Let's do our own representation
The world changes every time a group of people produce relatable content that challenges the status quo. We can all help with that.
We all know that representation matters. We feel the difference when we can see ourselves in the person doing the speech, writing the book or acting in the movie. We say "Finally, someone like me is out there! Maybe the world is coming around".
The funny thing is, the world doesn't come around on its own. The biggest social shifts that have happened in the past several years have been triggered by people, just like you and me (but many), getting fed up and deciding to produce content that represents them.
Take the rise in awareness of Neurodiversity. It's not like it's a new thing, yet even 3 years ago the most you'd read on national news was about some idiot thinking that vaccines cause autism.
What's changed since then? Covid. At first, it forced many people to look closer into their mental health situation, which led a lucky few to a diagnosis. Then, diagnosed adults and young adults took to TikTok with humorous and candid content about their life, their discoveries, their daily struggles and strengths, helping thousands more people relate and wonder if they may be neurodivergent themselves. From TikTok and Twitter to Instagram and LinkedIn, Neurodivergent Influencers became a thing (I think there are awards for it now) and took it upon themselves to educate the world.
In just a few years, the mindset of the professional world flipped on its head. We still have a long way to go, but it's nowhere near as bad as it was before and many people got the recognition and support they deserved.
It's 2023 and we all have a platform, or many, where we could be heard and seen. Yet, we often wait for representation to happen.
Maybe we're afraid to be the first ones. Maybe we think we're alone, that even if we start no one will follow. There's always a reason to not talk, not write, not give your opinion or even just your point of view. It's usually a very valid reason, not arguing there.
But, do you know what ends up happening? That the people that speak, write and give their opinion and point of view are always the same people. And they're saying and writing a lot of the same opinions.
The power of one
This is what representation looked like when I was a mid-level designer (think circa 2015) trying to figure out my life:
The top career-advice articles were written by the kind of people who were implicitly trusted with responsibilities that me and 90% of the world population would have to jump through hoops on fire to even be taken seriously for. It felt claustrophobic.
Then one day I watched Meri Williams do a keynote speech called Practical Diversity at the StackOverflow "Women in Tech" conference (which I attended by myself since I was the only woman in my team at the time). She talked about awesome things that I was hearing for the first time, like micro-aggression and how to educate oneself on privilege, but to be honest I'm not even sure the topics mattered: seeing a confident woman get up on stage, showing her personality, telling us how she has a t-shirt that says "I'm what the Daily Mail warned you about", was all it took. My life changed.
Because if people like her existed, I could have a future career too. I had a shot, I could figure it out. And then, maybe I could even send the elevator back down and help others! 🥰
Ok, maybe it didn't turn out to be exactly as easy as that. It took many more years to fully un-brainwash myself, find my voice and say "f*ck it" enough to start saying things out in public.
But you get the gist 😉
When we're our own biggest blocker
Despite my best efforts, I still get imposter syndrome quite often. For example back in January, when I was a panellist at an AMA organised by the amazing WEI - Women (with) Epic Ideas, I was indeed surrounded by amazing ladies who own their own companies and did incredible achievements, and for the first 15 minutes, I very much felt like a kid at the grown-ups table.
The imposter's voice comes out every time I see the lineup on my LinkedIn feed of experts with PhDs, fancy job titles or decades of experience, crafting PR-gold-standard posts on topics I'm passionate about, but with an eloquence that I can only dream of.
And that voice is nasty. It tells me I'm just an amateur, a poser, I can't contribute anything valuable to the conversation, no one wants to hear it, it's useless, it's derivative, and until my credibility is backed up by some undeniable authority I'd better lay low and be quiet.
But I've done enough years of therapy to know that that voice isn't mine. In reality, whenever I opened up and joined the conversation, I got really positive feedback. A few people even told me I've helped them feel seen or given them a bit of energy, an inspiration kick.
Am I saying anything so original that you can't find it anywhere else? Nah.
Am I a certified expert with a degree in this stuff? Nope.
But isn't it helpful to hear things that resonate, from a place you can relate to? Well, you tell me, you've hit subscribe 😄
Truth is, the only way we're going to stop being a minority is if our collective voice becomes too loud to miss (or dismiss).
What I particularly love about the Neurodiversity-TikTok example is that it proved we don't even have to go all social-justice-warrior on it. Humour and candour break down more barriers with kindness than trolling and criticising ever will.
So, if you ever thought "I could write a blog post about that" or "I have something for this talk" or "I have a comment for that LinkedIn post", I say do it. Write it. We need more new voices out there 😊
And if you need inspiration, look at the beauty the internet can do when it comes together: Num Num Cat TikTok Chain but its actually good lol
Bunny of the week
The Gender Pay Gap App has been calling bullsh*t on companies who publicly celebrate International Women’s Day but don’t put their money where their mouth is.
It’s completely automated, pulling from publicly available data. I love it so much.
If you have anything else like this to flag, message me!
I love reading your posts and I'm learning so much from you xxx
What you say definitely resonates, Benny - thank you for saying it!