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Want to be a Female Role Model? Lead by Example First

Want to be a Female Role Model? Lead by Example First

Girls often look to the women in their lives for guidance and inspiration. How and what we do can set positive examples for girls to follow. Back in the day, unfortunately, many young women, including myself, either grew up in a work culture that reeked of gas lighting and queen bees, or did not have many career-driven female role models to look up to.

Wikipedia describes "queen bee" as someone who sees younger women as competitors and refuses to help them advance within a company, preferring to mentor males over female employees. The good news is that this type of culture is gradually dissipating and women are now increasingly seeing other women as allies, nurturing relationships, celebrating each other’s unique strengths, and making powerful collaborations. In a recent article, Sallie Krawchek reveals that the days of the Queen Bees are ending: “Queen Bee, you had your run. Rest in peace.”

[Related: Female Role Models: Changing The World By Telling Their Stories]

While it’s good news that queen bees are thankfully no longer the main concern of the 21st century woman, there are many other challenges that still need to be addressed. We need to first overcome these challenges ourselves and then encourage girls to learn from our example. In other words, we need to be the change we want to see. Here are some areas which need our attention:

Own It like It Was Always Ours

Despite being confident, many women are still shy of putting themselves forward, hesitant to take up lead roles and avoid taking risks. When girls are complimented on their achievements, they also tend to deflect praise and prefer to keep their accomplishments low key for fear of being labeled boastful.

According to an article on Lean In, “Some girls don’t speak up in class unless they’re 100 percent sure they have the right answer, while others shy away from trying new subjects or activities. This same reluctance also holds women back.” As role models, we need to encourage girls to step up, accept their success and moreover, be kind to themselves. As I wrote in my articleon Imposter Syndrome, we need to own our successes and believe with conviction that we belong where we are. We achieved because we worked hard, and we deserve our place — not because of mere luck, chance or any other external factors.

Love Ourselves and Our Imperfections

A government survey revealed that almost a quarter of girls aged between 8 and 11 admit they worry about their weight and appearance, not due to a desire for a healthy living, but mostly to “fit in” a specific category or to appear magazine cover-worthy. As role models, we must encourage young girls to believe that they are good as they are by making them value their traits and accomplishments more than their physical appearance, and make them realize that neither the length of their dress nor any physical feature can or should be a determinant of their success.

Even whilst working on projects and deadlines, we tend to be perfectionists, often finding it difficult to delegate. We therefore strive very hard and often put in extra hours to finish a task in line with our self-imposed and meticulous standards, which can often be exhausting for ourselves and for others. We need to be more flexible, give ourselves permission to be imperfect, and show girls that it is okay to make mistakes, fail or to not know everything all the time. Moreover, sometimes done is better than perfect.

It’s Okay to Not Have Everything

I truly believe that women can be whatever they want to be. However, whether women can have everything at the same time is not something I can wholeheartedly agree with. And it’s not just me.

“We can’t have it all,” says Former Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman on why she thinks women are setting themselves “impossible standards.”As someone who is an obvious champion of women with ambition, and despite her credentials, the editor says that she doesn't believe that women can “have it all."

In another blog, No, We Can't Have It All, Douglas Rushkoff says that we must abandon the notion that any man or woman can fully dedicate themselves to both family and career at the same time. “One parent will always end up doing more parenting and miss out on career opportunities, while the other will miss out on some family joys, but end up higher on the corporate ladder.” This, according to him, is more owing to a competitive corporate culture than a failure of individuals, and I couldn’t agree more.

If we keep believing in the idealistic and fanciful notion that as women we can or must strive to have everything — a flourishing career, a blossoming family life, and a perfectly balanced lifestyle all at once — we will be subjecting ourselves to delusory presumptions that will eventually make us feel less worthy and incapable if we are unable to do justice to both. The fear of missing out often puts undue pressure on us and makes us work extra hard so that we wouldn’t have to compromise. But the truth of the matter is, you will always be missing out on something, and that’s okay. No one can have it all. Not even men.

Be Tolerant and Accepting of Other View Points

One trend which is predominant in most controversial discussions in women-only groups is the lack of tolerance and openness towards an opposing viewpoint. There is absolutely no need to bring down another woman and pass belittling or condescending comments about her just to prove your point and satisfy your ego. Be vocal and express your viewpoint, by all means, but within the limits of propriety and without sounding derogatory.

You are now needed more than ever to be a role model for girls to look up to. But remember, they say that to be a role model is a privilege. Exercise that privilege wisely.

[Related: Leading Yourself Before Becoming a Leader at Work]


Hira Ali is Founder of Advancing Your Potential & Revitalize and Rise She is a Leadership Trainer, Motivational Speaker, Writer, Podcaster, Professional Coach & NLP Practitioner. She tweets @advancingyou and can be contacted at

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