School needs female motivational speakers

Jordan Holman, News Editor

Although women are working to break the glass ceiling, it may be the stage that proves harder to crack.  For the past four to five years, first day activities on campus have consisted of motivational speakers to inspire students to work hard and overcome adversity in the coming school year. There have been additional on-campus speakers for several years prior. But according to English teacher Mary Kitchens, few have been women.

Our school works hard to instill confidence in the student body and allow all students equal access to opportunities. But when women aren’t telling students their inspiring stories of success, it highlights issues of gender inequality.

Women fought tirelessly for the vote, for acceptance in the workforce, and for the right to sit on the leather seats of the Supreme Court, yet the microphone is still out of reach. There is still a notion in our society that women’s voices are less powerful than men’s. There is still a belief that men are more successful leaders, even if that belief is so subtle that it is often overlooked. Women are expected to smile, be courteous, and compliant; they are told not to question, not to raise their voices as loudly as men. On a road full of red lights, there are countless obstacles preventing women from reaching their full potential.

According to research conducted by Shift Balance, parents interrupt their daughters twice as much as their sons. Men dominate 75 percent of group conversations and women are overall less verbally assertive than their male counterparts. They are worried about potential backlash from stating their opinions, while men feel more confident in their thoughts and beliefs. Women were almost entirely absent from congressional hearings discussing the US-Iran deal in 2016, even though they were key players in constructing the deal. Less than 12 percent of experts cited in business newspapers are women. And they are virtually nonexistent in the motivational speaking profession.

When men share their challenging circumstances and how their perseverance led them to a life full of accomplishment, young impressionable females may wonder if this is possible for women, too. Deeply rooted social ideals keep women from feeling that they can share their stories, beliefs, and insights without receiving judgment. Females feel less inclined to take motivational speaking roles because they lack the confidence to do so.

When asked how they feel about this overwhelming discrepancy, the general student consensus was that we are in desperate need of female speakers to empower our student body. We believe that administration hasn’t reached out to enough women, especially when it comes to inviting alumni to share their stories.

Men fill the graduate panels. Although this may be entirely unintentional, there is still an implicit message: men are more successful than women. Or at least they are better at public speaking than women.

English teacher Amity Hotchkiss believes that, “Administration should have thought about the effect this has on women.”

Plenty of female graduates have gone on to do incredible things. Students need to hear this. Especially with our turbulent political climate, we need to know that there is hope for success.

As Kitchens recalled, the one time she saw a male-female team speak at our school, the man did 99 percent of the talking. This administrative oversight actually puts the spotlight on a more pressing issue. It underlines the root cause of female absence on our high school stage. The problem is the lack of females who choose to join the motivational speaking profession.

Mary Kitchens, who’s been teaching here since 1991, has not seen a female motivational speaker in the last several years. She said, “All the ones I can remember have been men.”

As the only female teacher in the ROCK program, she often feels that parents question her more than her male counterparts and wonders if this could be linked to gender.

Kitchens believes that men are perceived as having emotional authority in our culture, and as a society, we accept that male-dominated role. She said, “In our culture still, the male voice has more weight. It’s harder for women to express that personal power.”