From people dismissing the first woman Doctor as political correctness on part of BBC to the countless cases of Hollywood whitewashing, we’re reminded time and time again that representation is still a huge issue today, and not only on screen or in the media.
Representation in workplace matters just as much and is something I’ve been reflecting on quite a lot recently. What I’ve come to realise is that I’ve spent a good part of a decade working on a career that’s been defined in a very limited (and limiting) way. This, to me, is a prime – yet less frequently discussed – example of how a lack of representation directly affects our lives. The reason I didn’t figure out sooner that other career options were available to me is because I’ve never seen them represented in my social or professional circles.
Where I did find this representation – and a great deal of inspiration – was in podcasts. More precisely, podcasts that tell stories of strong and determined women that are carving out their own, non-traditional paths in the world. It all began with the She Does podcast.
Women in the media, all forms of media
I have to admit, when a friend recommended She Does to me, I wasn’t overly enthusiastic. Would I really want to spend hours on end listening to stories about media?..
Turns out I would.
The idea behind She Does is simple. Masterfully produced by Sarah Ginsburg and Elaine Sheldon, each episode is dedicated to a woman who is doing something exciting and alternative in or with the media. The episodes are about 30 minutes long and are put together in a form of an intimate chat, the kind you’d have with a girlfriend you haven’t seen in a while over a cup of coffee in her tiny Brooklyn studio.
The stories of She Does women are diverse and multifaceted but they’re united by these women’s drive to make a difference with their work and smash a glass ceiling or two in the process. She Does women are unafraid to stand out and to take the path least travelled – or sometimes are afraid but they do it anyway. What spoke to me the most, however, was the social impact aspect of many of these stories.
Whether it’s Lina Srivastava, a lawyer turned narrative designer for nonprofits, talking about switching careers, pursuing her passion at the nexus of human rights and culture, and exploring the relationship between social impact and media through her work.
Or Kalyanee Mam, also initially trained as a lawyer, discussing how her transition to filmmaking was inspired by the feeling that she couldn’t respond with law to the urgency of situations she was facing.
Or Kiran Ghandi, whose brilliance and boldness landed her, a maths graduate, her first job in the music recording business, then a drumming gig with M.I.A., and then led her to run the London Marathon on her period, pad-less and tampon-less.
Episode after episode, I listened to stories of grit and passion, creativity and drive, and with every episode the wall surrounding my own idea of a “dream career” was coming down one block at a time.
Opening new horizons
I never realised how much influence a podcast series can have over a person’s life until the She Does podcast expanded my horizons beyond anything I could have anticipated.
As I listened to it, I started imagining the new directions in which I could take my own life and career. She Does has shifted my perspective on what a career geared towards social impact could look like, giving me the confidence to experiment with the means to combine my passion for social change with my love for writing and storytelling and my existing skills in the non-profit sector. I no longer feel constrained by the traditional career path offered to young professionals in my field and it feels so damn empowering. This, folks, is the power of representative storytelling.
If you’re seeking some inspiration from fellow women to do something differently, no matter where your professional interests lie, go ahead and listen to She Does. And if you have your own favourite podcast that pushes you to do and be better, make sure to share your links in the comments below or on social media!
Thanks for reading rouge & coffee ♡