Sorry, Not Sorry
Recently I began a new role that I am passionate about. I get to help build innovation, develop something that will soon be in market and work with an incredible team of humans. It's fantastic. As I've begun taking on my role and learning all the new ins and outs of the company, I've noticed that I've started apologizing for asking questions. Stopping people in the meeting saying 'sorry if this is a silly question, but...' Not once have I seen a male colleague do this, at this or any other company. I understand apologizing for stopping the meeting, but why am I apologizing for asking a question. I'm new to the role and have no clue of the history. I shouldn't be sorry. I'm still learning.
As women, we are often taught to be quieter, to apologize for asking questions and not to speak up for ourselves. Growing up, we are told not to be "bossy" or to do as we are told. As I've gotten older, I've realized this is wrong for so many reasons. Why do we say to our sons to grow up and question everything, and we teach our daughters to be polite? It only doesn't make sense.
So, how do we combat this issue? How do we stop saying I'm sorry? As a Canadian, I apologize for everything. Being polite is in my blood. I always joke I have a double whammy because of my English heritage. In the last few weeks, however, I have begun trying to think hard before I speak. Do I need to apologize for asking something? Was this topic covered earlier in the meeting when I may not have been paying attention or arrived? Am I interrupting someone? I've always thought long and hard before I speak about something, and now I have added this to the checklist. Do I need to apologize? I've also asked my team to call me out when I am unnecessarily apologizing for something. Just so I am aware of when I need to be sorry. I've also extended this line of thinking to stop saying "this is probably a stupid question but..." there are no stupid questions, everyone has the right to knowledge and to learn.
As a woman, society has taught me to be small. It has taught me to be quiet and accept certain things. As a feminist, I want to take up as much as space as possible, I want to question everything, and I want to be loud in my opinions. For me, part of this is stopping apologizing for silly items such as asking questions or to have a seat at the table. We have all earned the right to be in the room, so we should ACTUALLY be in the room.
I am not sorry for asking questions, learning takes time, especially when you are new to something. Ask those questions, question your colleagues' line of thinking and never feel sorry for doing so.