What's Your Story? How Personal Narrative Affects Leadership


“Feminine leadership brings the power of looking inside to the world of business.” One of the most common stories is that of the Hero’s Journey, where the “hero” goes on an adventure, confronts some sort of crisis, and comes home a changed man. However, it’s the Heroine’s Journey that is more important.

In the Heroine’s Story, she faces a problem and then realizes that the strength she needed was inside of her all along. It is this power of thinking and feminine edge that we need to help run our businesses, affairs, and even our country. Luckily, Eleanor Beaton tells us how this is completely achievable.

Eleanor Beaton is an important advocate in women’s leadership who brings the power of instinct into business, however, Beaton started out as someone who was much more comfortable behind the scenes. As someone in the journalism field, she would help people craft their messages and direct them into being more eloquent. After she was well into her career and unfortunately lost her father, Beaton finally thought to herself, “Here you are, helping people craft powerful messages that are changing the world and maybe it’s time that you [kinda] stood up and owned your own message.”

Thus, an inspiration for leadership was born.

As a journalist, Beaton went from telling a story to helping others tell their personal stories. So how do you know your story is valuable? “You have to know that it’s okay to be seen, and that your particular story has value.” Give yourself permission to be seen by others. You also can’t only focus on the statistics that make your job beneficial--what’s the emotional power behind your message? These are both critical for telling a great story.

The next questions to ask yourself are:

Do I feel the desire?
Do I want to have an impact?

If so, it’s critical to first tell your origin story, how you got started, and why it’s important to you. Then, figure out how your story fits into the larger conversation - Beaton helps women become better motivators and leaders, therefore her larger conversation is women empowerment.

“Pay attention to fascination--what fascinates you, and what engages you?”

The unique and special drive to find someone’s personal significance has been inherent within Beaton her whole life. As a young girl, Beaton enjoyed walking through graveyards and reading people’s headstones to try and think about their story and what the small messages at the bottom of the stone were communicating. While a little bit creepy, but somehow still amazing, that common thread of wanting to know about what make someone’s life special has been the driving force of Beaton’s career--figure out what your driving force is and what makes you special.

After figuring out your drive, find your confidence. Women are also at their most successful by being confident. Only 2 percent of female entrepreneurs earn seven figures a year--how did they get to be this successful?

The next three steps that Beaton gives could be the next three steps to change your life:

Pursue growth. The women at the top 2 percent are, at a very deep gut level, comfortable being uncomfortable. There’s a fire to walk through to go from the person that you are, to the person that you’re becoming, but it is what leads to success.

Commitment. According to Beaton, “my commitment is the sky; the way I feel about it day to day is like the weather. Be committed to your commitment.

Don’t just build relationships, but leverage them. As women, we have much deeper connections with fewer people for networking, whereas men develop a broad network of shallower relationships. We need to engage in that numbers game and leverage the relationships that we do have.
Everyone is unique, and everyone has a story inside of them to share. Beaton’s uniqueness is what helps her empower fellow females and drives them to tell their stories. If you connect and build rapport with people by sharing own personal connection to your expertise, it will make your business great, and also make greater change.
Our full interview with Eleanor is now available on our podcast. Listen on iTunes.
What are some final words of advice that Beaton has to give?

“Your voice is a tool, so sharpen it.”
7min read

The Middle East And North Africa Are Brimming With Untapped Female Potential

Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.

A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.

The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.

In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.

Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization ( publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")

The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."

This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.

Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.

She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."

Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.

"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei

While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.

Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.

The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."

This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.

Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.