Thursday, April 5, 2012

Analysis of Patricia Shiu's Speech

“It's no secret that the wage gap persists between men and women - with women about 20 cents less for every dollar earned by a man doing the same work. This gap is even higher for women of color. And this wage differential has significant ramifications for families and for women - not just for a brief time, but for years.” (Shiu, 2010)

Throughout history women have been discriminated against in many aspects of life, including employment.  There has been some progress, however the work field today is still very harsh towards women and many organizations are fighting to change this.  Although many speeches for women’s rights rub people the wrong way, Patricia Shiu’s speech helped promote equality in the work field for women because she employed good rhetorical strategies.  The most important rhetorical strategies she used were: knowing her audience, and ethos, pathos, and logos.
            Patricia Shiu gave the keynote speech for the distribution of the Women on the Rise award in 2010.  This award is given to “honor women who have broken down barriers and stereotypes who have helped to lead the way for other women through their exemplary service and excellence in a non traditional career.” (Hard Hatted Women, 2011)  It is given out by the Hard Hatted Women, an organization that “engages women and girls in critical STEM pathways (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).” (Hard Hatted Women, 2011)  This non-profit organization trains women and girls for industrial jobs for which they would have struggled attaining otherwise.  At the time this specific award was handed out, the country was still feeling the hardships of recession.  Men and women alike were out of jobs and the pressure to make enough money just to survive was extreme.  Patricia Shiu was chosen to give the keynote speech for this award giving ceremony because she is the Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs at the U.S. Department of Labor.  She leads groups of men and women in an effort to protect workers, promote diversity, and enforce the law.
            The speech Patricia Shiu delivered was strategically made to suit the audience to whom she was speaking.  The audience was largely women (including the seventeen women receiving the award) with some men. It is fair to assume that most if not all of the people there promoted equality in the work place.  Herrick found that “…some effort to estimate one’s audience has always been, and remains, a crucial component in the rhetorical process.” (Herrick, 9)  When a speaker knows their audience they can adjust what they say and how they speak to better get their message to the audience.  Shiu adapted her message to her audience by saying things that show she holds women in a high regard.  She frequently used “we” when referring to women and women’s rights because she too is a woman.  In other speeches it isn’t good to be so personal and to have the speaker use personal pronouns, but it was very successful with this group of people.  These women in her audience have fought and will continue to fight for the rights of women and they want a powerful woman to associate herself with them.  Shiu used her adapted speech both to connect to the audience in order to promote her agenda and also to make the women feel more empowered so that they would continue fighting. She stated, “[i]ndividually, we (women) are each strong enough.  Collectively, we are a force to be reckoned with.” (Shiu, 2010) This quote engages women and helps make them feel like they are strong. It also makes them want to listen to what else she has to say.
            Along with catering her speech to women, Shiu made her speech friendly to the men in the audience and also any potential people who weren’t for equality in the work place.  At many points throughout her speech, Shiu stated, “[w]e are the Department of Good Jobs for everyone.  Central to this vision is the idea that the reach for good jobs must truly be within the grasp of everyone.” (Shiu, 2010)  The term to be recognized here is “everyone”, an all-inclusive word.  Frequently speakers for women’s rights focus solely on getting jobs to women and equality for women.  These speakers might turn away male audience members or even female audience members who believe in equality for all.  It is safer to promote equality for everyone and it made her speech that much more effective.  Anyone can find Shiu’s speech online and can read it without getting offended and thinking that she was a crazy feminist who wants women to have more rights then men.  If Shiu hadn’t of adapted her speech to her particular audience it would not have been as effective in getting her point across.  Herrick again states, “…rhetoric should be seen as involving continuous adaptation of the speaker to an audience.” (Herrick, 10)  Shiu followed this and made her speech reach her audience members much better.
            Another rhetorical strategy Shiu used to make her speech a success was ethos, pathos and logos.  These techniques are used as a form of persuasion to get the audience to agree with what the speaker is saying.  Herrick quoted a rhetorical theorist named Joseph Wenzel who stated, “[t]he purpose of rhetoric is persuasion.” (Herrick, 12)  Shiu was trying to persuade people that women should be equal in the work place while raise awareness about the inequalities that exist.  Shiu used clear forms of ethos in her speech to the Hard Hatted Women.  Aristotle found “the ethos of a speaker is persuasive when the speech demonstrates… practical wisdom… moral virtue… or goodwill toward the audience.” (Covino, 9)  The entirety of Shiu’s speech promoted the equality of all and gave power to women of all color and standing. Shiu stated,
“Taxpayer dollars must never be used to discriminate by those who earn lucrative contracts to provide goods and services to our government. Being a federal contractor isn't a right. It's a privilege. And with that privilege there comes a responsibility to abide by the law and make equal opportunity a reality for everyone.” (Shiu, 2010)
In our society it is considered morally virtuous to treat all people equally and give the same basic rights to all human beings. By supporting equal opportunities for all and putting down discrimination, Shiu demonstrated her moral virtue and her goodwill towards the women in the audience who receive most of the discrimination.  This use of ethos made her message come across better.  Another form of ethos is the credibility of the speaker.  Shiu is a very credible speaker because of the position that she holds in the government.  She has had a lot of experience in helping with society and she has the power to help change many of the inequality problems in society.  Throughout her speech, she took time to add in her personal credentials “[b]efore I joined the 17,000 dedicated women and men at the U.S. Department of Labor, I spent 26 years as a public interest attorney fighting discrimination cases on behalf of immigrants and people with limited English proficiency.” (Shiu, 2010)  Shiu’s past jobs and her current job gave her credibility to talk about women’s rights and this made the audience believe what she said more than if she was some random woman off the street.
            Along with ethos, Shiu also used a lot of pathos in her speech.  Aristotle described pathos as “an appeal to those states of minds that have an emotional component.” (Covino, 10) In her speech, Shiu found ways to appeal to the emotions of her audience. This ties hand in hand with knowing her audience because different emotional appeals hit different audiences differently.  Many of her uses of pathos were aimed at the women in the audience and at people who care deeply about women.  She shared her past experiences with the hardships that inequality towards women creates:
“I had grown up in a home with a single mom who didn't have sick leave at her job. So, she saved up on personal leave hours to use for family emergencies and to care for her children - sacrificing vacation time to care for herself. In retrospect, I realize that hers was an extraordinary act of sacrifice and a rather ordinary act of motherhood.” (Shiu, 2010)
This self-disclosure of pain she witnessed first hand with her mother made her audience feel bad for her and also for all women who are found in this situation.  With this audience feeling sad about the problems that inequality towards women causes, they are much more likely to be persuaded by her argument.  Making an audience feel emotional, through pathos, makes them put their guards down and be open to the rest of the speech.
Finally Shiu effectively used logos, thus completing the trio of rhetorical strategies that are very important to persuasion.  Aristotle found that logos is the “text of the speech…a piece of reasoning…” (Covino, 10)  Shiu used many facts distributed throughout her speech to help give power behind her statements.  Anyone can stand up and give personal stories and make claims about topics, but when claims are supported by evidence they are hard to not accept.  Frequently Shiu used statistics such as “[m]ore than 15.1 million women - about one in eight - are living in poverty. Women are 35% more likely to live in poverty than men.” (Shiu, 2010)  Audiences don’t tend to question statistics and therefore the use of these facts makes Shiu’s argument extremely believable.
Shiu’s keynote speech to the Hard Hatted Women organization employed the rhetorical devices of adaption to audience and ethos, pathos, and logos in a very successful way.  Her message came across strongly and it was clear a lot of thought went into the speech in order to not turn away any potential audience members.  Many speeches for women’s rights give people the false idea that people want women to have more rights than men.  This turns people away from participating in women’s movements.  Also many times women feel exhausted and like there is nothing they can do about the inequality.  Shiu empowered these women and promised that there are ways to combat the inequality in the workplace.  She was successful in giving a speech to promote the equality of women and she did well with every rhetorical strategy used.  This speech was ended with “…when the playing field is level… when the rules are enforced… and when women know our own power… things do gets better.” (Shiu, 2010) Shiu is a great speaker, powerful woman, and challenged people to do more than they ever thought was possible.


"Biography Patricia A. Shiu." United States Department of Labor. Department of Labor. Web. 25 Mar. 2012. <>.

Covino. (n.d.). Aristotle's Rhetoric. In Grammars of Persuasion (pp. 5-12)

 France, Chrisse. "About Us." Hard Hatted Women. 2011. Web. 24 Mar. 2012. <>.

Herrick, J. A. (2005). An Overview of Rhetoric. In The history and theory of rhetoric: An introduction. Boston: Allyn and Beacon.

 Shiu/ Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, Patricia. "Keynote Speech to the Hard Hatted Women's Women on the Rise 2010." Women on the Rise 2010. Ohio, Cleveland. 23 Mar. 2012. Speech.

Author: Erin H.

No comments:

Post a Comment