The #MeToo Movement unleashed a truth that laid dormant for years: it's time to listen to women.
Several months ago, I did something that I never thought possible. I stood on a stage at a TEDx Talk while eight months pregnant and told my story. After learning at birth that my daughter had special needs, I raised her on my own while obtaining three academic degrees, including one from Yale. Despite our circumstances, we were able to live a good life. Now, I'm married and achieving different milestones. Giving a TEDx Talk – and telling my story – was perhaps one of the most important events of my life yet.
The stage was set. I’d worked tirelessly on my speech and planned every detail meticulously. My goal was to impact others with my story and encourage the audience to consider that parents of children with special needs also want a good personal life. In order to assure that I had footage from the event, I hired an amazing production team: Natalie Perez, a talented videographer, and Rahsaan Nichols, a filmaker and fellow Yalie.
But something went wrong.
As the backstage crew prepped the audio equipment, they seemed unsure about the quality of the sound. As they scrambled for clarity and guidance, I called Natalie to come backstage. She offered the their production team her experienced advice. She also offered to film the entire event. They declined.
They did not listen to her guidance at all.
What happened next seemed surreal. As I gave my 7 minute talk, I was barely being heard by the audience. The audio was bad. It was so unclear that I paused mid-speech to do a mic check.
“Hold on audience, can you hear me?”
Did they hear me? Were they hearing my passion? Were they hearing my hard work? All I could do during the speech to keep up my confidence was convince myself that they had heard me. After the speech ended, I walked off the stage and was greeted by the TEDx staff. It must have been bad, because the staff member who greeted me had tears in his eyes.
I took off my heels and met my production person, Rahsaan. He was also upset, but able to remain somewhat calm as he told me the audience not only heard my voice, but the voices of the backstage crew. Because of the technical difficulties, the audience was not given the opportunity to listen.
As I remained composed, I was met by my mentor, Lorri, and my videographer. It is imperative that women support women. At that moment I needed them, and they were there for me. They also remained composed, but instructed me to do my entire speech again. My videographer was adamant. She insisted that I tell the organizers to allow me to redo my talk during intermission.
Though I could have had reasons to resist – excuses and fear – I listened to her.
There are countless occasions when women are not listened to. It happens at work, in the check out line, and especially in male-centric settings where we are outnumbered. There is no price to the act of listening. However, there is a price – sometimes heftier that the perpetrators are willing to pay – when they do not listen. It is a high cost for everyone involved to ignore the women in the room.
Listening to women does not mean that you automatically do what they suggest, but it does mean that you take the time to consider their recommendations and suggestions. So much time, energy and credibility could have been saved if someone had listened to our production team.
During the intermission, I performed my talk again. Ironically, in the green room, I received advice from a prominent businessman Winn Claybaugh, the dean and co-owner of Paul Mitchell Schools. Because I was 8 months pregnant and had been in my heels all day, he told me to wear my sneakers.
I listened to him.
My second take of the speech went well, and my production team filmed and produced the video. It is the only official footage from the event.
Listen to women. We have so much to say and so much to contribute.
Eraina Davis-Ferguson is a creative nonfiction writer currently penning a memoir about raising a daughter with autism and deafness. Her story was featured in “The New Haven Register” She holds an M.Ed in Education and an MAR in Religion from Yale University. Learn more about her at erainaferguson.com.