A Time to Be Heard

When I was in my twenties I read the book Men Are From Mars, Women are From Venus and many excerpts have remained top of mind over the years. This quote in particular has stuck with me:

“Men need to remember that when women seem upset and talk about problems it is not the time to offer solutions; instead she needs to be heard…”

Among the many fundamental differences between men and women, women want others to empathize with them and give them opportunity to speak their mind. It’s just that simple. Sure we want problems fixed, but first and foremost, we want to be understood (cue It’s Not About the Nail).

And there’s a lot these days to talk about. Outside of gun control, race and gender bias, political unrest and cyber bullying, some of the complex issues we are faced with today have more specific implications on women. Domestic violence, gender pay gap, sexual misconduct in the workplace. There are too many causes to fight at once.

Despite the madness, it’s an exciting time for women as we push forward to be heard and make change. The #MeToo movementTime’s Up movement and the more recent Time’s Up|Advertising movement are all working to fight sexual harassment and gender inequality. Specifically, the Time’s Up|Advertising installment is committed to fixing problems that have failed our industry for years, by instituting new policies, practices and actions resulting in more accountable leadership. This new movement is led by over 180 female ad agency executives in the US… a number that’s growing by the day.

Because of this (well-overdue) fight for industry change, the Women’s Leadership Forum held in Boston next week will be particularly important. Accomplished female professionals across industries will be given a platform to share inspirational stories, talk about overcoming adversity and celebrate their victories. It’s a day for these strong women to be heard, without interruption. A day for them to empower an audience of established leaders and rising stars.

Anyone who has attended the Women’s Leadership Forum knows it’s an incredibly moving day filled with passion, motivation and encouragement. After listening and relating with the speakers on an emotional level we will start to share our own stories. Stories we may have been initially reluctant to tell but now feel empowered sharing. But most importantly, we will be there to support our sisters.

Men may or may not have a (wanted) place at this event. It was a bit of a heated topic in our office and we had conflicting opinions if men should have a significant presence. I personally felt the day should largely be dedicated just to us, at least this year given everything going on, so we can speak freely, celebrate the power of women and be heard without anticipated opinion and skepticism.

What excites me most this year is a decision our president, Fred Conover, made. He and I have been working closely to coordinate attendance for this event. With the increasing unrest we feel each day, he realized how necessary it would be for all of us to be there and hear from these amazing leaders. Recently he came to me and asked what I thought about inviting all the women in our office. My answer? An overwhelming YES – we need to do it! So Fred invited every woman from CTP to the Women’s Leadership Forum, regardless of title.

In total, there will be 25 of us present and I can already start to feel the empowerment and bond grow as the event nears. We will leave the Seaport World Trade Center on Monday ready to talk…. and boy, will we have a lot to say!

But our president hasn’t stopped at the invite. He has offered to host a post-forum session to learn about the topics discussed and hear our concerns first-hand.

He will be sitting in a room with over two-dozen women. And he is fully prepared to listen, empathize, and offer his support and encouragement. His human nature may prompt him to try and fix our problems, but for the short term, Fred realizes he just needs to let us speak.

I do believe this exercise will help close the loop after the forum given it’s such an emotional, raw experience. For the times I went, I was fired up to talk about the day’s events, but I often shared it with women who weren’t in attendance or men who didn’t fully understand the power of the session. But after our agency roundtable, I truly believe we will be fulfilled. And heard.

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