The power of role models and why we must create platforms where they can be seen
One of my first role models was Mrs Alaba Lawson, a Nigerian educator and industrialist who was the proprietress of the high school that I attended - Alaba Lawson Royal College. I still remember the first time I saw her, she had on a lime green suit, her hair styled in an elegant bob, her nails bright red and a stunning gold brooch delicately placed on her jacket, although she was smiling, she had a no nonsense feel and look about her, as though she was enjoying the conversation but you know she had a million other things to do.
As she turned around after walking my parents and I to the school gate, I remember just thinking - I want to be like that when I am older.
So when I got a LinkedIn message from a dad who attended our Arise Summit 2020 with his fifteen year old daughter saying that on the way home that she has said she was 'intrigued, inspired and that she is going to be a leader'.
I got it, she had had her own Mrs Lawson moment.
There is wisdom that experience brings, and great leaders to know to pass this on.
It is said that you cannot become what you cannot see, or what you cannot feel or imagine and this is where having access to role models can change the trajectory of your life, even if all you do is study them from afar, having someone who is treading the path you seek is so important. For every life lesson there is a teacher, but it is our jobs to seek out these teachers as the universe sends them our way.
I am often asked by organisations wishing to dial up female leadership development what more can they do? How more can they help? Well, here is the thing, mentoring and coaching is amazing, but the best way to inspire greatness is to show greatness. There are numerous women who have the potential and range to inspire the next generation but are often best kept secrets.
...the best way to inspire greatness is to show greatness. There are numerous women who have the potential and range to inspire the next generation but are often best kept secrets.
Now is the time for leaders to put their money where their mouth is, it is no longer enough to just say we support all women, we must be able to evidence this in the decisions that are being made, the composition of our leadership teams and the roles women play in leadership within organisations.
As I said in my 2019 TEDx talk, there are often no natural meeting spaces for everyday women at work to connect with really powerful leaders who are mostly male, however, men too can be powerful role models for women, the responsibility is on us all to ensure we create these spaces, and that senior leaders both male and female pay attention to what young women are doing, it just might surprise you what you will find.
Aduke Onafowokan is an International Speaker, writer and the Founder of The Sister Sister Network.