Bill and Melinda Gates recently launched a campaign to start telling the "Stories behind the Data" in an effort to create more understanding to how investments contribute to alleviating poverty.
Many of you may have come across the Humans of Bombay Facebook page, where fairly "ordinary" humans relate remarkable stories of overcoming their circumstances, or profound lessons they've learnt through everyday experiences.
In the spirit of embracing our cultural diversity and our journey to where we are at present, I want to talk about the importance of telling your story.
The company I work for has embarked on an initiative to increase female representation within the operations environment, particularly in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] fields.
I've been fortunate to be part of the development workstream responsible for the organisation of seminars and ensuring that the correct speakers and topics are chosen and discussed.
The highlights of the events thus far have been successful women sharing their stories. At the most recent seminar, I chose a woman who is the first female production inspector and female manager within her department (we'll call her M).
Both women spoke about an unknowingness related to their future occupations as well as an overwhelming feeling of stepping out of their comfort zones.
I had not previously met M, but I had a gut feeling that hers was a story that many women would want to hear. Boy, was I right!
She told us about her beginnings in Eastern Cape in a very rural school, in which each class consisted of two grades – where the classroom was composed of mud and sticks, exposing them all to the elements. All things considered, she eventually qualified with a mechanical qualification.
After stumbling upon an advert for an inspection role (with the details unknown to her), she comically described her confusion about how she would make it by bus to the company – in another province – on time for the interview.
By the end of M's story, the crowd was energised. She had made her mark. Every woman there could not only relate to her struggles, but they could reflect on their own journey to success.
The first female vice president appointed within the regional hub also shared her story. Though hers is an entirely different story, due to her cultural background, career path and opportunities, there were similarities between both stories.
Both women spoke about an unknowingness related to their future occupations as well as an overwhelming feeling of stepping out of their comfort zones. What can we take from their stories?
I encourage you to share your story as well.
I recall sitting as part of the audience, thinking about what I could identify from my own journey, in comparison to the ladies who had taken the podium.
Yes, we were from different race groups – but we had all similarly been given phenomenal opportunities because we had shown endurance and tenacity, even when we were unsure... Even when the odds were against us.
I encourage you to share your story as well. Since M shared her story, she has been inundated not just with compliments on the delivery, but also with requests for advice.
She has been approached to become a mentor who will assist other women within the organisation to progress too. And it all began with the story of a girl from a little rural village in Eastern Cape...