If ever there were a time to speak up for other women, this is it.
A year and a half ago, I launched my business, a career and communications strategy firm that helps clients achieve through the power of storytelling.
My goal, after 20+ years in the corporate world, was to use my background in storytelling to help women with the communication tools and skills necessary to create more impact and influence at work.
I wanted to help high-achieving women advance to the success they deserve.
How do I do this? Through workshops and presentations that teach audiences how to identify and maximize the power in our own personal stories while creating the plot points necessary for an even better next chapter.
Since launching, I’ve received a number of inquiries from companies looking to use storytelling in other ways – to influence consumers, instruct their salesforce, improve their bottom line.
I love storytelling and the many ways it can be applied. Stories are, I explain, a universal and gender-neutral language. And so, I’ve leapt at nearly every opportunity, including those outside the scope of my original business plan.
I’m now returning the largest percentage of my work to the audience that means most to me — helping women. From #MeToo to Her Word not meaning as much as His to the continued struggle for gender equity in board rooms and equal pay, to battling unconscious bias and encouraging women to have confidence in their skills and experience… the list is long.
And there is much work to be done.
So it needs to be the focus.
I had been ignoring clues pointing me in this direction.
I was recently asked to submit a proposal to a firm for a program to give their largely male salesforce an edge with the female consumer. I spent an hour on the phone with this team – two men and a woman representing the group I was hoping to partner with.
I got off the phone, having heard and given a lot of information, with an unsettled feeling.
The gentlemen had been very nice, accommodating, inquisitive…
I couldn’t figure out what was bothering me.
And then I realized what had been missing. I had never heard the woman on their team talk. She had, apparently, participated. One of the men had noted “Jane is nodding at me. Jane agrees” But I never heard from “Jane” (not her real name) herself.
I later politely inquired. What was Jane’s role on the team? Perhaps she had just set up the call and therefore did not have a voice in the meeting.
But I was told Jane is an “integral” part of the team. She “makes everything happen.”
Then why wasn’t she given the chance to talk?
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter. The company went in a different direction. But the conversation and my discomfort with it told me everything I needed to know.
In hindsight, I should have asked Jane a direct question to solicit her opinion. I wanted to know what mattered to her.
But not hearing from her also gave me great insight to a company that says it wants greater influence in the women’s marketplace. Yet they didn’t seem interested in allowing the woman on their team to audibly partake in the discussion.
That was what was bothering me.
This is not the right space for me.
I can’t remedy what others won’t admit is broken.
It was the same feeling I had when I left the television industry and a company that touted development and retention of women as a top priority.
My departure proved to me I was simply not a priority. If I wanted to advance in my career, I had to prioritize it myself, rather than waiting for someone to give me the opportunity.
You know… “taking command” of your career… “actively authoring” your story… not staying stuck on the same page you’ve been reading…
I didn’t set out to start a business. I set out to share solutions to a persistent problem. Those beginnings led to this business.
There’s a reason I named my company Commander-in-She. A play on “Commander-in-Chief,” it’s about helping women take command of their communication, their content and their careers. It’s time for women to stop serving as a mere bit player in someone else’s plot and star in their own story, one that brings them all of the success and satisfaction they deserve.
In my effort to be everything to everybody and serve all with storytelling, from students to sales teams to small businesses, I’ve strayed from my original mission.
I’m re-dedicating myself to taking the skills and experience and departure from the corporate world to help other women succeed in the all areas of business.
I’m giving it now to those who need it most. To the women who need to speak up, ask for what they are worth, not be judged for making that ask and buck the systems that keep us doing twice the work for half the reward.
We’re tired of having to prove, over and over again, that we’re smart, talented, capable.
We know we’re smart, talented, capable.
I speak for women.
I think there’s a better story to author. So let’s turn the page.
It’s time to take command, speak up and share what we know.
I speak for women. You should too. Make the next chapter a better one.
Valerie Gordon, a former award-winning television producer, is the founder of career and communications firm Commander-in-She. She provides keynote presentations and group workshops to corporations, conferences and professional organizations and helps individuals learn how to “Take Command” of their career.