One silver lining of the pandemic is that I have had an opportunity to catch up on some of my favorite Pixar short films with my daughter—most recently, the SparkShorts film Purl.
Our protagonist, the titular Purl, is a warm and (quite literally) fuzzy sort who is hired into a fast-paced, male-dominated company, aptly called B.R.O. Capital. Purl’s courage and earnestness soon make her an unlikely but effective champion for diversity and inclusion (D&I) in the workplace.
Warm and Fuzzy Spoilers Ahead
The film begins with Purl, a humanoid ball of pink yarn, receiving an entry-level position at B.R.O. Capital. Purl’s big smile, soft exterior, and love for bright colors stand in stark contrast to the sharp lines of her colorless workplace surroundings. Her initial excitement about the new position soon begins to wane when her efforts to fit in leave her feeling like an outsider adrift in a sea of male colleagues sporting gray power suits.
Purl believes she has found a solution after she knits herself a power suit, emulates her colleagues’ more aggressive mannerisms, and scores an invitation to join the B.R.O.s for happy hour.
As the group is preparing to leave, a ball of yellow yarn, Lacy, steps off the elevator to begin a new position at B.R.O. Capital. Purl sees that Lacy is struggling to be included, just as Purl did when she first arrived. She decides to befriend Lacy and invite her to join everyone for happy hour.
Sometime later, Purl (back to her fuzzy, colorful, original self) accompanies another new hire on the elevator. As the doors open, we see that B.R.O. Capital is now staffed by a much more diverse, collaborative, and welcoming workforce.
Art Imitates Life
Purl’s writer and director, Kristen Lester, was reportedly inspired by her own experiences as a lone female working in a historically male-dominated industry. In just a few short minutes, Purl manages to succinctly convey the hardships of feeling like an outsider and the importance of not just diversity but also inclusion in the workplace.
Like at B.R.O. Capital, people (including yarn balls, in Purl’s case) are any organization’s most valuable resources. Employers would be well-advised to focus on creating an inclusive environment where individual differences are celebrated and employees can be their true selves at work.
Fostering a positive culture and work environment aimed at eliminating even subtle bias and stereotyping can help open minds to alternative solutions, increased creativity, and greater professional fulfillment. Cheers to Purl!