Pearls: Women’s History Month — Damn, I still have a lot to learn

By Dan Ayer, Co-Founder, Oyster Creative

Most of my guy friends would describe me as pretty woke.

After writing that sentence, I would describe myself as feeling pretty old and lame.

I am lucky to have spent my life surrounded by brilliant, creative, talented women. My mother put herself through college (only the boys in the family had school paid for…), became a nationally awarded public relations professional and eventually led her own firm for almost 30 years. All while raising two kids and cooking for a husband with culinary skills that can best be described as “burns water.”

I followed her lead into public relations and communications. It’s a field that is almost 85% women (let’s not discuss the gross misrepresentation in percentage of executives). So I’ve also had the opportunity to learn from women who counsel clients and executives through everything from mergers to #metoo.

My wife happens to be one of these talented women. For almost a decade (let’s not do the math on how long before I popped the question), I’ve seen her provide brilliant ideas, insights and writing in her career.

When I started this firm with my partner, Jeff (pretty woke guy, too), we knew we wanted to build a team with space for everyone. After all, if you are in the business of coming up with ideas to impact people, you can’t just be dudes with beer bellies and red beards.

We were fortunate enough to find some wonderful female talent that has made our team more strategic, creative and dynamic because of the diverse perspective these women bring to Oyster.

Jeff and I will be the first to tell you how lucky we are to have each of them as a part of our team.

However, that doesn’t mean we still can’t let male privilege and ego get in the way.

Today in a meeting — a meeting that my teammate had us beyond prepared for and ready to deliver on everything the client needed — I repeatedly spoke over her.

I didn’t realize it at the time and I’d like to say I got caught up in the flow of conversation, losing focus on who was speaking. But in reality? I railroaded the meeting.

And you know what? It’s FAR from the first time I have behaved that way.

To the women in my career that I’ve spoken over in meetings or presentations: I am sorry. It’s a shitty thing I’ve done repeatedly.

I should know better. And I need to do better.

In a month when there is an increased focus on the role of women in society and the workforce, I hope other guys like me will notice when they do the same and do a little (ok, a lot) more listening.

Because if I’ve learned anything in my career, it’s that I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by incredible women.

And we’d all learn a lot more if we just listened to them.