After our past AWE Summit in Zurich last October 2015, I asked one of the few male attendees - a young man whom I know - how was his experience with the event.
What he told me, left me thinking over for a number of days...
He said, "I really enjoyed it, and I am happy that I came. However,... (when there is a "however", we know that what comes next might not be what we are expecting. So, I tuned my ears and listened carefully, as he continued...)I tought the women were "very tough"! I missed the femininity...", he said.
I promise you that I NEVER expected to hear that.
I got a bit "paralysed" by what I heard, just nodded and said, " Really? I'm surprised! In any case, this is your experience and I really appreciate that you are sharing it with me, thank you." We continued the conversation for a while as he tried to explain his point to me. However, I didn't get it. I couldn't relate to it.
But what he said left me thinking for a number of days, as I said before.
And, I asked different people (men and women), if they felt the same about the AWE speakers. Somehow, the ones I asked, where also surprised about this remark. This was even more intriguing to me. What did this guy "see" that made him "feel" those women were tough and lacked femininity? That was a big question to me.
Some of you might know already that I am in a journey of supporting women to become better communicators and leaders, Therefore, "though and lacking femininity" was something of my "concern."
I couldn't just ignore it; and that kept going with my thoughts. I started researching the possible "whys" which led this young man (I believe he is on his early 30s) to have such an impression of "my AWE ladies".
Let me explain something to you, for you to understand the type of lady the AWE Summit event brings on stage. They are professionals - entrepreneurs, business owners, career women - from several different fields, who come on stage to share their own stories, to share their own journey on how they got where they are right now, to share their "whys". The decisions they had to take, the options they had to choose, the opportunities they had to grab, their ups & downs. They shared their vulnerability and their "fight" to break patterns, expectations, build different bridges, design the life they believe is worth living, despite all adversities.
The more I looked back to their presentations at the event, I personally couldn't see them as he described. Yes, they are strong and had to be tough sometimes, but "lacking femininity"... that really struck me!
On the contrary, I could see them very humble, honest, and grown up enough to "expose" themselves in front of an audience of more than 150 people. And to me, that was the tough part of it!
After a while I summarised my thoughts by concluding that the young man's perspective of these women was one of those so called "unconscious biases". The fact is, we are still not "used to" see women expressing with confidence and assertively what they really want for their lives, taking the proper steps, decisions, to make it happen. Are we?
It was a good exercise, and gave me the certainty of how important and necessary the work that I'm doing for women - and men - by helping them, all of us, to create a new level of communication and understanding. A communication where we view our differences as something to cherish and nourish, and not as something uncomfortable, and to a certain extreme, threatening. A communication that opens doors to different perspectives, diversity of thoughts and broader ways and possibilities of doing, dealing, and leading.
To add more substantial facts to it, the other day, I came across a keynote from one of my contacts. To my delight, what she presented, her message, underlined and strengthened what I have already said here.
She said in her talk that we should change the term "unconscious biases" to "brain sneezes", and explained why. I loved the concept and it is my pleasure to now share it with you.