Earth to Society: Women Scientists Exist!!!
Universal Role Models

Our sense of what is possible in our careers—and in life—is influenced by what has come before us, how we interpret that history, and how we draw inspiration from leaders in our identity development. No matter your field, you probably have someone whom you\’ve looked up to as a model for what is possible. In patriarchal societies, authority and power are bound with notions of leadership that is shaped by the almost exclusively male incumbents of leadership roles. Therefore, leadership is inherently gendered in style, mostly reflecting characteristics of macho males.

Role models consciously and unconsciously are influenced by and emit these leadership constructions. We oftentimes latch on to people who exemplify the ideals and traits we hope to attain; role models are an important part of the development of social identities. Female role models in leadership positions are one of the biggest factors in the deconstruction of gender stereotypical foundations of leadership. Given the importance of women role models in the development of progressive social identities, it is necessary to examine how they are recognized by society—particularly men.

It is often considered rare for men to have female role models. This can be partly because of the scarcity of women in leadership positions due to various barriers. However, the wider sociological factor cannot be overlooked. Even though the inability of men to see women as role models might seem trivial at first glance, convincing men that women can be their role models is part of a wider battle to persuade them that women are equally capable of leadership.

Providing a basis for young boys that a role model is not a role limited exclusively to men is a start. Women in power have great influence over the development of young men as much as they do over young women. Having a powerful, woman role model allows children to comprehend the meaning of equality and mutual understanding between the genders. Women influencers are fundamental to the well-rounded growth of society.

Men are exposed to different kinds of female role models every day: a strong mother who raises her children alone or a female enterpriser who succeeds against great odds. All of these people affect how we view women in general. These are the people whom we use as references for whom the younger generation will become and whose behaviors they will emulate. The biggest oxymoronic dilemma is if women are a vital part of men’s early development, why do men not have more women role models?

Being a role model in a professional setting is especially difficult for women even at middle levels of management; “think manager, think male” seems such a normal process that we are unaware of it. In general, both men and women seem to accept this because it is the way things are in terms of sex roles in society and reinforced at work; it is the way things have always been—unless they are women with ambition coming up against a “glass ceiling.”

Most men struggle to acclaim a female role model in their line of work not because there aren\’t any, but due to their perception of women in power. These perceptions mainly stem from misogynistic attitudes about women and the flawed world view that our role models need to be similar to us. We often aim to emulate role models who are homogeneous to our identity, disregarding the merit of their work. The other main reason is the warped outlook about women gained from stereotypical figures seen in the media. The media are one of the first influencers to shape the young boy\’s perception of women. This will leave a lasting mark on whom they consider as a figurehead and the person they want to become.

With multiple avenues showcasing female authority and a general need for cultural direction, we should be attempting to elicit proper behavior in the next generation of children through the media. Regardless of in-home influences, we should strive to provide young men with media output that properly demonstrates the importance of gender equality and the values expressed by female-led protagonists. It is crucial for us as individuals to recognize the cultural impact these women can and do have on our perception of complicated issues such as gender norms, equality of pay, and the importance of character.

Women as role models are critical for the positive development of young men and the progressive development of society. Interventions involving observing or interacting with counter stereotypical role models—particularly focusing on outcomes for girls and boys—need to be implemented. This is what makes AWiB vital. It is an influntial assocation in shaping perceptions of women in professional settings. Most imporatntly, beyond its aim of being a catalyst for Ethiopian female leaders to connect, emerge and grow together, it is also shattering stereotypical perceptions that perpetuate the status quo of leadership, thereby being role models to both women and men.

Written by: Hileleule Getachew