As a literature-lover and a writer, stories are inherently important to me. But they’re also critical to how we think about ourselves, our societies, our friends, and our work. Currently, the world is largely narrated by men – about 80 percent of news pieces are written by men.
The Op-Ed Project, a non-profit based in New York, seeks to increase the range of “voices and quality of ideas we hear in the world,” by bringing in more women’s opinions to topical discussions.
But, I think it’s important to highlight the fact that it’s not just about increasing women’s voices, but rather about hearing perspectives that differ, often drastically, from the media juggernaut that informs our lives and water-cooler conversations. Some of the greatest achievements in human history have been brought about by such disruptors – people of both genders that spoke out (in a minority) against slavery, poor working conditions, oppression.
But it’s not just about revolutionary changes: diverse voices help us make better choices and help us understand others – skills that are increasingly important in our globalized business environment.
Fairy tales, as I’ve mentioned in this blog before, are critical to shaping the identities that stay with us through our adult lives. Like news outlets, they frame our experiences and attitudes in ways so powerful that they’re practically invisible. It behooves us as thoughtful workers and members of society to step outside our frames of reference and question them. This is where innovation and progress sprout from.
Fairy tales tell the story of how the “lost feminine” has had deleterious effects on society; similarly, the homogenous perspectives governing business for the last century have stalled economic progress and led to serious economic disasters permeating the globe.
It’s critical that women and men in business – and particularly leaders – demonstrate a much wider range of competencies than they have in the past. Those include empathy, the ability to connect and communicate, the ability to appeal to both minds and hearts. I recently wrote an Op-Ed for The Huffington Post, The Secret Life of Maleficent, which encourages us to engage with the “other” – that could be anyone who’s different from us on a variety of levels – gender, race, age, nationality, educational background, life experience. It’s also about engaging with new or underrepresented voices in the media – reading the same narrators over and over narrow rather than widen our perspectives, because they often reiterate and reinforce our strongly-held beliefs. It’s difficult to grow in stale territory.
I believe there is a strong parallel in the message of fairy tales and the message we’re trying to cultivate by increasing the diversity of thought, media, and experience in business management. There are never simple answers to difficult problems, but being open to perspectives that differ from our own – even if we don’t agree with them – transform us in the same way that fairy tale characters are transformed – to make us better versions of ourselves; to help us contribute to the success of the people around us. And that has great implications for the business world of tomorrow.