“When the whole world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”
Last week I wrote about how I believe gender pay reporting has the power (once information is shared and known) to provide some clarity for women who may not feel they have the full picture when it comes to pay parity for themselves, within their roles and in the organisations they are in. As shown by some of the women at the BBC who are arguing the case for themselves around pay disparity, even knowing what the pay gap is in your organisation is not always enough to know where you, as an individual might stand in relation to pay. Plus, organisations are loath to share pay data fully and transparently, as demonstrated once again by the BBC and many other companies, although some do appear to be changing their tune.
However, using organisational pay gap data is a starting point and as I mentioned in last week’s post, there are ways for women to start digging around and find out how they are faring, to give them a stand point for how they choose to move forward. Conversations of this kind for me have become more than commonplace, and I have helped many a woman gain clarity as to her situation. Yet one thing, time and time again appears to get in the way once women have figured out where they stand, and it is simply this.
Knowing your pay situation and choosing to do something about it once you have the data become two very separate and distinct things. Just because you have the evidence doesn’t mean you go charging onwards and upwards to find out what is going on. Most of the women I have worked with have balked at the idea of even a conversation with their manager (who they may have a great relationship with) on the topic, never mind moving the discussion forward into a formal query around pay.
Women, over the course of aeons of history have learned and been conditioned to keep their mouth shut, on pain of significant loss and often death, as demonstrated by what we now see happening, which is women daring to open their mouths and speak their truth. And what do we see in return? A backlash. It may start out as small, but inevitably it grows as those who hold power and the status quo feel the fear of their power diminishing and they fight to keep it, in every which way they can.
This is why even in something like a pay conversation, women often share with me their fear of broaching the topic for discussion, because it’s as if they know instinctively, there will be some sort of backlash. Not always, granted. I personally have not experienced such a scenario, nor have many of the women I have worked with, but some have, and it’s their stories that put the fear into all of us, lest it happen to us. Hearing about the extent of the #MeToo campaign, not including the millions who have not spoken, because they don’t have the medium to do so, along with the hundreds of other situations in which women are punished for speaking their truth, we as women know to give voice or to have a voice can mean loss and death in many, many ways. And not always in the physical sense of the words either.
I know this fear intimately. It’s not a fear that comes with simply the big issues of life. This fear seeps into every aspect of our lives, to the extent that if we don’t manage it with the little things, we fear we won’t manage it with the big. Or vice versa. I’m often more than comfortable with dealing with the big fears in my life, having a voice on the big issues, but the little ones? Jeez, they’re often worse than the big ones, because they creep up on me and it’s only when I am face to face with them, frozen in my fear, my voice strangled in my throat that my truth finds a way to yell from my heart, ‘Hey! Really? This is freaking you out??”
And yet, still, daring to have a voice, even a voice that says, ‘I want to know if I am being paid fairly’ can create the impetus that gives us the courage and confidence to have that conversation and to keep going, even when we are being stonewalled. In the face of every fear of using our voice, that still, small voice that tells us we must, we have to if we intend to be and do what we came here to be and do, that voice of truth can be the beacon that lights our way.
You can start small. You can start impersonally. You can start by celebrating the women (& men) you see who dare to speak their truth, especially when you can see that no one wants to hear it. You can start by celebrating the people in your immediate life who show you their courage by speaking their truth in little and big ways. You can start by celebrate your children, your family, your friends, encouraging them to use their voices. In their reflections, you may find and see yourself.
Then you can start personally. With the things you have wanted to find the courage in your heart to speak of with dignity, respect and love. Find the words and speak them. Find the strength to listen to what comes back, stay in your truth and love, and keep going.
Now you might choose to start professionally. (Or the other way around, whichever works for you.)
You might choose to make a list of the things you want to say or move forward with. You might begin by asking yourself why you haven’t so far, and with courage and love, forgive yourself and make a promise that from now on, you will do so, by finding and using your voice, in whichever way is appropriate for you. If you have been wanting to know how your pay stacks up, start doing your research. Just take the first step. Everything will follow from there.
(Step 6 in my book, ‘Six Steps To Six Figures (Release Your Fears, Own Your Worth and Ask For What You Want) can give you all the steps and information you need. You can get it here: https://highvaluewoman.org/project/six-steps/)
You could start by asking for help. Ask for whatever you need – this is another way to use your voice – and keep finding small and big ways to practice using that voice, especially as it pertains to you and your life. This is about you and your voice, and what it means for it to be used.
For me, the biggest challenge to using my voice was in asking for help and sharing how I felt, especially when I was afraid and feeling vulnerable. I’d built up a persona of myself that told me it wasn’t appropriate to show up in that way, that I’d be seen as needy; when in truth, it simply showed me to be human. When I finally did, it was as if a weight had been lifted from me and I realised what a gift I’d been denying the people who loved me, were around me and wanted to help me.
And in the end, this is what having a voice has the power to do for us. It shows us we are not alone, it connects us to all who may be going through the same/similar thing and most importantly, when human rights are being violated, it gives us the fire of courage, confidence and conviction to make sure no one else has to go through the same thing.
Your voice, no matter who you are, matters. It does. End of story.
So, use it, and don’t be surprised if you change someone else’s world, as well as yours in the process.
“A voice is a human gift; it should be cherished and used, to utter fully human speech as possible. Powerlessness and silence go together.”
Here’s to next time,