10 stories that inspired me in 2017, from film to finance

daring to challenge old messages offers us all courage to create

Livingroom Conversations founder, Joan Blade (former MoveOn.org co-founder), talks to former tea party activist, Mark Meckler
  • The #WomensBuilding in New York City. A stunning example of a woman-led, user-centric design that results in a radically different vision for community and use of space. Wow. I heard about this project at Omega Institute’s Women and Power Retreat. Thanks Omega for introducing me to several inspiring women leaders, also including:
  • Joan Blades initiative Living Room Conversations, born out of the frustration with lack of civil dialogue between people with different political viewpoints. People do want to talk and connect — they often just need a structure to have a meaningful conversation and find common ground.
  • filmmaker Deeyah Khan who went into the heart of conflict to make her film White Right: Meeting the Enemy. As a Muslim woman, she faced the men who threatened her and struggled to find out “What makes people do the things they do? What makes people who they are?”…”Having experienced racism my whole life, I decided that hating them or being afraid wasn’t enough for me any more.” If only all of us could be this brave and have the courage to face our fears with such curiosity. Serious empathy building.
Tamiko Thiel’s AR Garden exploring the effects of climate change on native flora — Gardens of the Anthropocene
  • Tamiko Thiel, who in the 1980s designed a revolutionary supercomputer and influenced Steve Jobs, had a show at MoMA and gets credit where credit was due. Her artwork applies technology in stunning ways, to shake up our view on reality, and confront major issues like global warming.

inspiring others to see, feel and do differently

Louise Bourgeois
  • Louise Bourgeois retrospective at MoMA in New York. Especially touching for me were her fabric works on old handkerchiefs and fabric collages, and the way she (often playfully and irreverently) intertwines personal history with mythological imagery to give expression to what is psychologically painful. This is the 2nd retrospective of her work at MoMA. The first was when she was 70 in 1982 — the first for a female artist at that institution.
  • Sallie Krawcheck’s Ellevest investment platform for women — working to close the gender money gap. Read her NYT editorial here on the cost of devaluing women. An example of a woman from the top of an industry forging a new direction by starting her own company to serve a need that wouldn’t go away, and no one else seemed to be addressing.
  • Şenay Özdemir, feminist, journalist, wine master and promoter of #womeninwine who makes the point that women’s purchasing power can impact every sector, including wine.

women’s purchasing power can impact every sector

  • Hélène Christelle Munganyende — political scientist, brave creative writer, activist for Afropean identity tells her story of resilience at #TEDxWomenAmsterdam. Watch it here. Her poetic storytelling is an example of an inspiring “how” as well as “what.”

not waiting for approval to do what you know is right & trust your instinct

And reminders from history, including two books I re-read this year:

  • Rereading Kay Mill’s biography of Fannie Lou Hamer, This Little Light of Mine, I was again struck by her bravery, strategy and clarity. She had a vital role in changing the US history of racism and racial oppression and struggle for equality. Everyone knows MLK — why not also FLH?
  • The 55th anniversary of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, which led to the elimination of use of the highly toxic DDT pesticide in agriculture, and created a cultural change in environmental policies. Maria Popova gives the story a beautiful summary in her often touching and informative Brain Pickings. Carson, a woman without a degree or a sanctioned position, but with the science and the vision, persuades millions through her writing. She holds her ground against personal attacks, knowing her science is right, while simultaneously battling cancer herself.

Yes, I noticed…

This list is all women. Women makers inspiring others to see, feel and do differently. As a whole, it was women who inspired me in 2017. By inspiration, I don’t mean super-human achievements (like Venus Williams, who is amazing). What I mean by inspiration is tapping into one’s inner guidance in a way that provides an irrefutable compass and gets you into action. You carve out a new paradigm rather than trying to fit into existing forms. In my list I recognize a theme: I’m inspired when people dare to challenge the old messages. When this daring is coupled with years of craftsmanship, expertise and quality, we have examples of sustained commitment to action that moves others to action.

Lastly, there is the #MeToo uprising of truth telling stories. From not one, but many the larger story emerges. The meta-truth of the story is what patriarchy does to all of us, men and women. Yes, it’s still messy about defining the difference between criminal assault vs. harassment vs. unwanted advances. But when someone has to manage unwanted sexualization, on whatever level, and their other qualities, contributions and abilities are rendered invisible, talent is squandered if not squelched. #MeToo offered us an outpouring of unstructured story-telling and spontaneous solidarity. It’s time for our stories to be heard, validated, and create influence, and to become part of the mainstream. Here’s to more of that in 2018 and beyond.

Laura Carmichael is creativity coach specializing in women’s leadership, and an innovation facilitator with a knack for helping teams harness diversity. She’s also a rebellious classical musician, currently working on a new solo show SOS Vivaldi, to be premiered in Berlin at Acker Stadt Palast 23–24 February 2018.

In January 2018 she teaches a free online creativity masterclass for women Get Unstuck with Dr. Sharmishtha Dattagupta.