Classes / Women

Let’s Design a New Narrative for Women

The Right Women Always Show Up

I’ve just finished another DYL for Women Workshop with a group of 45 women from all walks of life — a broad age range, different work and life stages, and very different countries and cultures.  This is a public workshop women sign up for on eventbrite, and without fail, the right group of women always show up.  As one participant said at the close, “I am inspired by the energy that women generate when they see, hold and support each other.”  


We start our program with the social narrative that has shaped us.  As different as these women are, I was struck once again by how they all shared a common story of how they are supposed to live their lives.  “Find a good husband, get married, have children, look beautiful and youthful, and do it all while having a great career”, is a tenacious and debilitating narrative.  Women acknowledged the dysfunctional beliefs embedded in this narrative that create:


“a big barrier to feeling good about my life”


“constant feelings of failure, because I can’t and don’t want to meet all these expectations”


“a huge weight on my shoulders”


“guilt that I’m not up to this task”


“lots of anxiety – I did all the things I was supposed to, and I didn’t get the pot of gold I thought I would — success, happiness and fulfillment.”


The Pandemic Hit Women Hard

The pandemic gave us more evidence that the gender narrative is a driving force in our lives and economics.  Women picked up the new work: home schooling, more caretaking, cooking, and overall home management.  During this timeframe 1.1 million women left the labor force (voluntary and involuntary), which was 63 percent of all jobs lost.”1  However, “from February 2020 to January 2022, male workers regained all jobs they had lost during this health crises, but women did not.” 2   Corporate America is going backwards, loosing many talented women who would have been the role models, mentors and sponsors for the next generation of women joining the workplace.

Let’s Design New Possibilities

Our program is about empowering women to design the lives and work that will lead to flourishing personally and professionally.  We encourage women to write their own narrative, instead of letting an old story drive us.  We ask women to define what a “good life and good work” means for them and to use that manifesto as a compass to navigate their way in this unpredictable world.  When dysfunctional beliefs take away our agency, we practice reframing them to provide an opening for change.


Having worked in the technology, retail, and consulting industries for over 35 years, I know companies desperately need the voice and talents of women.  So, let’s use the design process and tools to design new ways of working that work for us, instead of leaving the workforce.  Since flexibility and wellness have become top drivers of employee engagement, most companies are more open to redesigns of work and even redesigns of leadership.  For me, the pandemic made it imperative for us all to answer Mary Oliver’s question —  “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?


To learn more about Designing Your Life for Women workshops, click here.


  1. Nearly 2 Million Fewer Women in Labor Force” by Matt Gonzales, SHRM Viewpoint, February 17, 2022
  2. All quotes are from the awesome women of the January Designing Your Life Virtual Journey.


By Susan Burnett, former Talent Executive