"What does being a mother have to do with our policy positions?" she asked me. "And why do I have to talk about being the first woman CEO here? Or being a woman at all?"
Great questions. The speech draft in question had lines like this:
- "As a mother, I take our safety rules especially seriously."
- "Being the first female CEO in our industry is a real thrill."
- "Having been the first woman to manage operations in our industry, I bring a special perspective to the work ahead."
- Talk to your speechwriters, formal or informal: Anyone who is preparing remarks for you needs to know whether you do or don't wish to emphasize motherhood or being a woman. Don't be afraid to say, "This is me" or "this isn't me," and why. Ask them to describe you in a variety of ways: CEO, voter, business leader, entrepreneur, volunteer. You get the idea.
- Take charge of your introductions: I once attended an awards banquet in which notables from the organization were asked to introduce the honorees. One male executive got up and talked about the winner of a lifetime career achievement award solely in terms of her loving husband and children. Her work accomplishments were completely ignored. (Was it a coincidence that the introducer's wife doesn't work outside the home? I doubt it.) You can head that sort of experience off at the pass by saying, "I'd like this emphasized in the introduction," or just providing some points for the introducer to make. You can read Speechwriters, don't write differently for women. Write differently for men for more ideas.
Finally, I know many readers may feel self-conscious asking to be referred to in a particular way, but if you don't set the specifications, you're just letting others control how you--and other women--are seen. Is that really what you want?
(Creative Commons licensed photo by Rubbertoe)
Get involved in more conversations on public speaking with The Eloquent Woman. Follow our Facebook page, read great quotes from eloquent women on Pinterest, follow me as @dontgetcaught on Twitter or track when others tweet about the lack of women speakers on programs via @NoWomenSpeakers. Learn how to be a better panel moderator with The Eloquent Woman's Guide to Moderating Panels.