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Are You The Only Girl In The Room?
Editor's Note: This is a continuation of our core conversation series, "Extraordinary Women Change the World." Yesterday, Julie Daley asked us to pay attention to our own innate nature; that's where our empowerment stems from. Today, Emilie Wapnick shares what it feels like to be the only girl in the room.
In my final year of film school, I wrote and directed my *masterpiece*. It was a fifteen minute coming-of-age short, shot on 16mm film, that my 22-year-old self had spent eight long months creating. My film was selected at an international student film festival in Toronto that year. After the screening, all of the filmmakers went up to the front of the auditorium to answer questions. There was a line of about ten of us, and I stood on the far right. After the event ended, my mother came up to me and exclaimed something that I really hadn't given much thought to. She said, "I'm so proud of you. There were ten filmmakers up there, and you were the only woman."Whoa. Really? I hadn't noticed…
My film school was probably made up of 60% female students, yet why weren't they represented? Moreover, why hadn't I noticed? To be honest, that disturbed me more than anything... In that moment, something clicked for me. From then on, in every project I pursued and every interest I dabbled in, I noticed whenever there was an underrepresentation of women in visible, leadership roles. And it happened a lot. I also noticed how I felt when this happened. How I would become shy when I was the only girl in the room, and how I would unconsciously hold back my emotions, and allow myself to be less open. When I first became interested in entrepreneurship, things felt very similar. The voices in the online space seemed to be predominantly male. Yet as I launched Puttylike and the community grew, I noticed something neat begin to happen. More and more women began reaching out to me-- thanking me for giving them permission to have multiple passions in their lives. The Puttylike community is probably 60% female, and I'm not sure if that's just because my voice resonates more with women than men or if there's something deeper going on. As women, we aren't socialized to speak up and assert ourselves the way that men are. So while multipotentialites of all genders often feel disempowered by a culture that emphasizes specialization, I believe that women have an extra burden to bear. Living a life in which you pursue all of your interests requires taking proactive steps. It means that you have to get out in the world, follow your heart and your curiosity, and be okay with other people not understanding your choices. It never occurred to me that my work at Puttylike was about empowering women (I just thought it was about empowering multipotentialites), but I get it now. Integrating all of your passions into your life isn't just about embracing all parts of yourself or creating work that allows you to use your many talents, it's about assertiveness, leadership, and confidence. I'd love to see more women embracing their multiple passions, because it means that there will be more of us out there, creating innovative work and making waves in the world. It means that there will be fewer and fewer situations where you are the only girl in the room. How has embracing your multipotentiality empowered you? Guys, feel free to respond as well. I'd love to hear your thoughts. About Emilie: Emilie Wapnick is a writer, coach, violinist, filmmaker, law school graduate, and web designer who who works with multipotentialites to help them build lives and businesses around ALL their interests. She’s the author of Renaissance Business and the troublemaker behind Puttylike.com.