“A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult” Melinda Gates.
So what do we mean by voice?
I think of voice as one who influences her community in a new way of thinking.
Example from history are:
- Marie Curie– her theory of radioactivity and discovery of 2 new elements
- Susan B. Anthony– an advocate for women’s rights such as the right to vote
- Florence Nightengale – she was a nurse but also a pioneer of statistics
- Ada Lovelace – the first computer programmer
- Jane Adams – not only the 1st lady but pioneered social work by offering settlement houses that supplied room and board, education, a gym, a cafe and a space for social groups.
- Rachel Carson – her book Silent Spring documents the dangers of DDP pesticides on food and led to the start of the EPA
- Coco Chanel – introduced a new looser silhouette in clothing that freed women from corsets and frills
- Elenanor Roosevelt – beyond first lady she was a humanitarian, women’s rights advocate, helped develop the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and UNICEF
- Mother Teresa – a nun that inspired others to volunteer to serve needy children
Community can be global such as Jane Goodall and her work with chimpanzees or a community can be a single mother, her daughter and a small circle of close friends.
Your voice doesn’t have to reach the whole world, it only needs to find the people it needs to find and ideas spread. To have helped one person or enlighten one person to a new way of thinking is powerful and might even be life changing for that one person.
I’ll give you my example of the power of voice. I’m a filmmaker, the films I pick to make have to have a strong female character. I say this on my website clear as day. Some would say this is my niche market – that I do this only to sell DVD’s. To me it’s because I have 2 daughters under the age of 12 and I want them to be able to see female characters in movies that they can relate to. There are so few films where they see a multi-dimensional female character that solves her own problems and reaches her goal. Film was my voice. My way of spreading the idea that female characters can be strong, flawed and wise in a film and in a way – human.
Before the release of my 14th film I was asked to give a talk about what it’s like to be a female director at Indiana University – Bloomington. (click here to see the hour-long talk) I hadn’t really thought about it before – I was too busy directing. But I felt challenged and saw an opportunity to help others. So I did mounds of research on how many female directors are out there, what obstacles they face, and how the landscape is changing for them. I gave my speech, posted it online, posted my research, I had debates, I continued to have my voice out there sharing new data and new testimonials on social media that were empowering to women – which lead to more debates.
Three things happed this year because of that talk.
#1 More people ask me to come and give talks. Starbase is one. After my very first talk about female directors it Starbase who asked me to come and give a 45 minute version. They were the first ones who believed this was an idea worth spreading. An organization called Girls are Worth it asked me to come and talk to high school girls. Film festivals and con started to ask me if I would come and give talks ranging from 15 minutes to 3 hours.
#2 People send me articles about female empowerment because when they read it (or even the headline) they think of me and know its importance to me. I am remembered for something, That I stand for something and most importantly that knowledge, facts and testimonials are important to me.
#3 This is perhaps what I’m most proud of. I’ve seen more women on social media acquire a voice about female issues. They post things they wouldn’t have posted a year ago. They call gender-discrimination on other’s post. They unfriend those that are being rude and insulting to women.
This small example of not being afraid to raise my voice. I’ve shed a small light on new ideas of women in communities and that has given me purpose, has given me strength and has driven me in all aspects of my life.
I cannot recommend enough to find your own voice and we’ll talk more about that in Part 2. Another way of saying it is what is most important to you? Learn as much as you can about that topic. Seek out experiences and testimonials of those who have lived it. Embed yourself in your passion and your voice will come.
Your voice can be in politics, environmental issues, bullying prevention, science, economics, fashion, film, art, family dynamics, gender-equality, child safety, self esteem – literally anything you have a passion for.
I think of my grandmother. When she grew up she had 3 choices – nurse, secretary or mother. The world is now open to you to be and seek anything. And that can be seriously scary. How will you know if you choose the right thing?
Well the great news is, you can be wrong. Don’t ever be afraid of failure. Failure is life telling you that you still have more to learn. It’s pushing you to be better. It’s life’s great motivator. The more you learn the less you fail. You can also change your mind or follow a new path.
Steve Jobs gave this amazing speech at Standford. He talks about connecting the dots.
Following his curiosity, he took a calligraphy class and that lead to the various fonts in the Mac. “You can’t connect the dots looking forward, only backwards, so you have to trust the dots will connect in your future. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well-worn path and that will make all the difference.”
I want to go back to failure a second. Failure and success are a double sided coin, you can’t have one without the other. They are the yin-yang of the universe. Here’s a secret. You -and only you- determine what is failure and what is success. Others will try to qualify it for you but it doesn’t mean anything. I know people who determine success by how much money they have in the bank. I know others who determine success by the fact they paid their bills on time. I know students who value success by getting all A’s. I also know students who getting a C in a class they have struggled with all their life is the greatest success they could have ever hoped for. I’ll say it again, you determine your success and failure.
Don’t listen to dream killers. Dream killers are dangerous and don’t know and don’t respect their own power. Dream killers are those that will tell you it’s too hard to do what you love. Do you know who dream killers are? The ones who have given up on their dreams. They are angry and jealous when they see people accomplishing or seeking a new path. They will try to bring you down into the well of pain they are in. Instead, surround yourself with people with purpose – it doesn’t even need to be your same purpose.
A subtle example of voice I learned this year. Nichelle Nichols who plays Urhua in the original Star Trek Series. Did you know she handed in her resignation after the first season as she was offered a great role in the theater? Gene Roddenburry asked her to think about it over the weekend. That weekend she met a man who said he was her biggest fan, that man was Dr. Martin Luther King. He explained how important her role was. “For the first time on television people of color will be seen as they should be seen and intelligent, qualified, beautiful people who can sing, dance and go into space. If you leave that void can be filled by a male character, a white character or even an alien.” The simple fact of her sitting in that seat gave her a voice but gave a voice to millions. If Urhua has earned that seat, others can too.
Here is the story in her words.
From a presentation entitled “Strong Females” given by Kate Chaplin at Starbase Indy, Dec, 2013.
Part 1 – What is voice and why is it important?