The other day, my director sent me in his stead to this TiE conference. It was a lovely conference; perfectly prepared, planned and packaged for a marketing audience. Their slides were so digestible and informative and their examples so on point, I barely stopped taking notes while they were speaking. My biggest take away however was taught to me not by the speakers, but by the woman sitting next to me.
The session ended and the floor was opened to questions. In a crowd of 30 registrants, two-fifths of whom were women, for the first twenty minutes no woman spoke. Practically every man in the crowd had his questions answered, and I was yet to hear a woman’s voice. There was one man who particularly caught my attention. A greying, brash businessman with a spare tire who would ask his queries without even waiting for the acknowledgement from the speakers. After a while, I needed a clarification and raised my hand, three times in a row this gentleman spoke over me loud to enough to garner everyone’s attention.
The woman next to me was different. She broke the mould by introducing herself, and her business before asking her questions. I could hear the mutterings about her American accent, and her audacity in using this session as an opportunity to advertise her business. I didn’t care, I thought it was impressive that a woman was outshining men. After one more time of being over shadowed she turned to me and told me waiting for my turn was an exercise in futility. That I had to keep talking if I wanted to be heard. She watched me for five more minutes, then gave up and once more spoke over the men. Pointing to me she told the speakers that I had been trying to ask a question for a while. Then gave me the floor.
A small gesture. An infinitesimally small gesture that left a huge impression on me. I consider myself a feminist. I consider myself bold and confident. (Others do, too) Yet, I too subscribe to that inherently patriachal notion that women are meant to be seen and not heard. This was a reminder that if you don’t blow your own trumpet, odds are the woman next to you will ask you to.