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Opinion: How ‘Wonder Woman’ inspires entrepreneurs, Hollywood actresses

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Humans are meaning-making creatures. We love to tell stories, and these shape how we see ourselves and our world. That’s what makes our ever-present media so powerful.

The recent release of the “Wonder Woman” film proves this point. Based on the stories being told since watching the movie, the Wonder Woman character is influencing entrepreneurs and Hollywood actresses.

Inspired entrepreneurs
Two male writers told stories showing how Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince's many strengths offer lessons for entrepreneurs. The way John Rampton tells the story in his column for Entrepeneur.com, the years the “Wonder Woman” franchise spent pivoting and rebranding would be familiar to most business owners navigating a changing marketplace. His version of the story highlights Diana’s truth, peace, equality, empathy, fearlessness and the power of mentoring. (Read “8 Business Lessons Every Entrepreneur Can Learn From Wonder Woman.”)

Diana is no loner but instead shares the glory. When Steve Trevor says she saved the day, her response is, “No, we did this.” The story told by another journalist, John Boitnott, highlights Diana’s ability to inspire others with her courage and compassion, those precious attributes women display in abundance. (Read “How Wonder Woman Is Inspiring Business Leaders Worldwide.”)

“Anytime we see women in powerful roles on-screen, it challenges narrowly defined and antiquated views of leadership,” University of Southern California communications professor Stacy Smith tells The New York Times in a story on Wonder Woman’s impact on young girls. “Whether women are serving as CEOs or, in the case of Wonder Woman, striding across ‘No Man’s Land’ and taking enemy fire, it broadens our notions of who a leader can be and the traits they exemplify.”

A different Hollywood story
How did women in Hollywood working on the film tell the story? They – like other diverse groups – are still struggling for representation and equal opportunity in the movie industry. The women who played the fierce warrior gods in the opening scenes of the film said working with a female director and a majority female cast made a big difference.

A Huffington Post video on YouTube quotes several of the actresses.

“Everyone just walked with more power,” Brooke Ence says. “They walked with this Amazonian vibe.”

“Many of the other Amazons are also mothers,” says Doutzen Kroes. “So we were all able to have our families with us during filming … it was simply incredible.”

“I have never been around that many strong women at one time,” says Ann Wolfe. “It felt like we were real, true Amazons.”

However, when it comes to gender equity in the Hollywood film industry, there is still work to be done. Gal Gadot only earned $300,000 for this role, a fraction of what established male superhero stars make. Yes, and Hollywood contracts are byzantine patchworks of bonuses, royalties and percentages, and this is, after all, a brand new franchise. The sequels may help to correct some of the perceived problems, empower more women and girls, and earn Gadot closer to the 79 cents the average woman makes on a man’s dollar.

Some reviewers, not big action hero fans, asked instead for more movies like “Hidden Figures,” an inspiring true story about three black women rising up the ranks at NASA. I fully agree.

But as psychology professor Christopher Ferguson points out for Huffington Post, the “Wonder Woman” and “Hidden Figures” films are not in conflict.

“Both move toward greater egalitarianism in film, albeit in different ways,” Ferguson writes, before cautioning: “All advocacy efforts, no matter how deserving, can run the risk of developing rigid, jargon-filled, political views that make the perfect the enemy of the good.”

In today’s women-helping-women movement, let’s make room for every woman’s imperfect experience, even a retro comic book superhero. This is how we will pave the way for tomorrow’s real heroes to step into their full and rightful share of leadership.

Nancy D. O’Reilly, Psy.D., is the creator and co-author of “Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life." She urges women to connect to create a better world. Contact her through DrNancyOreilly.com and the WomenConnect4Good.org.

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