16 July 2014

Female Role Models: Ends and Beginnings

For a long time I had a feature on this blog called Female Role Models, where I would "introduce" readers to a handful of women I thought were great examples of success for the rest of us.  I would write an installment whenever I noticed a man said or did something particularly stupid and sexist.

Then last year I learned about the everyday sexism project, and started reading more from women who wrote about these issues.  Some of the writers were self-identified feminists, others were simply women who wrote about current events. I quickly realized if I tried to write an installment every time a guy did something stupid, I'd have no time to do anything else. 

This issue is personally important for a few reasons. I was raised by a single mom for some of my formative years. I've spent my life surrounded by strong, smart women.  I think we solve problems faster and make better decisions when we incorporate diverse perspectives, and women bring some of those perspectives to light. I also know women start most small businesses and are the driving force behind America's entrepreneurial spirit.

Through my work, I've had the opportunity to see some great examples of this - particularly online moms who launch their own successful startups, pursue and excel in science careers, attain positions of leadership at large companies, and serve as advocates and mentors for other women. 

I've also seen disputes over the behavior of others. I've seen people dehumanize other people who make mistakes, and I've seen people try to defend the indefensible.  I've seen people I know and respect call other people I know and respect "the horde," "the mafia," and "the lynch mob."

It's important to identify bad behavior and make examples of those who engage in it.  It's important to have candid and provocative discussions about right and wrong. It's important to challenge convention and question authority and fight for the things we believe in. 

And while none of this should stop, I think we need to reframe this discussion a bit.  We should spend more time identifying and celebrating the people who work so hard and overcome challenges. We should find young people who may have a goal but don't perceive an opportunity and show them there are people who look like them pursuing the same goals.  We should give people something to be "for," not just "against." 

So while I won't be writing blog posts about female role models - it just takes too much time for me to sit and write posts - I will be adding pins to the FMR Pinboard as quickly and as regularly as I can. My criteria are relatively vague, but they work for me: 
Someone an online mom can show her daughter [or son, a great point my wife made] and say, "See her? See what she's doing? See how she's living in the same world you are, with the same challenges you have, and see how she succeeds? THAT is how you do this. THAT is what I stand for. I want you to be like HER."
I hope it's a resource for people who want inspiration or really just confirmation that yes, despite all of the crazy, there are legions of people out there who are showing the rest of us how it's done.  And I will consider any recommendations sent my way, so please share. 

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