Finding Role Models

IF SHE CAN DO IT, SO CAN I 

With images and examples of successful women in diverse career roles far less prevalent in the media and, unfortunately, still in real life, female role models are critical to helping women expand their vision of what’s possible.  Access to industry role models and women breaking through boundaries for themselves and leading the charge for others provides powerful motivation to grow your career aspirations. 

A recent study published by the National Library of Medicine finds that women exposed to female leader role models tend to imitate their nonverbal behaviors, a process the researchers call empowering mimicry. According to the study, “Female leader role models can show women how to behave in challenging situations — how to speak, stand, or move. In turn, women may model those behaviors and, as a result, be empowered by the female leader role models.” 

The researchers conclude that increasing women’s visibility in leadership is the engine that can further drive the advancement of other women in leadership. “Early in my career, I had the opportunity to talk with executive women at Sodexo who combined powerful careers and family,” explains Jennifer Williamson, Sodexo Senior Vice President for Brand & Communications and WFF Board member. “Their examples shifted my thinking and I began to believe I could do more and to stretch myself into new areas.”    

Role models are particularly important, and especially scarce, for women of color. "As women of color, we often have to cast our net wider and be very proactive in searching for role models because there are far fewer people of color in leadership throughout the industry," shares LaSalle Crosby, corporate recruiter with John B. Sanfilippo & Son, Inc. She found inspiration at a WFF Conference by networking with an African American male speaker. "We've kept in touch throughout the year and I've sought his advice on D&I initiatives my company is implementing."  

WFF’s sweet spot: inspiration and access 

Especially if female role models are not plentiful in your immediate work environment, WFF affords numerous opportunities to see women leaders in action and learn more about their personal career journeys (the highs and lows).  

“When you see that many women in a room at the WFF Conference and hear these accomplished women sharing their journeys, it is extremely powerful,” Williamson says. “Women need to know they are not alone in facing workplace challenges and that support is available to grow their careers.”  

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