I have to admit that within my organisation, there doesn't seem to be a problem of women being interrupted. In fact, I think I have a tendency to interrupt far more often than my considerate, thoughtful male colleagues. Of course, women are in the majority at Renaisi, which may affect the dynamic somewhat. And Soraya Chemaly's blog certainly resonates with my experience in social and other circles, and with that of my daughters within a mixed classroom setting.
And so it seems timely just after International Day of the Girl to share some learning from a recent trip to the Strozzi Institute near San Francisco, where I took part in the Women's School of Embodied Leadership (SOEL). This immersive six day programme took us deeply into our social and somatic conditioning as women. We looked at how we are heard (or not) in our lives, as well as the physical embodiment of this: how we stand, move, breathe, feel and connect our messages powerfully to others.
As a woman who needs to communicate clearly on the issues I care about - at work and at home - here is a very superficial summary of my learning:
- I learned that my purpose and values in life are what drive me; when I'm connected to these, I speak from a position of power, so keeping them alive is essential.
- I learned that my social and family conditioning as a 'good girl' translates into a tendency to shallow breathe, hunch shoulders, collapse, appease or rebel and attack under pressure. This affects my voice and whether others hear me clearly.
- Connecting with my purpose as a visceral driver relies on my ability to centre and assert using a range of practises such as Aikido, yoga, physical training and core work. When in a conflict situation, simply standing and breathing deeply into my length, width and depth means that I hold myself with dignity.
- Even within 10 days of practice, I've noticed a significant difference in the way I communicate: with more presence and resilience, from a wider, more stable base, more flexibly open and connected to others and with a voice that is stronger and more energised.
There are no guarantees of course, but personally I found the programme transformational. I'm hoping that if I stay with it, my Strozzi experience can add weight to Chemaly's practice words and that this kind of training might be shared more widely. On behalf of all women and girls: no explanation needed, we're taking our place in the world.
For more information on Strozzi training, visit www. strozziinstitute.com
Socialized male speech dominance is a significant issue, not just in school, but everywhere. If you doubt me, sit quietly and keep track of speech dynamics at your own dinner table, workplace, classroom. It's significant and consequential. People often ask me what to teach girls or what they themselves can do to challenge sexism when they see it. "What can I do if I encounter sexism? It's hard to say anything, especially at school." In general, I'm loath to take the approach that girls should be responsible for the world's responses to them, but I say to them, practice these words, every day: "Stop interrupting me," "I just said that," and "No explanation needed." It will do both boys and girls a world of good. And no small number of adults, as well.