The Interruption Heard ‘Round the World Is All Too Familiar: ‘I’m Speaking’

The meme inspiration all women in marketing need

Minorities, immigrants and communities of color can look on with excitement to the next vice president, who is setting the stage for BIPOC. Source: Getty Images
Headshot of Leah Pilcer-Pitman

“I’m speaking.”

What kind of time are we living in when a woman in power speaking has to repetitively ask a man to stop interrupting her? Sad to say, we are still living it.

Women on social cheered, twitter memes went viral and GIF’s were already circulating—all in support of Sen. Kamala Harris during Wednesday’s night vice presidential debate.

Harris repetitively said “I’m Speaking,” when constantly interrupted by Vice President Mike Pence, which resonated with so many of the women that were watching the performance. Her firm response only exemplified what so many women deal with on too often a daily basis. Those women who have ever been in meetings can attest to the constant struggle of proving a point or sharing ideas, all while trying to manage interruptions by a male co-worker fighting to get in as many words as possible. While the issue never gets resolved, last night made a statement that will be a new inspiration for women. Interruption has been the norm for decades, and quite honestly has become normalized. From gender pay gaps to women’s health topics, women constantly grapple with the notion that men have more important things to say than women.

In the marketing sphere, another male-dominated industry, women are affected more than ever. Successful marketers show empathy and can relate to both the product and the consumer. This recent event may have been the precipice for women in marketing to use their voice. I’m hopeful this will inspire a new wave of campaigns and dialogue for brands to speak to the inequity of women and ultimately help with inspiring more women to strive for higher-level marketing roles.

Harris remained poised, strong and didn’t let emotions get in the way. For if she did, she would have been labeled with one of the many stereotypes that exist for marginalized women: loud, angry, aggressive, nasty. Harris captured the unresolved gap that still exists with minority females having an equal voice and influence both professionally and personally. What was just a few mere seconds is a textbook example of so many of the systemic issues that have been highlighted in this election year.

Harris spoke for all women with her candid facial gestures and striking side eyes allowing her opponent to continue speaking his mind. While I can relate from some of my own renowned smirks or awkward laughs in meetings, Harris’ meme inspiration may be what we all needed to keep pushing ahead. According to a New York Times article from 2017, academic studies show that being spoken over or interrupted is a universal experience for women when they are outnumbered by men in meetings. For when a lower number of women exist, it limits women advancing to the top of the organization.

After last night’s debate, mothers, sisters, wives, girlfriends came together to use that moment as not only validation, but reflection on how we continue to fight the fight and make sure our voice is heard. Female marketers have more incentive than ever to start stepping up, raising a hand and bringing ideas to the forefront. While there’s no guarantee that the interrupting will stop, it’s an even better time to band together, support one another and continue helping the marketing industry with making more diverse and progressive leaps.

May Sen. Kamala Harris show little girls around the world that we too deserve a chance to be heard, and it should be on the same terms and expectations as the man across the table. There is no question in my mind that brands are going to be pivoting and capitalizing on last night’s social whirlwind and creating ads that speak to women speaking out. The question is who will be the first one to cross the finish line? Save the memes and print the T-shirts, because this is only the beginning of an incredible movement of powerful, female voices.

@leahpilcer Leah Pilcer-Pitman is director, public relations & digital strategy at New Belgium Brewing.