Happy International Women’s Day!
My interview with Women LEAD Co-Founder and Former Executive Director Claire Charamnac, published on March 7, 2017, marks my hundredth Inspirational Woman interview. The realization that my hundredth interview coincides almost exactly with International Women’s Day 2017 surprised me, and this realization made me think deeply about how far Inspirational Women Series has come. Back in September 2013, I started interviewing women leaders weekly for Women LEAD, and since then, I’ve had the unbelievable opportunity to launch Inspirational Women Series, which is dedicated to showcasing the experiences of women leaders in social impact, international development, and historically underrepresented fields for women.
The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is “Be Bold for Change” and this theme intrigued me because all of the women I’ve interviewed boldly use their actions and words to effect change in their everyday work. And nowhere does their boldness shine more clearly than in challenging situations. In my recent interviews, I started asking questions about the biggest obstacles my interviewees have faced - whether professional, sector-related, or personal. For some women, their biggest challenge was scaling a multinational organization in a region where abject poverty limited business development; for others, it was working with unreliable or incomplete data. Some women shared the risks they faced when they quit their private sector job to launch a social enterprise, while others discussed the difficulties of designing programs for populations ravaged by violence and trauma.
Through this range of experiences, it is self-evident that the women I have interviewed for Inspirational Women Series embody an intrepid, relentless spirit in the pursuit of causes that often jeopardize their physical, psychological, or intellectual safety. For many of the women I've interviewed, a conscientious boldness provided the original impetus for their unabiding responsibility to the causes they work towards, the communities they serve, and the lives they influence. Naturally, this boldness was often accompanied by worry or fear, but boldness did equip many of my interviewees with not only the stamina to continue pursuing hitherto untraveled paths, but also the ability to give up upon reaching a dead end. In many ways, boldness is crucial to the most unpleasant parts associated with making a positive dent in the world - making unpopular decisions, immersing oneself in the unfamiliar, and revisiting failures over and over.
Narratives of my interviewees' challenges have made me realize how profiles of inspirational people should not solely focus on their successes, but also on the challenges they have faced and overcome. The success stories contemporary culture exalts are often needlessly optimistic, framing an unrealistic depiction of achievement bereft of all-nighters, painful deliberations, crippling anxiety, and fractured relationships. Boldness is essential to navigating difficult situations, but another noteworthy point is that the difficult situations themselves can reinforce and strengthen one’s boldness. I am in awe of the experiences and accomplishments of all the women I've interviewed on Inspirational Women Series; I am equally in awe of the challenges they have faced, and how these challenges have molded the inspiration they impart to us. I can only hope that by foregrounding their personal and professional boldness, I can inspire all of you to Be Bold for Change too.