Friday, February 1, 2013

I'm an Expert and You are too

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a fantastic writing seminar called the OpEd Project. The goal of the seminar is to encourage women to share their opinions in order to be a bigger part of the conversations that influence our society. Do you know that across the board - considering government, media, corporate boards, entertainment - women only have a 15% share of voice?

There's no doubt that women feel passionately about many subjects and are devoted to causes that are close to our hearts and critical to our community. So why aren't we putting our ideas out there in a public way? I think one of the reasons is that we don't place enough value on our own opinions. We don't think we are experienced enough or have the right education. Also, we don't want to offend anyone, for god's sake. If we share our opinions, people might disagree.

Nothing proved that to me more than the opening exercise at yesterday's seminar. Our dynamic instructors, noted journalists  Katherine Lanpher and Michele Weldon, asked us to introduce ourselves in this format:

Hello, I'm (name) and I'm an expert at (area) because (experience/credentials). 

Our intros had to be very brief and in terms anyone could understand.

There were 20 intelligent, professional, accomplished women in the room, and you can't imagine how hard to was for us to do this! We were very intimidated by the prospect of calling ourselves experts. We demurred, we deflected, we hemmed and hawed. We played down our talents, we left out our most dazzling accomplishments, we didn't want to brag. And, according to our leaders, this was completely typical in their classes.

Can you picture a group of men doing this? It would be hilarious.

Every woman, by the time she has reached the age of forty, is certainly an expert in many things. We've lived full lives, we have experience and perspective and knowledge that the world needs us to share. Can you imagine what our country would be like if we claimed our rightful 50% of the opinions presented? It's mind-blowing. I say, let's start changing the world by changing the way we see ourselves. We're experts, damn it, and in subjects that matter.

So, here's my intro, which I eventually came around to, in the OpEd Project Format:
Hello, I'm Marjie Killeen and I'm an expert in writing about women's sexuality at midlife. My award winning column for Make it Better Magazine, Sex & the Suburbs, reaches 60,000 households each month and has expanded into a popular series of live panel discussions. I also have a longstanding blog, Fortyfabulous.
And this is just one of my areas of expertise. I'm also an expert at editing, storytelling, and teaching adult amateur performers silly dance moves. But it's a start.

So think about it. What's your expertise? And how can you share your unique and important talents with the rest of us?

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