hi. Meredith here.
It’s a grey, rainy Saturday here in Kingston. The rain has been amazingly (and frustratingly!) consistent. I keep waiting for it to end, and it just keeps on raining. I have a friend in town – he got here this morning to play a gig at the Artel tonight (come if you can! He is known as ‘Paper Beats Scissors‘…the show starts tonight at 9-ish) and I am regretting that he’s only going to be seeing Kingston at its greyest and dampest. Ah well. We can control all sorts of things, but we still haven’t managed to make the weather bend to our wills.
The reason I didn’t write yesterday, the way I normally do, is because I was at a workshop all day long and simply didn’t have time. I figured I would tell you a little about it now — seems kinda relevant for all of us.
The workshop was hosted by an organization called ‘Informed Opinions‘ –a project organized by a group called Media Action. The goal of the ‘Informed Opinions’ project is to “bridge the chronic gender gap in public discourse.” Journalist and workshop facilitator Shari Graydon was clear about the project’s goals right off the top: to encourage more women to let their voices be heard in the media.
That’s because while women make up 52% of the Canadian population, they’re only heard on the Op-Ed pages of major newspapers about 20% of the time.
While the workshop was oriented at teaching women how to package their expertise to make it more media-ready, it was geared at encouraging women to begin claiming that expertise in the first place. Too many women, we learned, are inclined to let others speak under the assumption that there must surely be someone else more qualified to give an opinion. It’s an attitude we need to change.
I was the only Master’s student in the room (the bulk of attendees were full-fledged professors and PhD students) and I’ll admit I have trouble really owning any kind of expertise yet (and thus, the expertise-claiming exercises were a bit of a challenge).
But I was surprised to hear highly educated women — with all sorts of impressive credentials — struggling to do the same.
Some of the brilliant women in attendance spoke bashfully (as we made our introductions) about their disinclination to use, say, the term ‘Doctor’ when introducing themselves, or to fully own the impressive titles they’ve won. The fear, they admitted, was that they might sound pompous.
We were all reminded that men (much as we love them) would likely not let the same kind of fear slow them down.
We spent the rest of the workshop doing exercises built around coming to terms with our own expertise, and then finding ways to package that knowledge into media-ready pieces of writing.
The project’s goal is to get more women’s opinions and words into mainstream media. I spoke with Shari after the session and she told me that after past workshops, inspired participants have managed to place Op-Ed pieces in major papers within days.
As women, we can’t be afraid to own our expertise, whether it’s academic or otherwise. And we can’t be afraid of letting our opinions be heard. This project is an important one.
Happy weekending, all.