Smile, but not too much: Clinton, Trump and dumping the double-standard


I watched the first Clinton-Trump show-down not with family, friends or like-minded politicos but — as I was providing commentary on Toronto’s CP24  — with the former Ontario Conservative Leader and the Editor-in-Chief of the Toronto Sun. Let me tell you, it was interesting to see the debate unfold through a right-of-centre lens.

I’m not sure that was the debate to end all debates, but it was certainly unlike anything we’ve ever seen in Canada. And for a moment, let us just pause to relish that moment when Clinton ripped into Trump on his sexism.

It’s perhaps the understatement of the century to say that the Clinton-Trump battle has brought the double standard of women in politics to the forefront. Even if tempered with a healthy critique of Clinton and her own bid for the presidency, never has this fact been more painfully clear.

Jennifer and I have worked with a lot of leaders – labour leaders, leaders in the non-profit sector, political leaders. Some of our most fulfilling work at Story | Stiles has been supporting emerging leaders as they develop their media and public-speaking skills. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that we get the biggest kick out of working with those folks who break the mould.

Recently, we worked with a client who is a rising star in her union. A young, dynamic, racialized woman, she is keen to sharpen her message, her delivery and to build all this around the strong foundation of her personal narrative.

In the course of our day-long training session, we talked a lot about the issue of double-standards and how we rise above them. We considered how we can resist the urge to always fit into a certain ‘box’ while at the same time ensuring that we are reaching the broadest swath with our message.

As women who have run for office ourselves (and have been elected!) we are acutely aware of this issue and the different ways women are often perceived in public roles. Urged to take strong stands, if she speaks with passion and conviction a woman is often labelled “emotional”. Strength, intelligence and calm are labeled cold (Hello, Hillary!) and calculating.

It’s daunting. But it can be overcome. Our advice: first, try to think of all that criticism as just white noise. Second, take the time to prepare, practice and ultimately to define your personal public-speaking style, and to ensure your message delivery is clear and compelling. Once you fully understand the message you want to deliver, figure out how it connects to your personal story or experience. Don’t be afraid to let who you are show through: your best, most prepared version of yourself!

Making time for this WILL build your confidence.

Because, let’s face it: even for the most confident among us, it’s hard enough to put yourself out there. And give us a call if you want to consider some training or coaching for individuals or small groups within your organization.

The more women who take on leadership roles, who run for office, who make their voices heard, the more women’s voices (literally and figuratively) will become the norm and the better we pave the way for the next generation.

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