Over the past two weeks, we witnessed extraordinary testimonials from our diplomatic corps and government professionals during the impeachment inquiry. Their confidence, demeanor and ability to rise to their best under pressure are qualities we seek in our leaders. The women who spoke the truth during the inquiry demonstrated leadership and self possession in a highly charged political environment.
What was evident, though, is that all too often women who speak out and express their knowledge and authority on critical matters such as our national security are relegated to the sidelines. Even more evident — and distressing — are the belittling, visceral tweets and snide remarks questioning the validity of their knowledge and truthfulness.
Last week I wrote about Fiona Hill’s ability to speak with confidence, clarity and profound conviction about the threats our country faces internally as well as externally. The dynamic combination of knowledge, resilience and conviction provided the platform for Dr. Hill’s testimony and for her acclaimed leadership as a Russian analyst.
Similarly, I wrote about the dignity Ambassador Yovanovitch displayed as she recounted the disinformation campaign and false scandal she endured. How amazingly self-possessed she was. What magnanimity she expressed when emphasizing that she serves on behalf of the president; not a disgruntled comment was expressed, only her wish to understand what she had done to cause her removal.
But as we have witnessed, there is the price women pay for speaking out with conviction, for performing their jobs with a strong sense of duty and for taking a leadership roles where they advise and consult on highly sensitive national security issues. The vicious remarks against women go beyond anything we could ever imagine. These remarks have been crude and demeaning.
This past weekend Lisa Page spoke out on what she has endured for doing her job, for becoming an expert on international law and for caring about the integrity of the organization she worked for. As stated in the Daily Beast article, “Ultimately, she was just another public servant like Fiona Hill or Marie Yovanovitch. She was dragged into the spotlight, her text messages weaponized, and her life destroyed so that the Trump administration could have a brief distraction.”
What is truly most disturbing about Lisa Page’s story is that she was betrayed by the organization that she was committed to and where she had built her career. She followed the rules, but the “CYA” mentality of her bosses and supervisors ultimately used her as a scapegoat. The focus on her personal life was scathing and far more demeaning than what men have gone through when ravaged by those in power.
Are we preparing women for this type of abuse? For those of us teaching leadership courses, we may need to include more preparation for rough, aggressive verbal and social media confrontation.
We might look to Black Belt training for concepts to add to leadership training. Much like dealing with physical assaults, Black Belt concepts are applicable to women who find their lives ripped apart with emotionally-charged attacks. Black Belt training states: “Although an aggressive verbal confrontation can be terrifying, you have to be strong enough to show the attacker he’s picked the wrong victim. If you stand tall, remain calm and respond confidently and assertively, your attacker will look for an easier target.”
Black Belt includes a mindfulness component: Women are taught to understand the relationship between their breathing pattern and state of mind. Women are advised to practice slow, controlled breathing that will help them stay calm and,