About Deborah Siegel

Girl Meets Voice

I graduated from college the same year Anita Hill spoke her truth about being sexually harassed by her Supreme Court boss. Soon after my graduation, I was hired by the National Council for Research on Women to write a report for distribution to Congress and beyond synthesizing what we knew, and what we still needed to know, about sexual harassment. That report was a stretch and a personal milestone made possible by mentoring from folks who believed in me. Through that experience I learned the value of writing in collaboration. More important, I saw that writing could lead to change.

When I returned to graduate school to earn my doctorate in literature, I remained fascinated by the connections between personal narrative, popular discourse, and social transformation—Anita Hill, Gloria Steinem, and Riot Grrl all played a role in my studies. My dissertation—the creation of which I found painful—eventually became my first published book when I rewrote it for a popular audience. That rewriting was serious fun. In making that transition, I learned the value of translation, the joy of engaging an audience, the pleasure of stretching my genre, and the thrill of learning to write and think in different forms. My work went from being about “the travels, rhetorical and real, of the slogan ‘The Personal Is Political’ through second and third wave feminism in the US” to being about “the fights and frenzies around feminism in America over the past 40 years.” POW.

Speaking across the country, alone and on panels at venues ranging from Harvard to the 92nd Street Y, I saw how a book could bring people together, spark conversation across differences, and ignite essential debate. A blog, second book, participation in the Women’s Media Center‘s PWV program, and a slew of essays and op-eds later, I learned the power of the dictionary definition of “platform, ” which is: an opportunity for doing something, a raised stage. Impact felt contagious and sparked my interest in helping others find their voice and build a stage.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Dive Off Public Platforms Alone

In 2009, with the book publishing industry changing and traditional journalism morphing, I co-founded the online community She Writes with Kamy Wicoff—based on the premise that in atmospheres like that, friends don’t let friends write, or build platforms, alone. In 2011, I teamed up with a collective of fellow journalists at The OpEd Project, a social venture designed to diversify the range of voices narrating the world. Both of these experiences taught me, and continue teaching me, the role of community in fostering creativity.

Writing, to me, is more than mere expression. It’s a way of influencing others to believe in one’s ideas. It can be a form of intentional leadership that begins on the page but extends far beyond. I believe that the more of us out there speaking our powerful truths, connecting those truths to our authentic selves, the better it will be for our world.

So I’m here to keep us accountable. As Founder and Coach-in-Chief of Girl Meets Voice, Inc., my work focuses on helping others find and amplify their voices. I started with women and now I help leaders, makers, idea mavens, and creators of all sorts meld thought and heart; adapt new skills; stretch into new writing genres (commercial books! blogs! social media!); break into new speaking forms (TEDx!); translate specialized knowledge for broader audiences (op-eds! white papers!); find the joy in writing and speaking projects; and carve out the time to keep “platform-building” projects going in the midst of full lives (believe me, with two little kids, I know). It’s not easy, but the rewards for those who keep at it are immeasurable.

Over the last several years, as I’ve dug into my own next writing project while passionately helping others build their platforms, I’ve thought back to my foundational experience of creating a report about sexual harassment in the time of Anita Hill. The theme of that report—speaking truth to power—inspires my work still.

The Official Bio Sounds Like This:

Deborah Siegel, PhD, is an expert on gender, politics, and the unfinished business of “feminism” across generations, as well as a thought leadership coach who helps leaders of all sorts unlock their most meaningful thinking on and beyond the written page. She is the author of Sisterhood, Interrupted: From Radical Women to Grrls Gone Wild (Palgrave Macmillan), co-editor of the literary anthology Only Child (Harmony/Random House), founder of the blog Girl w/Pen (housed at The Society Pages, a publishing endeavor supported by W.W. Norton) and co-founder of both the boundary-breaking webjournal The Scholar & Feminist Online (housed at Barnard College) and the website She Writes—the largest online community for women who write, in the world (25,000+ active members). She is a Senior Facilitator with The OpEd Project; a guest instructor at StoryStudio Chicago and at Ragdale, where she has been the recipient of multiple writing residencies; and a Visiting Scholar at Northwestern University. Her work has appeared in venues including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, CNN.com, The Forward, Slate, The Huffington Post, The American Prospect, Ms., More, and Psychology Today, in multiple anthologies, and on her blogs. A dynamic speaker with a personal approach, she lectures and teaches workshops nationwide. She has been featured on The Today Show, The Wendy Williams Experience, and at TEDx.

Deborah received her doctorate in English and American Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Ever-curious about the latest forms for disseminating ideas, she is currently engaged in a multimedia experiment in thinking aloud and in community about the gendering of earliest childhood, through a Pinterest Board (Tots in Genderland), a Tumblr blog (The Pink and Blue Diaries), a collection of essays, Live Lit, and more. She lives in Chicagoland with her husband and their twins.

Bio in Bullet Points:

  • Writer, TEDx speaker, thought partner, and coach
  • PhD in English and American Literature
  • Author of two books, two blogs, and two kids
  • Expert on gender, politics, and the unfinished business of “feminism” across generations
  • Work widely featured, including on The Today Show and in The New York Times
  • Keynote speaker at campuses and conferences nationwide
  • Member of International Coach Federation

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