Say No to Pretty Doormats

Mother and daughter smilingThis post was originally published on LinkedIn.

Recently my 18-year-old daughter asked me, with great trepidation, if I thought she had “too much to say and an opinion about everything.” I laughed. There is no doubt that my daughter has a lot to say. And though I could see she was unsure of herself – we couldn’t be happier that she has a mind of her own. Well, most of the time. 

Kim is smart, articulate and confident. She has learned, as she’s grown, to make room for the opinions and input of others. She’s learned that there is more than one right answer. She knows she isn’t always right – but she’ll certainly put in a good volley. She’s learned, despite the fact that many will try to quiet her voice, that speaking up is an act of leadership.

We didn’t set out to raise an outspoken daughter. We set out to raise a person who is engaged in the world, has a wide range of interests, and cares deeply about many things. She is her own person. While she has lots to say and is passionate about many things, she is also very private. So letting me post about her today was a big deal. 

However, it troubled me that my daughter was worried about appearing to have “too much to say.” If there is one thing I’ve learned the hard way, even as recently as today, it is that women’s voices are all too often quieted. As research has shown and Sheryl Sandberg pointed out, outspoken women are liked less in the workplace while outspoken men are heralded.  According to the 2015 McKinsey & Company report on Women in the Workplace, “When a woman asserts herself, she is often called “aggressive,” “ambitious,” or “out for herself.” When a man does the same, he is seen as “confident” and “strong”.

I know that as my daughter moves out into the world – at university and later in the workplace – people will try to diminish her. They will try to quiet her. They will tell her that her level of engagement in the world simply isn’t appropriate.

Not us. We want her to live out loud. We want her to bring value to the world by speaking up. We know it will take courage and strength and a ton of character. It will take emotional intelligence, great timing, and good intention. And it will take an intense amount of effort not to let the naysayers crush her spirit.

We say: Go forth daughter!! Remember that you learn to walk by falling down. You have permission to fall and to speak out in pursuit of your dreams. No matter how often you might fall, we know you’ll get up and try again. And you’ll know we are rooting for you. Very loudly. 

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