Abby Wamback, former international football (soccer) champion and Olympic gold medalist was asked if her Leadership Presentation for a company would be applicable to men too. Good question! If only every male speaker, trainer and coach was asked if their message is applicable to women too.

To do a gender audit of your presentation and the story you tell you need to include a balance of experiences. This is also why –I would argue — you need to include not just a random number of tick-box types of genders and colors and abilities when being inclusive but different mind sets and backgrounds. We need the reflectors and the disruptors as well as decision makers to get a truer picture of possibility and wider scope of what issues are really present.

As a storyteller when I tell a traditional tale I research all the variants so I don’t fall victim to a ‘single story’ (Chimamanda Adichie TEDtalk) that has been manipulated by the style, period and editor that originally wrote it down. I also consider all the characters in the story and perspective of who’s telling that story and how that perspective can change to include more than one focus of the action or biased commentary that reinforces stereotypes. (wolves are dangerous predators, stepmothers evil without reason, heroes always good)

In the case of personal story, brand story and the business story the tendency is to sing of the glories of overcoming adversity without ever talking about the adversity; to give testament to success. But there is no Testament without a Test. And unmasking and revealing the surprising undiscovered truth of a situation –especially when it is our own awakening –is especially powerful and builds our credibility as human, frail, imperfect and vulnerable. This is what empathy is all about. And is the connecting point in any story. We many not share the exact experience but we know the feeling. We may have not slain a dragon but by God we’ve had to face a few out of control power tyrants with the heart of a lion –who’s bravery comes from hunting and killing by the way.

Sheryl Sandberg helped introduce parking spaces for expectant mothers at Google after struggling to walk across the company’s huge car park whilst pregnant with her first child, with Criado Perez using this example to show that gender bias is not a purely male issue.

Criado Perez in her book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men says: “The fact that

[Sandberg and Google co-founder Sergey Brin] hadn’t thought about it just really exemplifies the whole point — you need to have diversity of representation in positions of power so that everyone else can benefit from the experiences that we all share.”

When we present the world as one size fits all unerringly that size is male by default. It is how women are not represented not only in positions but in the way data is presented and our research collected. In her book Feminism and Linguistic Theory by Deborah Cameron when you use male pronouns unsurprisingly you picture a man. But even when using a neutral pronoun such as person 80% of men will see a man –someone who looks like them; women will see 50/50 gender. But for vocations such as doctor or researcher or teacher the picture in our head is still very male dominated. That is because women are not only underrepresented but largely unseen and rarely heard from; therefore forgotten.

Whilst researching crash test dummies, Criado Perez found that the model most commonly used by the automotive industry was based around the 50th percentile male — meaning that it is too heavy, too tall and has the wrong muscle distribution in order to provide any proper information on how crashes affect female drivers and passengers.

She says: “As a result, if they are involved in a car crash, women are more likely to be injured — 47 per cent more likely to be seriously injured and 17 per cent more likely to die.

And yet women do 2/3 of the worlds work and 75% of the unpaid care work. Even algorithms are set to the male bias with voice recognition software — Sat-Navs and Siri not understanding women’s voices or giving women wrong information.

However research has shown companies who have a higher number of women in their workforce have gained higher financial profits and productivity in their output, when compared to the companies which have fewer
women employees. Women are actually good for business.

When we are not seen or heard we are forgotten. When we are forgotten we end up poorer, sicker and sometimes dead and you know what? The world is a poorer, unwell and dying to hear from us!

My call to action is look at the examples in your presentation, survey the audience as more than just women and men but what type of women and men; your speaking to the dissatisfied woman ready to jump ship for her creative freedom and the fearful man dogged by job cuts and not coming up to the mark, the entitled confident CEO (who did you picture?) and visa — versa. Differentiate your talk with variations on a theme with stories that may be the same motif but wildly different tones, choices and ending based on gender experience. Then you’ll have something that identifies with being Human. Both you and your presentation.