Christine Bader is the author of the forthcoming Girl Meets Oil: The Evolution of a Corporate Idealist (Bibliomotion, Spring 2014).
For Jenny Rosenstrach, the moment came when her dear friend Lori — the friend who always read The New York Times cover to cover, always saw the Oscar-winning film — came to her to confess her deep dark secret: that she had never cooked a meal for her family.
“I realized there’s a lot of guilt around dinner,” Jenny said recently, on a panel at our college reunion. She grew up with family dinner every night, and not only managed to keep up the habit with her husband and two children, but parlayed it into the wildly successful blog and cookbook “Dinner: A Love Story.”
In one week, Ron Lieber got two separate phone calls to speak at schools where money had become a wedge. “The families who had money were being asked to tone it down, while those who didn’t felt like they were getting their faces rubbed in it,” he said on the same panel. As the personal finance guru for The New York Times, Ron had written a few columns on teaching kids about money, and expanded on his thoughts in those talks. The parents thanked him profusely, and told him he had to come back when his book came out. “What book?” he replied. But not for long: “The Opposite of Spoiled” will be out next year.
In 2007, I read an article about The OpEd Project, an initiative to broaden the range of voices in public discourse, starting by getting more women on the nation’s op-ed pages, which are over 80% male. I signed up for their one-day seminar, in which I learned the basic op-ed formula: catchy news hook, a few pieces of evidence, the “to be sure” paragraph to anticipate and refute rebuttals, and the “so what” punchline.
More importantly, The OpEd Project challenged me to take greater ownership of my knowledge and experience, forcing me to name myself as an “expert” — which was surprisingly difficult for the fabulous women in the room.
At the same time I was getting to know others like me, working deep inside the world’s biggest and best-known companies pushing for more responsible practices, and realizing we all faced similar challenges: mixed messages from our senior management; feelings of isolation both inside the company (where we’re suspected of being closet activists) and outside (assumed to be corporate shills); proud of our good projects but frustrated with the slow pace of change.
I decided I needed to tell the story of the global invisible army of people defending us from the next Rana Plaza, the next Deepwater Horizon, the next Shi Tao — so that we can know why they fail, and what we can all do to help them succeed.
When did you realize you had a book in you?