I have never bought in to the radical feminism that is all around us. However, today, for the first time, I realised something: we do actually specifically need women role models – for a particular reason.
The way we learn seems to come from our ability to mimic. From Aristotle to Kurt Vonnegut, to the modern self-help industry, they all agree that we learn by modelling people. I think that toddlers learn to walk at least in part because they want to be like everyone else abound them. So it doesn’t matter to them how many times they fell on their a*s. Same thing with language. Monkey see – monkey do. That’s what learning is about. That’s why doctors in training shadow more experienced doctors. However, as is the case with toddlers, we learn just by being close to something – without necessarily having chosen to do so. It’s like walking into a room full of people who are laughing at something – it is hard to stop yourself from smiling, even though you have no reason to laugh and feel really awkward now! That’s why we become the average of the five people around us.
The clincher is in the fact that it is much easier to learn from someone who you can relate to more easily. When I heard Arianna Huffington speak about her career, it just made so much more sense to me than when I heard countless other men. It’s not that I didn’t learning anything from men – far from it. However, seeing women in business is life-affirming and whatever it is that my brain saw in this woman that I am not even aware of – I feel that it really made a difference. It added certainty. It’s not that I don’t get inspired by male role models, but there was this added “if she can do it – I can do it too.”