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The Danger of a Single Story

A story has the power to change a person’s outlook on life. It can can be a strong propeller for change. And every so often a single story can change the world. Okay, that last sentence might be an overstatement, but long story short, stories are pretty goddamn powerful. That’s why this podcast exists, to share the different experiences of women as they navigate the complexities of work. The word “different” needs to be highlighted here because even though this series will feature a number of female leaders, each of their stories is unique. Sure, there are some similarities here and there, but the journey of a successful woman entrepreneur, or businesswoman, is in no way singular.

This is the schpeal I now give people when asked, “why are you producing a podcast about women in the workplace?” It took me a long time to be able to find the right words to perfectly explain the reasoning behind a podcast about women that was primarily for women. Then, I stumbled upon a TED talk given by the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi entitled: The Danger of a Single Story, which so accurately explained why a podcast like Who Run the World was essential.

In her talk Adichi talks about her own experience with stories when she was growing up in Nigeria. She mostly read books by western authors, and did not realize that people who looked like her, or who were from her part of the world, could be at the center of their own stories. She makes a very important point: diversity is indeed important. But she goes a step further that really strikes a chord. Yes, there should be stories from people of all communities, but there should be a diversity of stories from these people. Because when two people share a same nationality, race, gender or hair color that does not mean their story is the same. Each community is made up of a mosaic of narratives that make up the whole. Some stories are heartbreaking, others uplifting, some will make you cry of laughter and others cry yourself to sleep.

That’s when I realized: a single story can be so powerful, but that power can be just as bad as it is good. A single story can reduce a whole population to a single narrative, a single stereotype, a single voice.

If you are from an African country does that mean you live in a hut and are dying of hunger? If you are an Arab woman does that mean you cannot drive, and have to wear the hijab? If you are American do you carry a gun, and only eat cheeseburgers? If you are a female executive did you experience so much discrimination on your way to success?

This is one of the many reasons why we are producing this podcast: To highlight the many different voices and stories of successful women leaders. We want to share with you the different roads travelled by each of our guests, the funny ones, the ones filled with challenges, the ones in which women were discriminated against, and the ones where women were lifted up by mentors and role models. Hopefully by hearing the diversity of stories, we can start to break free from stereotypes and biases that women are so often reduced to. We hope to break free from a single narrative to make room for countless more. Yes, a single story is powerful, but a multitude of stories together is unstoppable.

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