Some ideas about empowerment for International Women’s Day

Note: This is part 1 of a series from my “What is Empowerment?” presentation at Google’s Women in Tech conference in March 2018.

Last week, I had the pleasure of speaking at Google in New York for a Women in Tech conference. The audience was mostly Doubleclick/GA partners, with a few Googlers mixed in. Normally my presentations are more on the technical side, but this time I was honored to be invited to speak about empowerment.

That invitation – from the amazing Elena Ricart, who organized the conference flawlessly – was, for me, one of those “my whole life has been leading up to this moment…” moments. One of my (previously?) unmarketable skills is giving pep talks, particularly career pep talks. I just felt so ready and excited to do this, and got started immediately thinking of what I wanted to say. In the end, I talked about:

Through the magic of the internet, I’ll dive into each point from my presentation here, over the next week or so.

While prepping, I often thought, “Is this so obvious that there’s no point in saying it?” I kept catching myself saying things like “I’m sure you already know…” or “Everyone has probably already heard of…” With my ‘editing hat’ on, though, I knew I needed to remove those disclaimers – they don’t add anything but filler. And when I thought about it, wasn’t I sort of undermining myself by saying them…in a presentation about empowerment?

I mean, really. I had to stop. I wanted to remove them, but I kept worrying, I don’t want people to think that I think I’m so original. The negative self-talk in that context is almost hilarious. Then I realized that I needed to take my own advice.

  • I was feeling like an imposter – like I didn’t have anything important to say about empowerment. I actively cultivated the opposite viewpoint.
  • I rehearsed key phrases – places where my inclination was to add a disclaimer – and got comfortable with the exact words it took to get past those points.
  • I was curious about how these ideas would be received, and I realized that priming the audience with the idea that “this is old news” wasn’t going to help anyone get more out of this. If I wanted to really see how well I could do – how much impact this could have – I had to leave them out.

It took some work, but getting rid of that junk felt SO GOOD – like I conquered something within myself. Best of all, while talking with the awesome group of attendees later in the day, I was thrilled and humbled to hear that many of those points I’d worried about were indeed new to a lot of people. It was so fun to discuss this – and to see other people experience the same thing I did upon first hearing about Askers vs Guessers, for example.

The moral of the story is: don’t under-value what you have to say! Don’t do it in your own mind, and don’t do it in the way you speak. Everyone’s knowledge and experience IS valuable. Let’s share!

More to come on empowerment tomorrow.

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