A new year offers the perfect opportunity for a little motivation-renewal, and so this January I have been thinking about who, and what, inspires me.
Female role models received an unusual level of media attention in 2015. There was the Pirelli calendar, which made a shift from images of nude supermodels to ones of women who’ve done really great things – think less Gigi Hadid’s boobs, more Amy Schumer’s jokes.
Then there’s the ongoing fight for equal pay, championed by several of Hollywood’s most influential ladies. Jennifer Lawrence’s essay on the topic was assertive and unapologetic and went totally viral.
Here in the UK, when the government announced plans to drop feminism from the politics syllabus, my fellow blogger and all-round wondergirl June Eric-Udorie launched a petition that received more than 50,000 signatures to secure the place of influential women in the brains of British teens.
Magazines, including the glossies, are slowly but surely readjusting their focus. Sure, there are still obscene levels of Kardashian at every turn, but there are also features like Women of the Year Awards. There’s even a glimmer of hope on TV – Virgin Media’s recent advert shows a girl and her mother googling videos of ‘women who rock’.
And on top of all this, Adele exists.
Each of these examples shakes the very core of the argument that female role models are inadequate. Each proves that such role models exist, it’s just that we can’t always see them. So what can we do, aside from wait patiently while the media repositions its spotlights?
Perhaps we can start by repositioning our own. By looking more closely at the women and girls we share our lives with. The ones not necessarily on the cover of any magazines, but who we rely on, talk to and listen to each day. The women and girls whose lives are woven in to the story line of our own.
So ask yourself, what do your friends do that you admire? What qualities in them do you depend on, and then try to recreate in yourself? Who do they find inspiring?
I thought about a few of the people I see or speak to on a regular basis:
- First I thought of Hannah, a PhD student. Her research in the blood stem cell environment aims to be a step towards creating therapies for diseases such as leukemia. She’s inspired by an influential Professor at Imperial College London – Molly Stevens. Watch this TED Talk to see someone with true passion for what they do.
- Next, Rachel, who secured a place on a competitive graduate scheme to kick start her career in the financial sector. Listening to Tori James (the youngest British woman to climb Mount Everest) leaves her feeling motivated – follow @torijtweets.
- Isy the Adventurer spent a year travelling and working her way across the globe, visiting 14 countries across 4 continents and immersing herself in each of the cultures she found herself in. Malala Yousafzai is an inspiration in every corner of the world through her advocacy for girls’ education – read her story here.
- Laura is a creative pattern cutter and fashion designer. Her designs have featured in an ever-increasing number of magazines and shows, including Vogue.co.uk, and she’s recently launched her own website. Lena Dunham is top on her list of role models – if you haven’t already signed up to Lenny Letter, you can do so here.
- Emma works for Theirworld, a charity championing every child’s right to a quality education. Emma and I met at university, where together we ran an international development charity for students. She sees Theirworld’s founder, Sarah Brown, as an inspirational figure – follow @SarahBrownUK.
- Then I thought of my mum, who I find endlessly inspiring. She instilled in me the belief that anything is possible, as long as you’re willing to work hard at it. She remains my daily cheerleader, advice-giver and unwavering supporter. For her, Lyse Doucet, Chief International Correspondent and Senior Presenter for the BBC, is role-model worthy. Follow @bbclysedoucet.
I didn’t have to think very hard or look very far at all, and I don’t think you will either. Inspiration surrounds us, but can be easy to miss when viewed at close-range. So as you settle in to 2016, look around and celebrate the inspirational females you share your life with.
A lack of role models to inspire women today? It doesn’t look like it, not from where I’m standing.
Cover Photo Credit: Pepe Pont, Flickr Creative Commons