By: Michelle Baker
Have you ever spent any amount of time looking for something that simply was not there? That’s how I feel when I watch movies, TV shows, see advertisements, try on clothes, and go on a date for that matter.
Sometimes I wonder if this is a genetic flaw within the human species. We so easily miss what is right in front of us all the while searching for something else.
Last weekend, I attended a seminar in San Diego held by The Op Ed Project. This organization’s specific mission is to encourage women to write and submit opinion editorials, more commonly referred to as “op eds”. The founder, Katie Orenstein, is driven to expand women’s presence in the public arena, inviting us into the forum of public debate that has long been dominated by men.
There were 20 women gathered, each with the specific intention to write opinion editorials. Topics of concern and interest ranged from education, issues of gender, culture, politics and religion, entrepreneurial leadership, sustainable housing, green building, emerging financial markets, and family structures.
Our collective experiences took us around the globe several times: in and out of board rooms, court rooms, classrooms, bedrooms, dressing rooms, and waiting rooms, council rooms at the United Nations, chambers of Congress and chambers of commerce.
Our ages ranged from the twenty-something to the seventy-something. We were single, married, partnered, separated, divorced, mothers, non-mothers, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Agnostic, Atheist, Taoist and non-sectarian. And though I surmise that our political spectrum leaned left of center, I know that there were those who were more conservative than others, and thankfully, that did not matter.
What mattered was what brought us together that day, and that was the desire to write, to speak our opinions, to learn that our opinions mattered: ultimately, to be heard.
It is fascinating, and concerning, that a group of women as experienced as we – PhDs, MBAs, MFAs, BAs, CEOs, CFOs, CPAs, LMSWs, JDs, Presidents and founders – needed to be told that our opinions mattered.
Consider this statistic, twenty percent of all published opinion editorials are written by women. Now consider only twenty percent of opinion editorials submitted are written by women. That is close to a one-to-one ratio. When seen in this light, I have to say, that is not a bad success rate.
There is plenty of talk out there about how the media is driven by a male-dominated perspective. Statistics show this is certainly true. However, a simple math calculation proves that if women were to write more and submit more, chances are quite good that our thoughts and opinions would be considered and published more frequently.
Imagine for a second all the thoughts a human being has in a single day. Now imagine all the women in the world laundering clothes, preparing and serving meals, taking children to and from school, cleaning homes, offices and schools, playing and coaching sports, taking and tallying money, carrying groceries, books and briefcases, negotiating, leveraging and leading just about anything.
Imagine all the thoughts these women have. Imagine how many are a direct result of something someone said, did or read. Imagine how many of those thoughts are cultivated by personal and professional experience.
Imagine doing more than picking up the phone and calling a girl friend, your therapist, your mother or your grandmother to express those thoughts. Imagine sitting down, putting pen to paper, and writing 750 words about anything that you have an opinion about. And then imagine submitting it to your local newspaper or a national one, for that matter.
Imagine if every woman you knew did that. Imagine how media, how society, how our communities and homes might be influenced by that wave of input. Imagine our mere twenty percent climbing steadily.
Now, do more than imagine, take action. Let’s do more then letting things be. Let’s write. Let’s encourage someone to write. Let’s ask for help if we need help. Whatever it is, express your opinion. It matters. You matter. We matter. Women matter.
After all, without us, none of us would be here.
Michelle Baker is a freelance writer and photographer living in Asheville, NC. She is a leadership coach and the newly appointed Director of Educational Outreach for Blaze My Trail, a self-advocacy and leadership training program for middle school to adult students, working with individuals and groups.