American poet Taylor Mali once said, “I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you, I challenge you: To speak with conviction.” While this quote encourages strong voices in our modern society, the truth is that women have been encouraged to not speak out and speak with conviction for generations. Even now, in our modern day and age, the strong and bold women that stand up for what is right are far too often told to ‘make sandwiches’ and ‘get back in the kitchen where they belong.’
However, with the incorporation of speech and debate in young women’s curriculum across the nation, these strong female voices can finally find their place in our society and be fearless and prepared for any debate or hitch boldly and confidently. To understand just how speech and debate can benefit young women and teach them to stand for what they believe in unapologetically, let’s look at the five main principles of speech and debate, how they benefit young women’s development, and how to implement these five principles in business as a woman leader below.
The Five Principles of Speech and Debate
In speech and debate, the focus is being able to prove your point in the most effective manner. However, this is just one aspect of speech and debate, and the truth is that it is the principles that this program instills in young minds which make it so effective. With this being said, here are five of the most prominent principles speech and debate is composed of in order to truly understand why this program is so valuable to young women and their development.
One of the first main principles that makes up speech and debate is discipline. In speech and debate, as with any sport or competitive program, there is a set of rules that must be followed. In order to progress in the speech and debate world, you and your partner must be able to work within these frameworks to provide the best arguments for your subjects possible.
The time, dedication, respect for the process, and ability to present your argument effectively is where this concept of discipline comes into play. It is this same discipline that allows past speech and debate champions to work within multimillion dollar industries and achieve more than their peers with ease. Being able to prioritize time, prepare work, and share projects and data in a confident manner is highly beneficial for the future endeavors of young debaters and also looks great on college applications and resumes as well.
The second lesson that speech and debate teaches young women is focus. In order to pose new arguments as rounds proceed and to counter arguments from the opposing side, you must be able to focus on what these individuals are saying and come up with responses in a timely fashion.
Similarly, to learn about different topics in order to debate, you must be able to focus on subjects and pay attention to the information that you are absorbing. Without this information at your grasp, you will more than likely not succeed as a debate partner.
The reason that this is beneficial to young women specifically is that it teaches them how to prepare for the workforce, how to speak confidently and state their case, and how to negotiate terms in a business setting with conviction.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, “The skills learned in competitive speech and debate are invaluable life skills. It has been well-documented that speaking activities can increase critical thinking, student confidence, and improve research and writing skills. Studies regarding Urban Debate Programs show participation in these activities have improved graduation rates, increased college enrollment and success, and decreased dropout rates.”
Although this may not come as a surprise to anyone that knows what speech and debate consists of, this form of competition requires wit and attention to detail in order to succeed. It is this wit and determination to learn that helps these young individuals involved in this program not only succeed in speech and debate but also in everyday life as well. The grades of these individuals tend to be far higher and they also tend to receive better college scholarship offers and achieve higher scores on their SATs as well.
For young women, this continuous lust for knowledge is highly useful as it encourages them to continue to learn even beyond high school, not be afraid to go to college and fight for what they truly want, and never settle for ‘good enough.’
While teamwork can most certainly be taught through group projects and school sports, the truth is that the teamwork lessons that speech and debate offers are far more similar to the lessons needed to work within a team in an office setting later in life.
When completing projects or meeting quotas as a team, it is crucial that everyone does their part and works together seamlessly. This same concept is what brings speech and debate teams together as well.
By using this method, young women can prepare for promising futures in any industry whilst also honing their teamwork skills as well. According to the Golden State Academy, “Every event in Speech and Debate requires some level of collaboration and teamwork. To be able to effectively work with a team to achieve a common goal is extremely important for the real world.” It is this mentality that makes it so beneficial for young women—and individuals as a whole.
5) A Sense of Humility
Perhaps, the most powerful lesson that speech and debate offers young women is a sense of humility and the understanding that being good at anything does not make you the best. This lesson is important in every aspect of life as it teaches young individuals that being open to learn new things and constantly improving is the key to self growth and improvement.
According to the Debate Training Guide, “Ultimately, the number one thing new debaters need to know is that they are not capable of knowing everything prior to their first tournament. They may encounter scenarios you haven’t prepared them for in a round. The goal is not for them to feel lost or frustrated, but to come back to you after the tournament to discuss the things they did not know. A former debater, Grant Nelson of Dowling Catholic, once said “I learned everything I don’t know yet.””
In life, you won’t always know best, and this is one of the hardest lessons to learn as a young, confident woman. The ability to listen to others and take their ideas and knowledge into account is crucial to success in any industry. However, this can far too often be easier said than done.
Fortunately, with speech and debate, this give and take is learned from the start and a sense of humility is instilled in these young women’s minds as they progress in the program. This is why speech and debate is a great way to learn the key principles of success in life in a less frustrating and low impact manner.
Implementing Speech and Debate Tactics in Business
Now that we’ve broken down the main principles of speech and debate and how they benefit young women, let’s take a look at how these concepts can be implemented in business as well.
According to the National Association of Women Business Owners, “More than 11.6 million firms are owned by women, employing nearly 9 million people, and generating $1.7 trillion in sales as of 2017. Women-owned firms (51% or more) account for 39% of all privately held firms and contribute 8% of employment and 4.2% of revenues.”
With this in mind and even more female representation in countless industries once considered male-centric, it’s no wonder why learning business success principles from an earlier age as women is so important.
Within a business, having discipline, focus, wit, a sense of humility, and the ability to work well with others is quite literally the key to progression and promotions. As such, it’s clear to see why speech and debate is a great program to help young women prepare for leadership positions later in life.
As a female leader myself, speech and debate taught me how to not only excel but do so gracefully and boldly. This is why the stats are not the only reason this method of self improvement is strongly recommended by myself and other female icons in every industry. Through strength and confidence alone, speaking with conviction as a female powerhouse is no longer as hard as it once seemed—and that’s a great step in the right direction for equality and empowerment alike.