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AAWGT: Making a difference in our community!

march 13, 2019, women and leadership event

how women find their voices

“How Women Find Their Voices” was the topic of the 2019 Women and Leadership presentation which earned two standing ovations for speaker Lesley Poole, CEO of The SEED Foundation, Washington, D.C. Addressing an audience of more than 100 women, Lesley began with her own story — how her parents gave her the gift of a voice and how they always “saw” her for herself. She was taught to speak respectfully, always, but never to shy away from doing so. It was not until she entered the larger world that she experienced the feeling of not being heard, of becoming invisible, or of simply being marginalized.

Lesley shared several personal experiences, including being invited with other recognized luminaries as a speaker at a powerful Aspen Institute conference, and then being questioned in the airport  “Are you the gospel choir?” On another occasion she was told with great surprise, following her presentation, “You spoke so well”.  She then shared that it’s been important to her to “stop collecting evidence”, to stop counting insults, and to move forward instead. In her former role as a teacher she worked extensively with young people from 6th to 12th grade at SEED’s D.C. boarding school, encouraging them to find and use their own voices. She believes this approach, coupled with a strong academic foundation, gives students their own start to leadership.

Lesley ended by sharing that she has learned to become a bridge builder, noting that relationship-building in personal settings, such as a small group dinner, helps us appreciate our differences, and understand the racial inequities that exist. She fervently believes that it is everyone’s job not only to speak their own voice, but also to protect the rights of others to be heard. She reminded us of those in our community who for generations have remained invisible — those who ask, “Do you not see me?” She closed with a rousing final message to the audience: “Let’s be the change, together!”

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