The Power of Storytelling
Edward Snell is committed to pursuing and unlocking greatness to create a better world. Driving equality is an essential part of this, and when women and minorities share their stories, it helps to break down existing barriers.
By KARIN KRAUSE WESSELS, managing director of Edward Snell & Co.
Ensuring gender equality across business sectors in South Africa remains an important driver in creating sustainable economic growth within the country. There are many arguments around the changes/solutions required to improve equality for women and other minorities in the workplace, but during this Women’s Month, I want to bring attention to one particular area – the power of storytelling. Belief and suitable mentorship are two key aspects to breaking down the barriers to entry and advancement in the sector for women, and storytelling has a role to play in both.
In an established system, breaking paradigms can be challenging. However, when women and minorities share their success stories openly and authentically, these stories can create immersive scenarios of a possible future that can engage and inspire others, making their next step feel more achievable. Over time, these stories and these small individual steps create a movement of belief and a tipping point where a new, more inclusive system emerges. But even with belief, the journey up the career ladder is never linear or without challenges. Sadly, we often do not want to ask for help when the journey gets tough. We have been taught that vulnerability is a weakness. However, in reality, reaching out to mentors and asking for help is not only brave, it is smart. Having a mentor share their experience and their stories of how they circumvented challenges expedites your learning curve. Hopefully, by having a mentor and experiencing the value thereof, you can become a mentor to others, sharing your experience and stories – so the flywheel of change continues with faster and faster learning curves propelling equality forward.
CHANGE CAN BE EFFECTED
One of my earliest memories centres on a story my father shared that created the belief that women can break glass ceilings. I was about four or five years old, watching the news with my father. Margaret Thatcher was on television, making a bold speech in front of a room of mostly men. I remember thinking that I had not seen that before – a woman shamelessly commanding a room like that. I turned and asked my father who she was, he said they call her the Iron Lady. As a bit of a history buff, he told me more about her story, everything she needed to overcome and how she became the first female British prime minister. That story stuck with me and created a greater belief that established systems can be challenged. Other stories graciously shared by many mentors and coaches throughout my career have continued to challenge my thinking and opened me up to accelerate my growth. And now, being in a position where I can mentor others in the workplace, I am hopefully, through sharing my stories, also playing a small role in liberating them from limiting beliefs. Our company purpose at Edward Snell is to pursue greatness for good. We want to unlock the greatness of each individual in our company – we believe if we do that and then act as a collective, we can do good in the world. More specifically, we want to leave our industry, our country and our world better than we found it. Driving equality plays an important part in realising our purpose, and we will continue to increase this awareness through our actions and storytelling.
SHARE YOUR STORIES
To change our future, we need to harness the power of storytelling to inspire new possibilities. On Women’s Day and beyond, my greatest wish is for all of us to shout our stories from the rooftops. Bravely share our successes, our failures and how we overcame them. Identify mentees and share our stories and learnings with them. Fill up social media channels with our stories. Share them in printed media and share them on podcasts. Share our stories in the boardroom and share them on the battlefield. To evolve a system, we need to evolve our stories, so be brave, share yours.