As we celebrated our 3rd birthday at our last meeting, Grace our club’s founder shared with us a spirited impromptu speech on the story behind our club’s theme, Lead To Succeed – A Toastmasters Club for Women.
The club’s theme was inspired by Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead. This provided a view of feminism that brought awareness to, and fought for equality of women to their male counterparts at work. The club’s vision didn’t necessarily seek to alienate men but rather provide a haven for women in the workforce to practice their communication and leadership skills, therefore growing confident in the workplace.
According to a variety of studies, researchers provided a story centered around a successful entrepreneur. Half of the story’s listeners were told the entrepreneur’s name was Heidi. The others were told the name was Howard. While all listeners had the impression of a competent and respectful entrepreneur, Howard was seen as a more appealing candidate while Heidi was seen as a selfish person difficult to work with. Overall, the analysis from the listeners favored Howard over Heidi despite them being the same person with only a name difference. This supports an unconscious bias by many towards men in the workplace that Sandberg argues.
Many women have a tendency to shy away from speaking up, sharing ideas, or taking upon a leadership role due to this same unconscious bias, however as Lead To Succeed grew, we noticed it’s not just women alone that fall victim to it. Men also have that same desire to improve upon their public speaking and leadership skills due to very similar challenges women face. Lead To Succeed may have started out as A Toastmasters Club for Women as indicated in the club’s official title, but it is truly an inclusive Toastmasters Club for everyone regardless of race, gender, or age.
As Toastmasters, we seek to improve and establish a growth mindset and for the past 3 years, we have had the joy of seeing several toastmasters, regardless of gender or background, come and benefit from our meetings.