Helen Berry on ‘Finding your Voice’

helen-berryThe prospect of public speaking is one which may strike fear in the hearts of many of us. As women, it is common to face additional setbacks such as lack of confidence and feeling anxious of criticism. All is not lost, however! Helen Berry, Professor of History and HaSS Dean of Postgraduate Studies, held an excellent session for the NU Women based around finding our voices within the public sphere. Helen has extensive experience in public speaking, be that in the lecture theatre or further afield in contributing to discussions on the radio or appearing on TV.

Below we discuss some of the most common challenges we might face in speaking within the public sphere. Taking heed of the tips that follow might help those butterflies disappear.

“What if my mind goes blank?”

There are several strategies out there to help us with keeping our talks on track, it’s a case of choosing the right method for you. Index cards or PowerPoint presentations with keywords on them are a good start in helping us to keep focused and improve our fluency. Don’t forget to slow down, too, to give yourself time to think – slowing down your speaking speed to about half of what you think is normal means you’re more likely to hit the optimum listening speed.

“What are others thinking of me?”

The truth is, they don’t care. They came to hear you speak, not to judge. Often we are our own worst critics! Find a friendly face in the audience and keep calm.

“What if I can’t make myself heard?”

Don’t be afraid to interrupt. Speak deeper and louder. Most importantly, don’t apologise. Cut out the I’m sorry buts and the I may be wrongs from your vocabulary and be confident that what you’re saying is a useful contribution to the discussion.

“I’ve never done this before”

This is a valid worry and one that almost everyone will have experienced, but don’t admit it! Audiences want to feel comfortable and seeing that you are too will help them to relax. Keep a journal for future reference and note down what works and what doesn’t. Remember that you’re in charge of the situation, so make sure you project an aura of control even if you don’t feel it.

“I don’t like audiences, large or small!”

You know about the subject (the audience is there because of it) and you have something valuable to say, so give yourself permission to speak. Take a look at Michelle Obama and Julia Gillard’s excellent speeches and note how they speak to their audiences.

 

Some final points…

Be resilient, be positive and build yourself a support team of family and friends to give you feedback… Practice makes perfect! Most importantly though, remember what you’re passionate about and why you’re doing it. This is what will get you through.

For further reading, Helen recommends Patsy Rodenburg’s book Presence as a practical guide to improving presentation skills. She is a former voice coach with the Royal Shakespeare Company. You can also catch her talking about the ‘three circles’ concept from the book on YouTube.

Helen will be doing another session in May 2017 that will be open to the whole NU Women’s network. Registration for this event will be shared closer to the time.

 

Developing Your Personal Resilience

Jo Geary, Head of Business & Management Services at Newcastle University Library discusses personal resilience.

This blog can otherwise be known as: How to avoid being a (squashed) bunny caught in the ‘to-do list headlamps’.

My to-do list was paralysing me. I needed a lesson in how to respond better in the face of an overwhelming workload. Luckily, Mandi Sherlock-Storey and my network of NU Women colleagues turned up to help me develop some personal resilience!

Mandi started her Personal Resilience Workshop by asking us what we would look like at our absolute best, at our peak in terms of resilience. She defined resilience as “successfully adapting to adversity and bouncing back as an even better, more capable person”. Resilient individuals have a bag of tools to help them become more flexible to life’s changing demands.

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Guest Blogger Deborah Husbands: Intersectionality Finally Comes of Age

We are delighted to present the next instalment of Gender + from guest blogger Deborah Husbands, Doctoral Researcher and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Psychology at the University of Westminster, London.

Intersectionality Finally Comes of Age

With glass in hand, I sit at my desk and reflect on a question posed recently by author and coach, Cherron Inko-Tariah, MBE: how can we bridge the diversity-inclusion gap? How can we, indeed? For a gap certainly exists. But let’s first unpack that word ‘diversity’ a little. Philosopher Nathaniel Coleman once said that diversity is a ‘dirty word’ that allows people to hide behind the real issues because it conveniently blurs the lines. Issues that lie deep within complexities from multiple identities in a fragmented world remain safely hidden under a diversity veil. But, there is fresh hope for clarity! Along comes a plethora of research at just the right time. Waving an ‘intersectionality’ banner, our attention is drawn to a new framework to dissect, particularise and understand these multiple identities. In other words, we are now equipped to bridge the gap. Yet, intersectionality is not new.

Intersectionality existed long before we were given the term in the late 1980s by feminist, critical race theorist and legal scholar, Kimberlé Crenshaw. In fact, it’s the way we have always experienced our life-worlds: as compartmentalised and disaggregated, as individualised and collectivistic, as unique and universal—all at the same time.

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Kimberlé Crenshaw

So, why has ‘intersectionality’ become so fashionable of late? Maybe, because it has divested itself of a ‘childish’ impulse for tunnel-vision and egocentrism characteristic of other frameworks. It has learnt to share its toys: new knowledge and ideas about the multiplicative (not additive) nature of identity. And, at last, it is dressed and ready for the ball, complete with an eclectic assortment of global escorts: gendered and racialised people, neglected feminists, structurally-dominated and politically-oppressed people. But what do we do with them all when they get there, asks the party-going newly-gentrified and socially-privileged among us? The answer, it seems, is that we research and study them to death as if they were, as Professor Gurnam Singh aptly puts it, the ‘exotic animal in the room’. And when we think we’ve ‘done enough’, we put them back into their compartmentalised world until a new social justice paradigm emerges that justifies taking them back out again. Only maybe, this time, using a different critical lens.

The world will likely be a much better place when diversity, inclusion and intersectionality go the way of the record player or tape recorder: as a vintage item that has long since served its purpose.

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But until then, it seems we still have some work to do.

Gender and Race – Guest Blogger: Chi Onwurah MP

Our guest blogger, Chi Onwurah MP, Newcastle Central’s elected MP and Shadow Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy,  discusses her embracement of the term ‘intersectionality’, her experiences as a black female Geordie of Irish and Nigerian decent, brought up on benefits on a council estate by a single, disabled mother, and her career progression from a woman in STEM to a woman in Parliament.

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Chi Onwurah MP

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Our ‘post-truth’ world and unconscious gender bias: Sally Shortall

truth-166853_1920Our ‘post-truth’ world and unconscious gender bias: Sally Shortall is the Duke of Northumberland Professor of Rural Economy, in Newcastle University’s Centre for Rural Economy. She talks about unconscious gender bias in our post-truth world.

 

I have long considered my enjoyment of the weekend Financial Times as something of a guilty pleasure. My friends tend to associate the paper with right-wing capitalist sentiments but I have always found the quality of the economic analysis and international news coverage excellent. In particular, I enjoy the Life and Arts section to which many academics contribute on political, historical, and sociological matters. I am heartened by, and often quote, Noam Chomsky who has also lauded the Financial Times for the quality of its international news coverage.

At the moment I am immersed in a project for the Scottish Government, looking at the role of women in agriculture. I have been all over Scotland interviewing women and men about women’s role in agriculture, in farming organisations, and considering cultural practices that impact on gender roles on the farm. I have studied this question now for more than two decades, and I am struck by the huge strides in gender equality, combined with a seemingly contradictory continuing unconscious gender bias and outright sexism. I am analysing the data right now, so I’m constantly thinking about these questions. The other question I have researched in recent years is how knowledge gains legitimacy. Who decides what the truth is? We now have phrases like ‘post-truth’. Different versions of the truth vie to be seen as the correct one. This question, as we all know, is particularly pertinent in the current climate.

It was with delight that I picked up the weekend Financial Times, and saw that Tim Harford had an excellent article asking what we can do to champion the truth. He explains the problem nicely; it is in the interest of some groups to manipulate facts, and he gives the example of the tobacco industry going back to the 1950s. He presents some of the ‘problems’ with facts: they are boring, people can feel threatened by the truth, and an untruth can beat off a complicated set of facts by being easier to understand and remember. He reports that several studies have shown that repeating a false claim, even in the context of debunking that claim, can make it stick. Our memories fade, and we remember only the myth, because the myth was constantly repeated. He argues that one way to try and combat this problem is to nurture scientific curiosity. A group of prestigious social scientists has carried out research that shows those who are curious about the truth, and are motivated to seek it out and look beyond the repetition of a false claim, are those most likely to be persuaded by facts.

This was the first article I read last Saturday, and I then turned to the main section of the paper. I was struck by the headline on the front page that stated ‘Tesco boss fears white men on boards are “endangered”’. There was a further report on page eleven, with a title that repeats ‘Tesco chairman claims white men “endangered”’. The caption on that article reads: ‘Women from ethnic minority backgrounds are in a “propitious period” Tesco’s John Allan said’. Three headlines then: men are threatened, and women from ethnic minorities have the advantage. The text, for those who did read it, notes that John Allan is one of eight white men on a board of eleven. Tesco appointed half of the board slots it filled in 2016 with women, which meant that they went from having one woman on the board in 2015 to three in 2016, slightly more than 25%. The article reports that management experts do not agree with Mr Allan’s rosy assessment of UK board diversity. The article says that women account for only 29 per cent of directors appointed in the UK last year, the lowest proportion since 2012. Why, then, do these articles lead with false claims from Mr Allan? Tim Harford shows that the myth is remembered because it is constantly repeated. This is what has happened here – the false claim is repeated three times, and only to those who read the whole article will the counter-argument be clear. Tim Harford could have used this article as an example for his piece in the magazine.

There are two issues that concern me here. One is the constant repetition of a myth around John Allan’s statement. This is particularly troubling when a different section of the paper has an excellent article about the dangers of this type of presentation of reality. The second is the subliminal message which is, at best, an example of unconscious gender bias; there are no barriers for women, it is ‘in fact’ white men who are under threat.

 

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Creating an online identity as a researcher

Charlotte Mathieson offers some useful and practical tips on how to develop and manage your digital identity.

In 2016 I spoke to NU Women about my experience of creating a digital identity as a researcher, and in this post I outline some of the key points of my talk. Since I started my PhD at the University of Warwick in 2007 digital tools have been essential to my practice as an academic, and especially useful to me in navigating the post-PhD years as an early career researcher.

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