carnegieXchange: School of Sport

The Power of Role Models

As someone who comes from a long line of amazing women, I now appreciate the importance of positive role models especially female ones in my life.


Role Models

Growing up in the 1970s in America, my role models were the women in my family. My dad’s mother, my grandmother, Anne Van Vechten Coupe was a member of IBM’s first system service class for women in 1935. She was credited for ‘convincing’ Thomas J. Watson Sr., CEO of IBM, to hire women for professional positions and became one of IBM’s first female executives, Secretary of Education for the women’s division. Her innovative and visionary leadership in which she trained employees for professional-level positions, marked the start of an increased business role for women at IBM (IBM, 2008).

It is fair to say having her as a role model along with my two amazing parents who worked full-time and juggled family life showed me the value of a strong work ethic but equally the value of a maintaining a strong spirit, mind and body.

Whilst my role models were mainly the people close to me, my kids’ generation are being influenced by so many other agents. Whilst I embrace this diversity which will hopefully provide them with a more global outlook on life, the evolving media landscape has brought unprecedented exposure to a wide range of positive and negative role models whom are shaping and defining how they perceive themselves.

In the sport industry, I am thankful that we are seeing the tide change with some progress in the investment and exposure to women’s sport. I am hopeful this will begin to shift the balance and provide more female role models for our children, especially for our daughters. However, there is still a considerable amount of work to be done in regards to women leadership roles in sport. In 2017, Women in Sport reported that the percentage of women on boards of NGBs remained static, with an average of 30% of board positions continuing to be held by women.

I am sure my grandmother would like to tackle this issue if she was with us today but we need more women to ‘convince’ others and create opportunities so we have strong female sporting heroes for our children to aspire and learn from. Whether it be playing, studying sport related courses, coaching, officiating, commentating or leading in the board room we need to guide them towards these role models and steer them away from the Kardashians and Love Island contestants of the world.

Whilst times have changed since my childhood, a place to start I would argue is still at home. Show your kids that you work hard for a reason and that is ok to put yourself first and going for a run is demonstrating to your kids that you need a strong spirit, mind and body to be a great parent and even a greater role model.

#BalanceforBetter #IWD #Beyond30 #RoleModels

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