In my research and conversations with women and other women’s advocates, I’ve struggled with whether the feminist narrative is ready to accept a new heroine as its main character. I named this new heroine the Underdog Princess, and if last summer’s blockbuster movies are to be believed, she wields a bow and arrow with great skill. I would like to suggest that she be considered as a replacement for the Tragic Queen we’ve known and loved for so long. Let me tell you their stories to bring you into this conversation.
In the end, the Tragic Queen concludes that she can’t have it all after all, and accepts her lot in life, with a tinge of resentment and sadness.
In the end, The Underdog Princess is more likely to have it all by redefining “it all”.
These statistics don’t really tell us whether we’re ready for the Underdog Princess to take on heroine status yet, because they aren’t really describing two different women, they’re telling conflicting stories about all women. The conflicting data is all “true” but makes it harder to tell the true story of the modern woman.
In real life,
To the best of my ability to tell, the primary difference between the Tragic Queen and the Underdog Princess in real life is in what they choose to believe to be true for themselves, in their own lives. Their personal choices to believe they are powerful gives them power in the world or holds them tragically powerless.
So it’s appropriate I’m not ready to end this story and decide who the new heroine is, because it’s not my story, it’s yours.
Since how this story progresses is really up to you, I’d like to give you one last data point to help you live the story of the modern woman most powerfully.
In 2010 a group of MIT and Carnegie Mellon researchers randomly selected about 700 men and women from the ages of 18-60. They put them in random groups and gave them various problems to solve. They were hoping to find out what made groups of people smarter. Would a group of high IQ types out think some lower IQ types? Would cohesive teams or motivated teams out smart the rest? The answer surprised them. The primary factor that predicted a group’s intelligence was how many women were on that team. They concluded that women naturally brought more social sensitivity to the group interaction. This social sensitivity ensured that a greater diversity of ideas got out on the table, more people were heard, more brains participated more problems got solved. This is the secret sauce of The Woman Effect and this study shows it’s not just women on corporate boards who can ignite it, it shows up wherever women show up.
So the women’s ability to make their groups smarter wasn’t because they were smarter or more capable or tried harder – it was because they were there.
Here’s what I like most about this research.
What was true for them is true for you.
One of the biggest differences you can make isn’t one that can be learned, or earned or given. It’s in your bones and blood, wild and wonderful hormones and your double XX chromosome. You can’t not be it, and even if YOU don’t value it (which you should!), this research says that when you show up and participate, the world gets better anyway.
The only thing you can do to ensure you DON’T ignite The Woman Effect is to hide this gift inside you. If you DON’T show up – or you DON’T participate – if you don’t get a seat at the table or don’t speak up – then more problems don’t get solved and the world isn’t as good as it can be.
On behalf of a world that wants to get better, I have one request.
Please let all the other stories go. Don’t worry if you’re the Tragic Queen or the Underdog Princess. Let those stories go too, and as much of the self-doubt as you can – just let them go. Those stories not nearly as important as you are.
My request to you is that you stop hiding, show up and participate.
That’s the hidden key to your power.
Because when you come out of hiding, show up and participate, no matter what you bring with you and what statistics your living your life into…. you and I – and our children and all the people we want to “have it all” with… we will all be living in a better world.
Whatever you’re waiting for isn’t as important to the future of our world than you are. Stop hiding. Come out. Participate.
What ARE you waiting for?