Lessons from the West Wing #1

westwingA bit off topic, but I’ve been binge-watching the West Wing recently.  Right back from season one, and I’m nearly through season six.  I shall be in mourning when I play the last episode of season seven.  The writing is tight, clever and pacey.  The walking/talking meetings are exhausting just to watch.  The characters are as strong as their bonds.  My good chum JohnPollock rightly calls it Shakespeare for the television age. Over the years I’ve attended various Shakespeare inspired leadership/management development programmes.  I reckon there’s a rich meme of West Wing inspired L&D interventions waiting in the wings.     So I figured I’d do a few short posts about them.  Today, it’s gender equality lessons from WW.

I love the show has awesome female characters, and features entirely recognisable storylines of the challenges they face.

CJ Cregg is the White House Press Secretary.  That’s running the press core, not making the tea. She stands on the podium day after day, briefing the press and fielding quick fire questions. Fast, sassy, the master of the soundbite.  Always thinking about a story is going to run in the press.  Who will kill it, support it, what the opposition could make out of it.  Overwhelmingly a voice, (ahead of the social media Internet era) saying “I have to tell the truth or they [the press core] won’t trust me”.  Not a bad principle to live by.  And not since  Star Trek can I think of a better female character and role model in a TV show.  There are a few moments that dwell on her gender, but the character largely just gets on with her job – brilliantly.  She gets promoted to Chief of Staff.  Because she’s good.

And you gotta love Donna Moss.  On the surface she’s the ditzy side-kick to the Deputy Chief of Staff.  But you soon know she’s no ditz.  Eventually she realises that if she’s going to further her career, she need to step out of the “helping the boss role” and into something more.  She works out that no-one is gonna do it for her and she’s gotta do it for herself. Go Donna.  Taking control of your career and stopping doing “helping roles” is just fine.

What’s this got to do with housing?  There are talented women all around us.  Let’s check in that we’re not trapping a Donna in a role where their “helping” makes our lives easier.  And let’s all channel a spot of CJ Cregg.  She rocks.


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