New Role Models at the Podium: Raising Awareness and Making Waves


As the holidays claim my attention, here’s what I’m thinking, noticing, and asking:

  • 2019 Role Models Emerge from the Impeachment Hearings
  • Women’s Voice: Will we ever get it right?
  • Speaking up to advocate with passionate conviction: If you see a festering problem or an unmet need but don’t speak up, who will?

I found it hard to concentrate on much else during the recent televised Impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, particularly because four women were such extraordinary speakers. Marie Yovanovitch, Fiona Hill, Laura Cooper, and Pamela Karlan spoke truth to power with intelligence, poise, and grace under pressure and they have emerged as the standout witnesses. Think about this: You and I might have sweaty palms when we address a small group, staff meeting, or Board, but can you imagine the pressure to perform when you realize that at least 13 million people will be watching you testify. At times like these, considering the role social media will play in replaying key moments, here is no margin of error.

Yovanovitch, Hill, Cooper, and Karlan offered startling revelations on Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine, providing valuable insights about the impact of his behavior by tapping into their various areas of expertise. They showed absolute fearlessness, remaining calm but deliberate, answering the toughest of questions with self confidence that stems from knowing what they’re talking about, even when Trump supporters were impugning their character and credibility.  They also had the best quotes! This is what “speaking truth to power” looks and sounds like.

 “Can a woman’s voice ever be right?”

To my disappointment, headlines often reveal the double standard for critiquing women speakers with references to Nancy Pelosi’s “nervous fit”  and “meltdown.” Still, women speakers’ fear of mockery  by tweet is not holding women back as they seek to express opinions, offer feedback, and propose solutions to ongoing and emerging problems. Bring on the critics, they say. We will not be silenced! To keep hope alive, I regularly read about women succeeding in online missals such as In her words (NYT), The Broadsheet (Forbes.com) and The Lily (Washington Post). These writers bring me regular updates about women leaders who are changing the way women conduct business and lead their lives. And younger bloggers keep me connected to a feminist world view of trending topics, often with humor and sass!

If you don’t speak up about an issue you’re passionate about, who will?

Sometimes an issue claims your attention that leads you to become a fearless and tenacious advocate. My friend Lailan has become an advocate for people with brain injuries after her son suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in his brain due to an arterial venous malformation. He’s since rebounded due to his rehabilitation at Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital, and, in gratitude, Lailan has served on the Board of the Cottage Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation for 9 years where she shared the wisdom stemming from her personal and family’s experience.

My friend Carole became involved with the Familial Dysautonomia Foundation when her granddaughter was diagnosed with FD. Working with her family and others, they raised funds to support thrilling research that resulted in the discovery of the FD gene. In turn, this enabled doctors to screen for FD and to continue searching for a cure.

You can change the world by speaking up.

To make the changes we want to see in the world, we have to find the courage to speak up, enlightening others by what we’ve learned from living our lives. We may be competing for resources or debating a controversial issue, and this takes most women out of their comfort zone. But Margaret Mead said it well:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

See what happens when you find the right venue to make your pitch, combining commitment to an issue you care about with dynamic speaking skills and …a determination to not take NO for an answer!

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