Story of the Month Archive

Each month we highlight the story of one woman who is making a difference in the world.  We invite you to celebrate these women, learn from and be inspired by their stories. We also invite you to share your stories of women leading the way, so that we might share it here.

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November 2010: A New Story in the Making

(Please see Jennifer Etchison’s response at the end of this story as well)

At the November Global Perspectives event at Antioch University Seattle, a group of women and men explored the question,

“What is the Role of Women in Global Leadership?”

The context of this series, and of the conversation – was the global community. This is important context to remember as the “role(s)” of women –  and men – – – not only in global leadership, but in hundreds of other circumstances and situations, are deeply embedded in cultural norms, surprisingly similar around the globe, and often reinforced by all of us in unconscious behavior, assumptions and expectations, by the stories we tell ourselves.

Story in the Making

Acknowledging that men and women bring different gifts to leadership, and that for the most part, only men’s ways of leading have been honored, small conversation groups began to explore what the world might be like if all leadership gifts were welcomed.

This is the conversation we invite you to enter:

What would the world be like if everyone’s leadership gifts were valued?

If the ways women lead were valued and encouraged, what do you imagine would be different about education, about our workplaces, our careers, our family life, about health care, about our economies, our decision-making at all levels of government, about the planet which we all call home?  We invite you to live with the question for a few days and notice what comes to your awareness.  And we’d love for you to share the images that come to mind, and the thoughts you have.

Have you ever thought about the stories you tell yourself every day? Whether it’s Mom’s way to bake a pie or Dad’s way to cut the grass, or whether our story is that Moms bake pies and Dads cut grass, we have thousands of these stories on which we base our behavior.  Researchers and scientists call them assumptions,  (theories, beliefs, hypotheses), but on a day-to-day basis, we usually forget that and think of these “stories” as “the truth.”

To complicate things further, many times the stories themselves are subconscious and unexamined.  When I was growing up I watched my Mom cut the ends off the ham before she baked it.  When I asked her why she did that, she looked surprised and told me that is just the way she had learned to do it.  Fortunately Grandma was coming for dinner and Mom and I asked her why she taught Mom to cut the ends off the ham.  “Oh,” Grandma explained, “that’s the only way the ham would fit into the pan we had.”      Hmmmmmm . . . . . .

Amazingly, many of the beliefs we have about how the world should work are based on assumptions that are no more helpful than the belief that we should cut the ends off the ham before we bake it.   And nowhere is this more clear than in our perceptions and expectations about “women’s role.”   What if we realized that we now have a bigger pan?   That we don’t have to limit ourselves, that, in fact, in order to survive and thrive as a human species we need everyone to use their talents – their knowledge, skills, insight, vision and wisdom.  A key idea to consider as you contemplate this question is that perhaps we do indeed need a new story.  The thoughts and images that come to mind as you consider

What would the world look like if everyone’s gifts were valued?

…are the components of the new story.

Looking forward to hearing from you, as we collectively create a new story.

Responses to A New Story In the Making:

Joey PauleyJoey Pauley, an experienced manager, graphic designer, facilitator and Organization Development Practitioner, envisions a world where the majority of people understand their interconnectedness and appreciate the self as part of a larger whole that also serves the self.

Here is his response to the question we’ve been exploring, “What would the world be like if all leadership gifts were valued?”

In my work as an Organization Development Practitioner I encourage this view by influencing the place and conditions and circumstances where people meet.  I initiate structures and processes that favor the equality of individuals and makes it easy for them to work together to achieve shared goals.

I love sports. If there is one thing I’ve earned from sports it is the importance of paying attention to the connections among the players, the ways they influence one another, and not just focusing only individual players.  In my work with organizations I see the same thing.  The more conversations and connections we can foster in an organization the more likely the organization as a whole will achieve its goals.

I also see that organizations that truly welcome diversity, where it is expected that folks will talk about similarities and differences, where different perspectives are valued, where questioning and curiosity are encouraged, these are the organizations that are more able to adapt to changing situations and to achieve their objectives, even in a constantly shifting environment.

We are social creatures.  If everyone’s leadership gifts were valued we would dramatically increase the creativity, commitment and wisdom needed to address the problems we face and to create a world that works for everyone.

If you would like to learn more about Joey, his ideas of social change, leadership, and diversity go to

A response from Jennifer Etchison:

Jennifer EtchisonIt brings me happiness and excitement to imagine a world where everyone’s leadership gifts are valued.  What an amazing place it would be – where artists, analysts, writers, musicians, accountants, designers, doctors, children, teachers, homemakers, and grandparents find a way to lead and that leadership is valued – It’s amazing to just sit and imagine how the definition of leadership would evolve and what surprising insights would emerge!

Jennifer Etchison, May, 2011