Hello there,

Yours truly has FINALLY gotten round to reading Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lean In’ and girl am I being blown away! At various points, I actually shed some tears. (Yeah, yeah I know I’m a drama queen lol)  I have felt shocked and comforted, simultaneously while reading it. Shocked because apparently many professional women ‘feel like a fraud’, do not opt to ‘sit at the table’, would not dare ‘ask for a raise or negotiate a better package’ and many other personal battles I struggle with. And of course, it is good to know that I am not alone and even amazing fabulous women like Sheryl and other top women CEOs around the world go through these and more.

As I read through, I recalled my own experiences and I will share some few with you. Years ago, I had the privilege of serving as a Liaison Officer for the International Monetary Fund team led by one of their top bosses to a conference. We picked one of their top executives from the airport and on the way to the 5-star hotel where they stayed, I was very quiet. At the hotel restaurant, I dished my food and went to sit quietly in a corner far away from where the two gentlemen I came with ate. The executive saw me and motioned me to come join them, I declined by shaking my head. He insisted! Thank God he did! I picked my plate and sat with them, of course I was quiet except for when a question was thrown at me. I thought, well I am a fresh graduate who knows nothing about these big economic terms they are using in this conversation. Let me not make a fool of myself and say something stupid!

Even though I dared (ok fine, I was forced) to sit at the table, I didn’t speak up. I was afraid of making a mistake and being laughed at, seeming ignorant or putting myself in the spot light for criticism especially when there were men. Who wants to look unattractive anyway?! Personally, this attitude went on for some time until I learned to open up and speak up comfortably.

Then came another problem. Let me illustrate this problem with an example of a situation I found myself in often. I once worked in an organization with very few women at the top (as usual). There was a meeting for some of the senior management team and I was invited. Normally, I wouldn’t have gone for such a meeting but because I was invited to make a contribution I went. Needless to say the senior most executive who invited me thought highly of my opinion even though we had our own share of misunderstandings. However, at the meeting I got ‘looks’ from the other members of the management team especially when I voiced my opinion. It was a look that said ‘You don’t belong here’ Perhaps I didn’t. Perhaps I did. However, that did not matter to me at that moment or afterwards. I was determined to sit at the table and speak up! So I did to the dismay of certain people in that organization. If this had been another time, I would have cowered into my shell but no, not this time. The reward? I got to learn way more about leadership and the intricacies of that industry than I would have learned in my MBA class. This leadership experience I had would later open doors for my professional journey.

I have learnt that it is those who sit at the table and speak up, who are seen and heard. Now, when I go for events, I find empty chairs at the front row and sit. We know that a lot of times, the front rows are reserved for VIPs but I sit there anyway. Sometimes, I am told to sit elsewhere, no problem but most times nobody asks me anything so I sit comfortably. If I have something to say, I raise my hand and get called to speak up. If I make a mistake, big deal. The embarrassment will give me something funny to say when I am narrating what happened at the event.

I really do not see why the fear of being embarrassed must keep women from putting ourselves out there to make strides. I am told men also find it embarrassing when ladies reject their proposals but they keep proposing anyway. Fabulous woman, it is a fact that if we want something we have to go get it. Hearing the word ‘no’ will not kill us and being laughed at will only kill us if we let it. Besides, a lot of times our sense of embarrassment is only in our minds anyway. You are too fabulous not to be seen and heard, so please, sit at that table and speak up!

Oh by the way, if you haven’t read Lean In, please find one. It will bless you with useful insights. Thank you.


Ama Duncan, Corporate Trainer, Founder of The Fabulous Woman Network




  1. Beautiful personal illustration.Your point is precisely correct.and a common way to express it.Keep on the good work. N dear Your fun base will push for more every day.
    Personal request what’s your personal take on instinct Bishop T.D.jakes book.


  2. This is awesome message for both men and women. The common thing is that we all have to be bold to sit at the table and speak, because most a times our suggestions and input will make sense. Thank you Fabulous Ama Duncan for this. God bless you

    Apostle Michael Adu-Carol (Transformationist)


  3. Awesome account from a fabulous woman.I am truly inspired to speak up because I find myself at the table too bit am always quiet.


  4. Hello Ama,

    Your piece is inspiring and I must say I used to be that cowered, quiet and timid person. I woke up one day and said to myself, ‘this is definitely not me’ because the still quiet voice in me said so. I harken and today, I am humble to say I have participated in a nation competition which eventually exposed me and gave me the opportunity to go study outside the country (UK).
    Sheryl is an inspiration and so are you.
    Would like to meet you in person.

    Phenomenal Lady Yahwah.


  5. Wow Ama dis is great, I”ve bn inspired n believe it will encourage many who read to learn confidence. Thanks very much.


  6. Great piece Ama.
    Women should refuse to be cowered into a corner. We are very capable of breaking the glass ceiling and getting to the very top of the mountain. We shouldn’t be deterred and get discouraged by the unavoidable hitches that will come our way. We need to make a conscious effort to ‘Sit at that table and speak up” We have a lot to offer.


  7. Thanks for this valuable advice Ama. I went for an international conference of professors and wanted to ask a question but I was so afraid yet determined. I remember my voice shook but they heard me and thought the question was a very important one. This put me in contact with the president of the organisation later on. So yes! We need to sit at that table and speak up. God bless you


  8. Thanks Ama. We can overcome our embarrassent before any group of peoples only when we have the passion for what we want to achieve. First for knowing we are where we are for the benefit of the unfortunate person next-door and secondly it is you who is endowed by God with all His gifts for that course.


  9. Yes, I think women should stop playing second fiddle and maintain and define their place wherever they find themselves. Excellence sells more than campaigns on gender equality. Keep it fabulous dear Ama!


  10. Thanks for such a great and inspiring info. Am really inspired by this because it feels like u really talking to me. God had endowed women with the influential gift but sometimes because of the little mistakes we’ll make which in the long run be a lesson to us we turn to stay mute. Thanks so much


  11. i spoke up! thank you. i prefer writing to speaking because i think i get the opportunity to edit what i write but there is no such opportunity when i speak. sometimes, when i want to speak at meetings or any other public event, i get my words not coming out the way i intended. i fumble and then i chastise myself afterward. so i try as much as possible to avoid any temptation of speaking up. but today at a meeting, i spoke up, i got my words mixed up along the line but i was heard and i had someone even waving at me after the meeting. maybe nobody remembers the fumbling bit after all. thank you.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s