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I’ve been thinking a lot about role models lately, and apparently I’m not alone – I’ve had conversations with multiple clients about the impact showcasing relatable role models can have on a business.
I wrote a blog back in March (“Do we still need International Women’s Day?”) on this very topic. For me, one of the most powerful reasons why events like International Women’s Day, IDAHOT day and Black History Month are so important is that they bring powerful role models to the forefront of everyone’s minds, promoting and celebrating individuals who inspire others.
I attended an event on #IWD2018 where the brilliant Cindy Hoots, CIO of Unilever, talked about her career and experiences, demonstrating the kind of authenticity rarely seen in this sort of forum. This authenticity was the most impactful part of Cindy’s speech – she was prepared to be “real” about the challenges of trying to juggle whilst she was speaking in front of an audience. This is not the norm, as alluded to in a recent article in The Times which referred to the “air-brushing” which so frequently happens when it comes to the portrayal of working parents, particularly women. This air-brushing means that whilst we might be prepared to share our day to day work-life disasters one-on-one with friends, we’re much less likely to do so publicly, especially if we’re being held up as role models. The pressure becomes too much, and reality is air-brushed to perfection, leaving us with only “super women” role models. I’m just not sure that showcasing only the super women is helpful. Whilst it gives us something to strive towards, providing inspiration and aspiration, it also sets unrealistic expectations, and the niggling feeling that if we can’t make it work then we are “not trying hard enough… or not good enough… or not organised enough”. And even the most mentally robust of us are going to struggle with that feeling on top of everything else.