since I joined this fantastic company, I’ve been busier than I ever dreamed of. And the last couple of weeks were really packed with coaching and trainings, helping other women and men shine on stage.
I could also say that on top of being there on a Sunday away from home, the last thing I had time for was to craft another presentation and work hard in order to be able to present.
These are valuable reasons, and probably you can identify with them as well.
BUT.
If I am being 100% honest, the real reason is not the lack of time.
I had a very very strong motivation to share. The topic of Storytelling is one of my favorite and I’ve become an expert at it. (I find it difficult to write this down, but truly it is. I’ve been researching the Hero’s journey for years and reading every single book, article, blog post, etc…). I’ve been using storytelling with archetypes and integrating characters (my plastoy figurines)  from fairy tales and cartoons in my teaching and coaching practice for almost 10 years now. It’s a fantastic tool and reveals endless possibilities, taking coaching into greater depths and touching the unconscious level directly, for greater impact.  I absolutely love telling stories and would have loved to be standing there and joining the fire camp!
No.
The real reason was…FEAR. And its twin sister, SHAME.
Hiding
The fear of not being perfect (this little voice which said: I should set the example since I’m a presentation director!)
The fear of being judged, criticized. Ashamed of being in the arena and not being good enough.
The fear of not being good enough.
The fear of being video recorded and not looking my best on the video.
The fear of not having an original point of view and of saying things that you all already knew.
The fear of presenting with slides that were ok but not outstanding.
The fear of presenting without slides and being judged as lazy (yes, I have a little voice which tells me often that)
Etc…
So I chose to lean back and watch, comfortably eating madeleines sipping Champagne and Chocolate and taking selfies with gorgeous Garr 🙂
 
Garr & Marion A Sunday in Paris Kitchen
 
 
And I missed a great opportunity to walk my talk.
Now, and here’s the point of my email to you, I was not the only one.
I also noticed that Wendy (@WendyRundberg)  was brave enough to ask the first questions and did that many times, bravo for you Wendy! I myself struggled to make myself heard. Do you remember that I even had to say, in a rather pathetic voice, ‘but this was MY point » at some time ( About us being bombarded by information and having to make sense of all of it thanks to stories). I do not remember many more women’s voices during the discussion, dominated by male voices.
 We were too busy listening with the greatest attention, very “ladylike” as Madeleine Resener told me and also well behaved at the tea table. And there was a lot on our plate! (picture from Nicole Gugger)
Nicole's pic of UDAP
 
I spoke with Patricia  (Patricia Lane ,) and she also has been swamped under work and had some very rational reasons not to present.
But what about you, Madeleine, (@MadeleineResener) Wendy, Nicole? And Christina, (Christina O’Shaughnessy ) you said that you already spoke last year, well done for you, but so did Garr, Phil, Ricardo, Roberto ? 🙂 How come THEY didn’t ask themselves, oh, I already spoke last year, so now I should just listen to my friends and leave them some space to take the floor. There was no rules, no limits, no reasons not to jump in and take the floor. We even could have decided to join in only a couple of days in advance…
 
Nicole listening quietlyWe spoke with Nicole ( @nicolegugger) and she was feeling the same way as I did. Although I am sure there are things that you would express differently and I am eager to know them Nicole!
We noticed that many presentations were not perfect and that was fine. But each of them was unique, personal, engaging and we enjoyed hearing each of these different voices.
We even noticed how Garr, the Master, made some of the beginner’s mistakes and took it with a big smile , in a relaxed manner, not affecting at all his confidence. The discussion was lively, highly interactive and flowing naturally, and that was what mattered the most.
So.

I would like to know if anybody  felt the same and if so, could you share your thoughts with me?

Your feedback matters and I would love to hear your thoughts!
open your eras funny dog bassetOr if you’re reading this post, have you ever found yourself in such a situation?
Why didn’t you present?
Did you feel ok when you realized that only men would be presenting?
Did you ask yourself, it could have been me?
Did you at one point compare yourself with the speakers
who presented? What did you notice?
Do you think you could have presented, even if it was not 100 % well prepared?
If you were invited again in a couple of weeks, or month, would you prepare something to present?
If something was missing from the conversation on Sunday, what was it?
What topics would you have liked to discuss?
Any other thing you would like to share…
 
 

We need to be heard. And let go of our fear of judgement, our impossible quest for perfectionism. Does it resonate? Then join in the conversation!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s