Turquoise jacket picture - headshot size (2)2


If you’ve ever watched the semi-finals or finals of the World Championship of Public Speaking, you’ve probably wondered why most of the competitors are men. Toastmasters is full of female speakers and leaders, so why aren’t more of them on the world stage? My theory is that shame plays a major role.

Shame? You might be wondering what I mean by this. One of my favorite speakers is Brené Brown, who is famous for her TEDx talk and four fantastic books on shame and vulnerability. Brené says that as women, we feel ashamed of our bodies, our voices, our stories, and many of us (including me) rarely feel like we’re good enough.
My biggest fear during the competition was not winning. When I first competed in 2011, I didn’t place in the semi-finals, and I was so ashamed when people asked how I did. Answering was like admitting that I had failed publicly and that I just wasn’t good enough. Logically, I knew these were ridiculous thoughts, but that didn’t stop me from feeling them.
How many women don’t compete because they want to avoid feeling like they have been shamed publicly? How many women don’t put in the blood, sweat, and tears that it takes to win because they can always fall back on the excuse, “I was only doing this for fun or to learn. I don’t care about winning.”?
If shame holds women back, how do get more women to compete? Brené says that shame flourishes in the dark corners of our mind, but shame dissipates when we bring it into the light and talk about it with someone we trust. When I shared my feelings with a close Toastmaster friend, she showed me how hard I was being on myself, and she helped me find the courage to get on stage and do my best. I hope that as women, we can share our stories and encourage each other. Perhaps through those stories, more and more women will be inspired to take that courageous step into the light. You can check out Brené’s speech here.

Catch Vocal Women’s webinar this Saturday. There are limited places so don’t miss it register NOW. http://www.vocalwomen.com/

Post by Marin Gemmill-Toyama