I was speaking with a leading public speaking coach today about International Women’s Day. Marc Miles is the owner of Accelerated Training Academy. Marc was pointing out to me there’s a lot of possible articles that as a journalist working to raise the voice of women I could be writing about today.
Marc is right – I could be writing about the gender pay gap, more support needed for working mothers or those wanting to return to the workforce, the financial empowerment of women – my list could go on. These are all issues close to my heart and will no doubt receive coverage today by other journalists on different platforms.
However, I enjoyed discussing Marc’s work with him. He offers public speaking coaching to both men and women and has noticed similarities to what I have about women putting themselves in the public arena. It was why today I want to write an article about the need for more women speakers and media sources.
As many of you may know this year, I’ve undertaken a career pivot away from digital marketing back to my love of journalism. I have a new mission of helping the voice of women leaders and changemakers be heard in the media and more publicly for impact.
There are more women in positions of leadership in news organisations worldwide than ever before in history. However, women are still quoted as sources less often than men and this was pointed out to me at a recent conference by a leading female journalist. Former colleagues have been overwhelmingly supportive of my plan to work with women.
My list of sources as a journalist was disappointingly filled more with the names of men. In the business pages and for stories on finance, health, science, law and education men are still more prevalently quoted. Many women in the world are doing extraordinary work, but their opinion and leadership often go unheard.
According to Marc a main reason we don’t have more women speakers is they are more likely to suffer anxiety than men around public speaking.
“The majority or people that come to my public speaking workshops are females,” says Marc.
“Statistically, they say 75 per cent of women suffer from speech anxiety.”
Marc says women often feel insecure about “speaking up” and “speaking out” for various reasons.
“The number reason is they’ll wonder what right do they have to speak? or what if someone hears their message and takes it out of context,” he says.
“There’ll be concern they haven’t done enough to have credibility as a speaker.
“These comments often come from men as well, but women seem to have a much higher sensitivity to audience evaluation of themselves and their message.”
This too is what I have noticed in my work with women. However, despite their general lack of confidence, Marc says women tend to make excellent public speakers.
“My advice is people pay you for your unique journey, not for what you know,” he says.
“As a speaker, your journey is to touch, move and inspire an audience to take action and often females are far better at doing this because they can speak from both sides of the brain – emotional and logical in a very balanced way.”
Sarah Cannata is the founding editor of This Woman Can, a leading online community and magazine where women share their versions of success.
According to Sarah, the reason women are under-quoted in the media is that we’re still under-represented in fields such as politics, business, sport, science technology and the list goes on.
“We can point the finger at the media and question why they aren’t broadening their horizons and digging deeper than reaching out to the same people who tend to be men again and again,” Sarah says.
“We must realise that journalists are over-worked and often, are expected to do two people’s workloads.
“Another issue is the same women being quoted in the media on the same topics again and again.”
Sarah says there is very little diversity, which means a lot of women don’t see themselves represented in the media, which is never ideal.
Sarah says the path to changing the status-quo lies with us the consumer of media coverage.
“At the end of the day, if we didn’t add to ratings, click on news articles with juicy headlines and were more picky with our consumption, the media’s hand would be forced,” she says.
“Contrary to popular belief, the power is in our hands – the media exists for and because of us and together we can drive change.”
At This Woman Can, Sarah has created a platform that is accessible to everyone and brings women together by tapping into the power of storytelling.
“Our mission is to create an inclusive environment where people feel safe in sharing their stories, can discover, connect and engage with a like-minded community of women.”
So on International Women’s Day 2018, I want all women to remember just how valuable you and your story is to the world. Let’s move to raise the voices of women and think to yourself “This Woman Can”.