(Happy Monday! Today’s post is from Sande Smith, our communications expert.)
For the past week, I’ve been thinking about the critical importance of sharing our perspectives, experiences and solutions to the problems we see.
By our, I mean the people who are passionate about bringing more empathy, equity and exuberance to the world!
Orenstein is passionate about changing a basic inequity: Women’s voices and perspectives were not appearing in the op-ed pages, a major forum for influencing public debate and public policy. Op-ed pages of leading newspapers such as the New York Times, LA Times, and Washington Post are read by congress members and their aides, corporate CEO’s, journalists, philanthropists, donors, influencers in all sectors, and yes, even President Obama.
And why are women’s voices missing? At a minimum because women weren’t submitting op-eds! According to the Washington Post, out of 10 submissions, only 1 is written by a woman.
Incensed by this knowledge, Orenstein tried to get someone to start a program to train women in writing and submitting op-eds. When that failed, she started it herself. Now 2 years old, the Op-Ed Project has trained thousands of women, and seen many of the graduates successfully publish op-eds in news outlets across the country.
On Sunday, I was amazed by the women in the room. They were exceedingly accomplished in their professions, as well as passionate about using their knowledge to make a difference in the world.
Yet, when Orenstein asked us to consider any area of our life and then finish the statement, “My name is ____and I’m an expert in ____ because ___”, many of the women found it difficult to answer.
I want to restate that Orenstein emphasized that we didn’t have to give an example from our professional lives. For example, we could say something like, “Hi, my name is Sande and I’m an expert on making frittatas because I’ve made hundreds of frittatas with ingredients such as artichoke hearts, bacon, and gruyere, and when my friends eat them, they ooh and ah, compliment me, and then ask for seconds.”
Orenstein said that women in the US often find it hard to finish the statement of expertise because they haven’t learned how to provide the evidence that establishes their authority to speak on a topic.
Yet, we can’t successfully write and publish op-eds about the issues we care about unless we develop and present ourselves as credible experts. So what are some of the elements that establish our credibility?
- personal experience
- expert quotes (keeping in mind which experts will be credible to your audience)
- legal precedence
- trends (three of something makes a trend)
- university and other academic credits
- authoring a book
- results you’ve achieved
And please don’t think that personal experience is less worthy than the other items on the list. In fact, the opposite is true. Personal experience often trumps all else!
I left the workshop excited about finishing my own op-ed (see basic op-ed structure here), but also determined to take more seriously the expertise that I’ve already developed and the importance of sharing it. What about you?