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One Day You Wake up, and You’re a Role Model

I remember the first time Marilyn and I discussed making a podcast together. Shishas in hand (of course), our discussion quickly turned to why produce a podcast about female leadership in the first place. Sure there was the curiosity aspect, answering questions like: is female leadership different from male leadership, what challenges do women face as they navigate through different industries, what is unconscious bias, what about glass ceilings etc, etc. However, there was a wider purpose for Who Run the World, one we kept circling back to: it was a way to provide role models to other women through storytelling.

We actually caught a lot of slack on this last point. A lot of people said it wasn’t fair for us to just target women, and to provide content and inspiration only for them. Now this is a conversation for another day (but I will say that there is no lack of male role models who have an abundance of platforms to share their stories). However, what I do want to talk about in this article is the importance of this term: role model.

I googled “role model” before writing this article, and this is the Wikipedia definition I found: “A role model is a person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people.” Not that I am the biggest fan of Wikipedia, but I actually like this definition. I find it a very pertinent explanation for the raison d’être of our podcast. Sharing stories of successful women, detailing the highs and lows of their journeys has the power to inspire young women to actually say to themselves: "If she can do it, so can I."

Before you start telling me I am being too theoretical or clichéd, allow me to tell you what I went through during the week we recorded our first batch of episodes.

As many of you know, I am starting my own podcast production company, which has been far from easy. I’ve been through a roller coaster of emotions (just ask my mom, or Marilyn, or anyone who has been around me the last couple of months). I range from being super excited and motivated, to feeling lonely, dejected and discouraged. The best way I can describe it is: I feel like I am climbing mount Everest all alone and barefoot (yes I know, I can be dramatic sometimes).

I chose a career path no one in my immediate family has ever really embarked on. I am the first to have studied literature, to work in digital, to start my own business. So even if I have gotten daily words of encouragement from my family and friends, it never really gave me a strong enough push to get over the feelings of self-doubt. But then, we started production on Who Run the World, and I met seven incredible women who each inspired me in their own way. And you know what got to me the most about their stories? Their ability to persevere in the face of failure and to just to work and work despite the challenges coming from within or without.

Their stories emboldened me to stand firm behind my company, to keep going, not to overthink things, to reach out if I needed help or inspiration and that whenever I fell down, to pick myself up, dust myself off and keep walking.

In reality, it was the journey to success rather than the success itself that made these women role models for me. This confirmed our initial motivation behind producing this show. As I now edit the episodes, I hope to emulate the feeling I had when hearing the women’s stories for our listeners, and hope to inspire young women to study whatever it is they are passionate about, to ask for that raise, to quit their job and start that passion project, or to very simply do whatever they’ve always dreamed of doing but have been putting off for a while now.

You know what’s funny? As I was struggling to get through the work day and lay down the bricks for my company little did I know I was being carefully watched by my fourteen year old cousin.

She actually had an essay to write for her English class. The prompt was simply: who do you admire and why? She wrote about me. I was absolutely floored by her choice of subject. In my mind I had not accomplished anything major in my life to be admired, and I honestly sometimes feel like a fourteen year old myself so it was weird to have her write about me.

Then, I realized I had come to an age where younger girls were now looking at me. It made me realize the huge responsibility we all have as women to set an example for those younger than us. Our mothers had that responsibility before us, and now it’s our turn. So even if I don’t really regard myself as a role model just yet, I am now conscious of the fact that for my cousin I need to lead by example. I cannot give up because if I do, I am telling her she can to. I cannot give in to self doubt because if I do she might to. I need to remind her it’s okay to be scared and it’s okay to fail just as long as that fear and that failure do not paralyze you. I have this responsibility towards her, but also towards the women who have inspired me - to show them that their lives have made a difference.

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