The Challenge For Women In Leadership Roles

Most people join Toastmasters to develop their ability to speak in public. We do so by creating short speeches of our own design that must meet certain criteria such as including gestures or using vocal variety. After completing ten speeches by objectives set out in The Competent Communications manual, members are eligible to receive their Competent Communicator designation.

There are several other levels of achievement possible in the communication track but somewhere in their first year new members are introduced to Toastmaster’s leadership track. Using The Competent Leadership manual members work on ten projects leading to the designation of Competent Leader and again there are advanced designations available.

The leadership track can be a real eye-opener especially for women looking to advance in the business world.

Today in The Globe and Mail’s Life and Art section there’s a major article on why women in business hesitate to negotiate for better salaries. The article’s author speculates that Canadian girls learn to “play nice” in order to avoid appearing aggressive or greedy and these life skills hamper them later in life when dealing with men in their workplaces.

“Girls who attempt to take on a leadership role can sometimes come into conflict with people’s expectations about what it means to be female” says Erin Rajca of Toronto’s Child Development Institute who is quoted in the newspaper article.

Oddly today both the Globe and Mail in this article and The National Post in an article called “Land of the trolls” which details the seismic shocks that are rippling through the online site Reddit both use the sudden dismissal of Reddit CEO Ellen Pao.Ellen_Pao_2015

Pao, an American lawyer, earlier this month unexpectedly fired a much beloved Reddit staffer who had been responsible for working with the multi-million member plus Reddit community. Outraged the volunteer community moderators shut down their chat groups or made them private thus depriving Reddit of control and possible revenue from their own company.

Pao received death threats and much of her personal information was released online (a practiced called doxing) without her permission.

Within days Pao was making public apologies everywhere online and in the mainstream media but to no avail and she was dismissed within a few days.

In the Globe and Mail article the reporter related a back story about Pao who lost a gender-discrimination lawsuit against a former employer and then subsequently banned salary negotiations at Reddit. Her reasoning claims the article was: Men tend to negotiate harder than women and when they do, women are penalized in the process.

In a sidebar story a National Household Survey said that women working full-time in Canada (including those with university degrees) bring home 20 per cent less than men in their field.

While joining Toastmasters isn’t a cure-all for all that ails society today including wage parity between men and women, it’s a start.

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